Impact of the pandemic: what we didn’t see coming

In our weekly WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing, we reflect not just on the likely shape of the post-pandemic workplace but also on the shifts we didn’t anticipate

With WORKTECH’s professional live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors through our weekly WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing, which shares new ideas, conversations and perspectives with our global network. Our latest edition is posted 27 May 2020.

Predictions and pushbacks

Plenty of workplace and design pundits have come forward to describe how the post-Covid-19 landscape might shape up.  Far fewer have been brave enough to admit what they didn’t see coming. An exception to this rule is Smart Design, based in New York, which has compared its pre-virus predictions with how things are now panning out.

For example, Smart Design predicted the emergence of a slew of new digital products aimed at improving wellbeing, from meditation and wellness helpers like Headspace or Sanvello to tele-therapy platforms like Talkspace. With the Covid-19 pandemic affecting so many people’s mental health, it’s not surprising there has been a spike in demand for these digital products – the trend has accelerated. However what Smart didn’t see coming was a decline in digital detoxing, which has been on the rise in recent years with products like Apple’s Screen Time feature, but has now gone into reverse.

Similarly, Smart Design predicted greater awareness by consumers of the environmental impact of consumer packaging – a trend accelerated by staying at home during the pandemic and watching packaging normally disposed of at work or on the street pile up day after day inside the domestic space. What they didn’t see coming was disposable everything. Fear that reusable products such as shopping bags, coffee cups or salad bowls could transmit Covid-19 has led to rollbacks of programmes designed to reduce single-use plastic products.

More on how Smart Design revised its own predictions here

Life after lockdown

The latest WORKTECH Webinar on Thursday 21 May featured Bruce Daisley, author of The Joy of Work and Eat Sleep Work Repeat and former VP, EMEA, of Twitter in conversation with Torin Douglas, writer, speaker, ex BBC Media Correspondent and chairman of WORKTECH London. Their theme was ‘Life After Lockdown: Good Work and Employee Wellbeing’ and they had a lot of fun with it. Watch a rerun of this WORKTECH Webinar here

 Talking smart technology

All the smart money right now is going on an acceleration of adoption of smart technologies to improve experience and performance in the workplace.  Some experts suggest that the argument for investing in smart buildings has advanced further in the past three months than in the past five years. In the latest of our series of WORKTECH Kitchen Table Conversations, UnWork analyst and regular WORKTECH Academy contributor Arraz Makhzani catches up with Elaine Huang, co-founder and COO of 9am, one of the most innovative start-ups in the field. Follow the conversation here.

Double discussion

Finally, there are two more WORKTECH webinars to look forward to this week. On Thursday 28 May, UnWork CEO and WORKTECH Academy chairman Philip Ross will discuss smart technologies with the man behind The Edge, Coen van Oostrom, founder and CEO of OVG Real Estate – details here. The same day, WORKTECH Academy director Jeremy Myerson will discuss the new shape of post-Covid-19 design with one of the most prolific and experienced workplace designers in Silicon Valley, Primo Orpilla of Studio O+A – details here.

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