But aside from the fears, the latest developments will give many people hope that the coming months may see a return to some kind of normality.
Be it in our personal, family, or work lives, adaptability has been key since the start of the pandemic. Technology has played a huge role here, and has allowed us to communicate with colleagues and loved ones in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. In 2019, Zoom’s average daily meeting participant figures were around 10 million. By the end of 2020, that average daily figure had increased to 350 million. There was a huge communications gap created by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but video conferencing services stepped in to fill the void and keep us connected.
In a professional capacity this has also brought efficiencies for many. An investment manager recently noted that virtual meetings have allowed them to interact with the management team of a company it had invested in, and extract the required details without having to travel across the world to speak in-person. Journalists have also expressed their satisfaction with the increased flexibility that virtual meetings and events have provided, particularly under the pressures of impending editorial deadlines.
That said, it does seem that fatigue with virtual meetings has crept in over the last year. While most would acknowledge that video conferencing services have been crucial to ensure business plans stay on track over the last two years, the flexibility of taking a meeting from home has meant for many that they spend their days in back-to-back calls.
As such, with the lifting of restrictions in the UK, 2022 may finally provide a platform for hybrid working to truly come into force after so many false starts in the last year. While many have already returned to offices, in-person meetings and interviews may start to become slightly more common over the next few months. This will also bring with it new opportunities, and the chance to further build relationships with industry peers that have been confined to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or similar platforms for the last two years.
From a personal perspective, virtual media interviews and events have worked really well, and it seems a safe bet they will continue to play a major role in media relations for the foreseeable future. However, the chance to shake someone’s hand (or tap elbows as was suggested at the height of the pandemic) cannot be replicated online, nor can the more informal conversations had before and after meetings. Similarly, there seems to be a greater degree of spontaneity in in-person meetings, and something that we have perhaps missed out on over the last few years.
Humans are social creatures and hopefully the ability integrate in-person elements into the working environment will allow us to learn more from each other and gain a great understanding of each other.
JPES Partners’ 2021 Asset Management Trends Report outlined that 91% of communications professionals from asset management firms believe hybrid/remote is here to stay, and this should be seen as a positive. It should mean we can continue to make use of the efficiencies gained throughout the pandemic, and work ‘smarter’ as opposed to harder.