Donald McKinnon

TAKING a look back in time, a bit like Marty McFly and Doc Brown back in 1985 with their time machine, the iconic DeLorean, and futuristic gadgets like a hoverboard, it strikes me that if only they had set the time machine to 2020 we would have been able to see or imagine self-lacing training shoes, Apple iPhones, drones and electric cars.

Unlike the DeLorean time machine in 1985, Covid-19 is the time machine of our generation as it has propelled us into the future by about a decade.

Notwithstanding the devastating effects and losses Covid-19 has brought in the form of a global pandemic, given the hope that the success of a vaccination programme being rolled out is offering us, perhaps now is the time to reflect and review some of the positive effects of Covid-19.

Scientists across the world have worked tirelessly, but collaboratively, together to find a solution to eradicate this dreadful virus and, by doing so, have discovered a better way of working together.

And as scientific research has progressed rapidly as a result of this new collaborative approach to protect the nations of the world, this new way of working may well prevent something of this scale and magnitude arising again.

But what effect has the time machine had on business culture? While much of the software and digital platforms which we now depend on daily to communicate and operate were available before 2020, they have progressed significantly over the last year.

Such technologies enable us to work and exercise from home and, while some may consider this a hindrance, many more consider it a blessing, with flexible working facilitating a better work/ life balance.

Electronic signing and digital meetings mean less need for travel, which means fewer carbon emissions, less pollution, allowing more time for more productive or leisure activities. Flexible working proliferated last year and today it is difficult to imagine why we would return to the humdrum Monday-Friday, nine-to-five treadmill.

While flexible working is not the panacea for all ills – issues such as the need for home-schooling and caring for family members make it problematic for some – nevertheless, with vision and a willingness to embrace new technologies, some of the beneficial aspects of how we have adapted how we work and live to cope with Covid-19 should be retained.

Covid-19 has required many businesses to adapt radically; nowhere more so than the hospitality sector, where many restaurants have diversified their operations with the introduction of a takeaway service. Despite the hardship they have suffered, maybe restaurants will recover and become stronger.

Many of the things we have achieved and created together over the last year were already available and present within our society and everyday lives; we just had to learn to adapt. We need to retain many of the valuable things we have found and created as a result of this Covid-19 time machine.

Donald McKinnon is Managing Partner of Wylie & Bisset, Chartered Accountants