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Back to where we belong

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Back to where we belong

Nearly there. As I understand it, we’ll be able to eat indoors in groups of up to six from next Monday, and from June 21 all restrictions will be lifted, so it will be business as usual for the hospitality sector. About time too.

Now is the moment of truth, though. Up until now our actions have been dictated by the government. From next week it’s going to be more a question of personal choice. It’s up to all of us how we interpret our new freedoms and how much and how quickly we re-embrace the old ways of doing things.

The media was quick to report that the pandemic had changed our working lives for good. No more commuting, meetings over Zoom, press events conducted virtually… It all sounds great in theory, and indeed it was impressive how we managed to keep (most of) the wheels turning. But please don’t tell me this will become the new norm.

It has robbed our industry of that human interaction, and our business is all about personal relationships. Interviews conducted over the phone might seem more efficient for both interviewer and interviewee but it sure has made for some boring features, and I definitely include my own writing in that. It’s impossible to bring the same colour to a piece based on chat down a phone line or via a computer screen. Let’s please get back to face-to-face.

As to product launches, you may have found you get better attendance online, but do you get better engagement? And don’t forget, you’ve had a captive audience desperate for distractions. Will they dial in so willingly once they can be out having fun in real life?

On a practical side, people with staff jobs will be going back to the office (I’m already in three days a week) and I’m not sure how many places will encourage zoom meetings in open plan offices. (At The Times, our webcams and microphones are disabled anyway, so it will be a very one-sided conversation).

So my advice would be to think carefully before you write off the old normal.

What Tony Thinks…

“Part of a return to office life will be a return of the sandwich lunch. No bad thing according to this research by Vadasz, which found a fifth of young people would rather eat a sandwich than go on a date. I just don’t know where to begin with that one…”

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