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Region ‘could emerge from lockdown crisis stronger’ as employers re-shape workplace

PUBLISHED: 11:51 02 May 2020

Could workplace norms change after the coronavirus crisis?  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Could workplace norms change after the coronavirus crisis? Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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The aftermath of the coronavirus lockdown is likely to lead to long-lasting change at work with East Anglia poised to benefit most, a finance chief believes.

Joe Faulkner, head of KPMG�s Norwich office  Picture: David Johnson PhotographicJoe Faulkner, head of KPMG�s Norwich office Picture: David Johnson Photographic

Joe Faulkner, head of accountancy giant KPMG’s Norwich office, said businesses were already getting a sense of the disruption the crisis has caused – and some long-term trends beyond the “immense” challenges of the crisis and its immediate aftermath.

The region had a chance to emerge from the crisis stronger, and re-shape their operations to create a more output-led culture, he said.

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“Within just a few weeks in lockdown, we are starting to get some sense of the disruption it has caused and the effects that it is starting to have on our economy,” he said.

Among the trends he saw emerging were remote working practices.

“The almost overnight requirement for businesses to adjust to video calling, virtual conferencing and hour-by-hour juggling of work and childcare represents an important underlying trend,” he said.

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But two main drivers of the change pre-date the virus, he suggested. One was technology breakthroughs and the other was social change, including a focus on health and well-being.

“What the virus has done is given employers a new perspective and, possibly, an opportunity to reshape their operations in response to these trends,” he said.

“Already, business leaders are looking at how jobs are realigned to skills and task, rather than traditional job roles, and recognise how employee skills will be fluid and change to meet new roles that emerge or respond quickly to crisis and market disruption.”

In the past it wasn’t uncommon for him to drive three or more hours for ‘local meetings’ several times a week, he said.

But lockdown suggested there may be an opportunity for a more “agile” workforce with less on-site working, creating happier workforces, boosting production, and cutting costs and carbon.

“With the right response, the East of England could be one of the regions to most benefit from the changes in the future,” he said.

The region was a “great” place to live and work, and while its food and farming sector remained a key part of its economic profile, new sectors such as technology, professional and financial services and digital media were now embedding themselves, he added.

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