by John Whalley, strategic director at Use.Space and head of branding at Seventy7

So much of the talk over recent weeks and months has been about where we sit in the future, literally. #WFH has signed off so many articles, posts and comments about working from home, and the virtues of the Zoom call vs the socially distanced physical meeting debate continues.

It seems the definition of ‘The New Normal has become almost entirely dependent upon physical logistics and levels of tech savvy. But surely this is simply a question of people taking responsibility for reorganising themselves, and allocating what time they need to spend where, in order to be at their most effective. This ‘New Normal could actually just be defined as ‘giving people more responsibility’.

The far bigger question is ‘The Other New Normal, the one that involves broader behavioural change that can reshape our approach to business and help us move forward together.

Covid-19 has forced us (and continues to force us) to reappraise many things. Response to the pandemic has seen a massive uplift in community spirit, in people helping each other, and in businesses stepping into fresh and different spaces in order to make a difference. The crisis has reawakened many of humanities best qualities.

As we endeavour to ‘build back better, collaboration, networks, knowledge sharing, support, purpose and problem-solving are far more important reference points than whether people work from home or not. Success will be driven by our collective behaviour, not by where we choose to sit.

Moving forward together means building meaningful and productive networks, ones where we can share knowledge, form partnerships, encourage collaboration and initiate co-creation. It also requires us to treat collaboration as an opportunity to do more and to do better, rather than simply a way to address gaps in our skillset.

Our audiences are changing too and investing time in understanding their wants and needs, and listening to their expectations, is now more important than ever before. People are having much more of a say in the brands and businesses they choose to connect with, and recent news has only served to highlight just how quickly a business can lose the hearts and minds of consumers and society in general, if they choose to ignore what is important to people.

The Deloitte Insights 2020 Global Marketing Trends Report opens with the importance of human connection and ‘keeping the human front and centre’, and goes on to say that ‘Putting the human at the centre of our trends exploration can help brands forge their own path to making an impact that matters.

As the economy begins its recovery, we have an opportunity to make real and positive change. For every environmental problem we create there are problem-solvers out there looking for new and innovative ways to fix the issues, and to do things better. We must support these problem-solvers, choose to partner with them wherever possible, and by doing so help build a more sustainable future for everyone. The problem-solvers themselves must share their solutions too.

A recent McKinsey Report on ‘The State of Fashion 2020 states that ‘Looking forward, we see more research into sustainable materials and technologies, as well as the circular economy. This should lead to a move beyond 2019’s focus on transparency toward real commitment. That’s great news for consumers and for companies that can make sustainability real.

Before Covid-19 changed the world, brands and businesses were already recognising ‘The Power of Purpose and its ability to directly affect far more than the P&L. The Deloitte 2020 Global Marketing Trends Report also states that for businesses now ‘purpose is everything and that ‘companies that lead with purpose and build around it can achieve continued loyalty, consistency and relevance in the lives of consumers’.

Finally, it falls to all of us to work with and encourage the new talent coming through, supporting them, giving them voice, and providing them with the opportunity to bring a fresh perspective.

Actions speak louder than words, and in August we plan to put these behaviours into action ourselves at Use.Space, our coworking space founded by David Walter here in Manchester. By launching three new pillars of the business, we will provide a hub for the sharing of sustainable solutions, a platform for learning and development, and a network of mentoring and business support.

Turning a negative situation into a positive one is never easy, but we have an opportunity to do just that right now, and we must not miss it.