I did a fun gig last night, a book club meeting over Zoom. It was for Melbourne's Nova Mob which has been around for decades, they told me. I can't remember whether it was 50 years or 80 years but it was a whole heap of years. I think it's the first book event I have done since the dread Ms Rona sashayed into our lives, and its for sure the first one I've done via video.
Gotta say, I enjoyed it more than having to pull my pants on and actually leave the house. I poured myself a nice big glass of red wine, and logged on about 10 minutes early just to check the connections. They were all good, and away we went. They asked questions, I answered them, I did a little reading from The Shattered Skies, and after nearly two hours we wrapped it up. Good fun, and they had people logging on from all over the country, not just Melbourne.
It did make me wonder how much of the necessities imposed on us by the pandemic will survive once it recedes. (Assuming some variant doesn't kill us all in a Stephen King style epilogue). I think a lot of businesses are going to give up their expensive CBD offices, but I also think that space will be repurposed. I'm kind of more interested in behaviours. Weirdly enough I've never been somebody who's much interested in going out to book events, but I know there is a whole cohort of people who are. I don't know whether they’d be satisfied with online substitutes, but my gut feeling is probably not. I guess if I had to lay a couple of bucks on the barrelhead I'd wager on the old ways coming back, but the new ways hanging around.
Here in Canberra we've so far had less interruption and hardship than just about anywhere, I reckon. We had the first-wave lockdown for about 4 months, so from late March to mid-July, I think. We went back to normal very quickly, socially and work-wise.
There is a lot less stigma involved in saying that you're working from home, or in organising zoom meetings. Saying that, I haven't encountered any virtual social interaction since then. Maybe that's just because I'm not cool enough to be invited.
The mob I work for have given up a floor in Eagle Street plus another 3 floors in the 'burbs. At present we have just 36 desks for about 150 people so my teams go into the office once a fortnight. Overall our productivity has essentially increased but it has been hard work to maintain togetherness - we actually workshop ideas to bring the teams together both physically and online. I think for the work I do, most of what goes on now will continue into the future.
For myself working from home was difficult during school holidays especially with kids coming and going through video meetings and asking for IT help. That has now been resolved with the construction of a modified shipping container office. Works well and feels like "going to work".
Working for an International business they have seen a massive drop in travel costs, especially when you have to make any flight over about 6 hours business class. This means that workshops that would typically be in person are being done over video conferencing.
It works, but the truth is it is not as efficient nor as effective as doing it in person. You also can't leverage the relationships post workshop as well if you haven't met in person and had a meal together. Business will work this out and there will be a whole bunch of "water cooler" based efficiency initiatives to bring people together again.
If you are not in lockdown, online business social events feel forced and no-one attends.
We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential here. Hell, I could have logged from over here.