The last year has been a year unlike any other. Countless numbers made the shift to remote working as the nation plunged into what felt like an endless lockdown. Our lifestyles had to change as we interacted with one another differently both on a social and professional level- for better and for worse. Rob Belgrave (CEO of Wirehive and Pax8 UK) caught up with Jim Bowes (CEO of Manifesto) to discuss the impact the coronavirus pandemic had on the way we use tech and are likely to do so going into the future.
Prediction #1 - 3D Printing Will Grow in Terms of Popularity and Use
Unfortunately, Rob and Jim agree that a personal 3D printer is unlikely to appear in the home study anytime soon. Whilst the ability to print physical items swiftly and efficiently on a large scale will be wholly transformative, it’s likely that it’ll be commercial businesses that are first to benefit from the invention. Jim referenced Adidas’ ability to print trainers onsite. Whilst this seems as a zany concept to us now, both Rob and Jim predict that this is soon to become a more common means of production.
Prediction #2 - Video Conferencing Will Remain the 'New Normal'
Rob observes that often a major trigger event is needed to inspire change- technological and otherwise. The pandemic has meant that individuals have become reliant on technology to work remotely and interact with friends and family. Whereas before, video-conferencing equipment was expensive, it’s becoming more affordable as demand increased. Referencing Facebook’s Portal, Rob and Jim discussed the possibility of businesses turning away from expensive video-conferencing tech and instead opting for the comparatively affordable alternatives commonly used throughout the pandemic.
Rob further suggests that video-conferencing and casual calls will continue as the ‘new normal’ even once lockdown’s lifted. For many, remote working has entailed benefits and freedoms previously impossible with office working. Whilst some are counting down the days until workspaces are able to reopen, it’s likely that many will continue to work remotely. If this proves to be the case, video conferencing will retain its position as a key facilitator in professional workplaces. Rob further predicts that video calls will remain popular in a social sense post lockdown. Friends and families will be able to chat on an impromptu and casual basis. Jim agrees that whilst video calls will remain a commonly used digital workplace tool, social video calls are likely to depend on individual relationships. Whilst many families will undoubtedly continue to benefit from Zoom, it’s likely that others will want to catch up on the time lost to the pandemic and spend more time face-to-face.
Relatedly, Rob and Jim discussed what physical workspaces are likely to look like as lockdown is eased. It’s widely speculated that large offices are set to become a thing of the past, but what will this mean for those who prefer to work on-premises? Hotdesking seems to be a controversial solution, but people often associate their workspace as their ‘home from home.’ Jim adds that whereas this is a problem now, it won’t stay one for long. Innovative solutions likely already in the pipeline!
Prediction #3 - The Tech Industry is Set to Become More Diverse
Diversity has long been a contentious issue regarding the tech sector, but things are looking up. Quite rightly, tech businesses are looking to foster a more inclusive working environment and welcome individuals of all genders, sexualities and races into the fold. Rob notes that as CEO of both Wirehive and Pax8 UK, he’s able to oversee the employment of countless new individuals. By seeking to employ individuals from more diverse areas, Pax8 hopes to diversify its existing workforce. Whilst it’s commendable that tech companies are looking to diversify their workforce, we can’t forget that there’s still work to be done with regards to retaining these new employees. ‘There are things that we take for granted that we’ll need to change to make the working environment more inclusive for new employees once they’re here,’ Jim adds.
Wirehive marked International Women’s Day with Wirelive #9, in which successful women discussed their trials, tips and achievements regarding their employment in the sector. Catch up on their insightful discussion here.
Prediction #4 - The Highstreet Will Temporarily Lose Out and the Cashless Society is Here to Stay
The ongoing decay of the high street is hardly a new issue, but it’s one that’s been greatly exacerbated by a year-long lockdown. Rob observes that whilst cultural rejuvenation has already started, it won’t happen everywhere. It doesn’t take much for a small town to undergo the procedure; one person to open a café, and another to open a small shop, and so on. Jim adds that the expansion of fibre broadband nationwide has made the process even easier, and the community spirit inspired by the pandemic means that individuals are likely to be encouraged and supported to invest in their local community.
lIn a similar vein, cashless payment is likely to remain prominent. Jim notes that whilst this holds multiple benefits, we have to remain wary that there are members of our community who will not be well-versed in the technology needed to partake in a cashless society. Moreover, as online payment continues to dominate the economy, Rob and Jim postulate that it’s likely that HMRC will crackdown on crypto-currency to ensure that everyone pays their tax dues.
So, In Short...
The pandemic shaped the ways in which we use technology to work, socialize and relax. It’s likely that some of these changes are here to stay. Who’s to say whether Rob and Jim’s predictions will prove to be the case?