The New Normal ?

Ever since COVID-19 broke out, we have witnessed a massive change in our lifestyle, work included. From helping with household chores, to knowing where the groceries are kept and becoming the MasterChef that one can be. Not to mention the fact that an otherwise ignored Roti-Daal finds its way to Instagram/Facebook/WhatsApp loaded with anecdotes.

And in midst of all this, everyone has become COVID-19 experts, from preventive medicines to the treatment itself, we know it all. Then there is China bashing, for valid reasons, expert geo-political views, champions of depressing news and a very active Anti-Modi & Pro-Modi brigade. From telling the PM on what to do and what not to do; the 50% who voted to the balance 50% who just complain, everyone has a point of view. Any positive news you share makes you pro-Modi and all depressing news of human tragedy makes you the intellectual poster boy. Interestingly every time I see positive Kerala News, my timeline is filled with proud Malayalis, me included, tom-tomming how good and sorted we are. There is so much content that is floating around that you don’t feel jailed at home. But somewhere it tells you how jailed our thoughts have been all along.

While all this is happening, work also seems to be continuing at a reasonable pace. The same volume or more is getting executed faster and we are still relaxed. Presentations are happening, approvals are faster…the overall efficiency is quite good. Clients seem to love it. Zoom, Hangout, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Webex, BlueJeans…you name it…which were exceptions once, is now acceptable and have become the norm. COVID-19 is also equally determined and continues to play havoc.

And now comes the term “The New Normal”. What does it even mean? Does it mean that whatever we were used to and was acceptable will now be abnormal? Does it mean more effective and efficient ways of working powered by technology were abnormal until now?

“The New Normal”, I feel, reveals a lot more about us.

  • Our idea of work-life balance meant slogging in office for a minimum of 9 hours.
  • What could have been done over a call had to be a face-to-face meeting for 30 mins; and after travelling for 2 hours
  • You are not working if you are not in office; atleast in advertising
  • A large office with 40% staff operating in silos, is indicative of the size/strength of the organization
  • Efficient technologies that can reduce your operational costs tremendously are only for new age start-ups
  • Healthy increments or appraisals are only for the core teams and not for the support staff that help in creating systems that makes the core more efficient
  • Digital creative, media and everything remotely digital will not be more than 20% of the spends, even if you spend 8-12 hours on your laptop/mobile(urban or rural), few hours on OTTs. and the works
  • Performance media = digital and now media=digital and so what does that make the rest?
  • Disproportionate fee allocation (mainline vs digital, network agency vs independents etc). Not to mention the price war that precedes it.

And then we wonder why consulting/tech firms are eating into our business? Its simply because they are talking a language that the rest of us should have been doing few years back. They have been on a talent acquisition spree by buying out agencies because on the rest they have a narrative in place. Working remotely, connected systems, online meetings etc. have been their normal for a reasonably good time.

To me, “The New Normal” means correcting flaws that existed for a long time.

  • Death of bloated organizations with an oversized head and fat belly
  • Efficiency will no longer be incremental
  • Flattening of hierarchies
  • Technology at the core and just as an enabler
  • Collaboration of the disruptive independents
  • Survival of the early adopters irrespective of their size and age

With or without COVID-19 this was waiting to happen. It just got accelerated.

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