What we think

This is where you can peer into our minds and learn a bit more about us as recruiters, consultants and humans. Expect plenty of insight into Consumer, Retail, Recruitment, and life in our Leeds and London spaces. Some tips from the top and the odd guest appearance. Enjoy and please feel free to leave us a comment!

Work in time of Corona: the new normal

24th March 2020

‘Necessity is the mother of all invention’ so the saying goes and there’s a raft of evidence to support that from the last fortnight. There’s plenty to talk about from the changing world of work and how our new lives are driving developments in Consumer Goods & Retail; let’s dive in to some of the highlights. Obviously none of it is actually ‘normal’!

Over the last fortnight the world of work took on a very different guise as previously office-based teams began to work from home. We mentioned in our posts last week how this is different for us at Seven as the vast majority of us were based in our Leeds and London offices. We can see from all the home-working photos online how we’ve been forced to adapt our various environments to accommodate work essentials; camping tables, shifted sofas, hastily borrowed office chairs and re-purposed living rooms, and kitchens turned into makeshift offices for housemates, couples and families.

A change to corporate culture has been happening for a while as businesses move to a more flexible, home-based model but in SMEs it was the minority making big shifts, while most people working flexibly were doing it around a family or a dependant. If most small businesses are honest, they’ll say they were concerned about the effect on their team culture, were perhaps worried about the consequences on productivity of a trial, and what is the point in the massive overhead of an office if people were going to sit at home?! This global pandemic is throwing all previous concerns up in the air and giving us a new set of things to think about and ways to work.

Similarly with technology, unified communication tools such as Slack may have been employed but not effectively deployed; many teams were still reliant on company emails and face-to-face meetings. I think we all got properly acquainted with Zoom last week, be it for virtual team drinks on Friday, or childrens’ birthday parties or yoga classes. It really is proof that we don’t all need to be sitting in the same room to be productive and communicative. Time will tell though, if we actually like it when we don’t need to do it anymore! Will we fall back into old habits and rely on old routines?  I have to say although I enjoyed some aspects of the adjustments last week, the virtual team drinks were one of the highlights of my week and it was pure joy to see everyone’s smiling faces after a tough few days of constant change in all areas of our lives.

Humans are an adaptive species and last week that was clearer than ever as so many ‘business as usual’ aspects of retail and consumer goods changed to adapt to the new global situation. The demand for hand sanitizer drove changes in the manufacturing output of Verdant Spirits, Brewdog, and LMVH as they switched their production focus to sanitizer instead of alcohol or fragrance. It’s not just the big brands either; anyone with a stock of naturalised alcohol – usually involved in the cosmetics industry – will have the capability to make this switch. We can expect to see lots of businesses finding new ways to function as time moves on.

Another switch for many in consumer terms is a move to online with Ocado (as always) leading the charge with advances to their process, introducing a customer queuing system last week (not everyone was thrilled with the great British tradition of queuing being played out online). Of course after last night’s communication from the PM, staying at home is the new normal and all UK retailers are vastly upping their digital game to meet the demands of their customers. We are already seeing a huge upswing in vacancies for delivery drivers and warehouse staff in all areas of the retail sector. This is bound to intensify this week as people look to replace their usual eating routines as so many food retail outlets shut their doors.

It’s important for the sake of our mental health to look for the positives in all of this. Plenty of people are reporting an improvement to their concentration and productivity at home, lots mentioning a new lease of life and enjoying more time with their family. The sense of community in lots of places is really encouraging, with support for those out of work really strong in our LinkedIn network. We are all adapting well already, let’s see what else the week brings!

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