It’s been the subject of approximately 99% of my Zoom calls. I get called out for the pretty pink unicorn picture behind me, the fluffy pink pillows and the giant Frozen movie poster. I’ve swapped rows of desks for rows of kidult novels and my daughters’ creative drawings. The switch to this new reality was swift, and without a proper home office I was forced to take up lodgings in my step-daughters bedroom. How in the world was I supposed to concentrate in this new pink paradise?
Most of the developed world was thrown into lockdown around 9 weeks ago and for the vast majority of us it presented a whole host of issues. From pets and kids to working spaces and working hours, it wasn’t just about creating amazing work anymore. It was about coping, WHILE creating amazing work. And it has inevitably had a detrimental effect on the mental health of many people.
Where we are
The physical office – that mythical place from another era – was more than just a place of work. It was where we socialised and collaborated with peers, and nurtured working relationships. According to mentalhealth.org.uk, 24% of surveyed adults have felt lonely during lockdown – a sharp increase from the 10% pre-lockdown. ‘Camera-On’ meetings have become the norm, but while it’s been fun to get a sneak peek of each others home interiors, it’s no replacement for the real thing.
As the days have turned into weeks, the impact of those weeks of lockdown on many people’s mental health has worsened, for a variety of reasons. A study from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found one in four adults stated the coronavirus was affecting their household finances. Meanwhile many people say they are more concerned about decreased working hours than their own safety. With the introduction of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it has been speculated that those furloughed are finding the uncertainty a bigger burden on their mental health than those who have been made redundant.
How are brands reacting?
In the marketing world, as B2B sales opportunities have taken a nosedive, we’ve seen brands adapting. Businesses have pivoted their messaging away from lead generation towards being supportive. And the very best examples are those who have adopted this wholesale – both internally and externally.
Because it’s no good painting yourself as a brand that cares if you don’t walk the walk as well as talk the talk, and it’s brands that can demonstrate that they are living their values that are succeeding. DHL for example has very effectively positioned itself as integral to the global fight against the virus, while lauding and supporting its employees on the front line. This has resulted in DHL employees feeling appreciated and encouraged, while DHL customers feel reassured and supported.
Meanwhile Microsoft announced that it will keep paying the hourly workers who support their campus, even if their work hours are reduced. Google has established a COVID-19 fund that enables all temporary staff and vendors to take paid sick leave if they have potential symptoms of COVID-19, or can’t come into work because they’re quarantined. In the UK, Samsung’s entire B2B customer experience team were moved from their offices to complete home set ups within 10 days, with employee safety being the key priority.
Something we’ve heard an awful lot from brands in recent weeks is: “We’re all in this together.”
But I think people are beginning to ask of brands: “Are we really?” And when they find an answer to that question, they’re not going to forget it in a hurry.
Where we’re headed
As lockdowns begin to ease around the world, I am starting to imagine a time when I will be released from my pink home-office prison. A time when I will once again work alongside my real colleagues, not plastic and polyester Disney princesses. But when that time comes, I think the world of buying and selling could be very different.
The truism: “You’re only as good as your people” (or variations thereof) is something we’ve all heard in business many times, but I think it’s becoming outdated. I believe: “You’re only as good as the way you treat your people” will be a more accurate and relevant philosophy in our new world.
I wonder if buyers will agree?