As we all begin to emerge from the Covid-19 shutdown around the world, it’s interesting to see how workplaces are changing. This morning, the Disruptors conducted an experiment in the form of a twitter poll to determine whether the people in our networks were more or less likely to meet their clients and customers face-to-face. Of course this was a tiny survey size - only 40 people took part in the poll. And strictly speaking, people who are already on Twitter are likely to be skewed in favour of working online as they are probably more comfortable with sharing details in digital channels than non-Twitter users.
But even with these caveats, we were still surprised at the scale of change in face-to-face interactions with customers and clients.
Let’s start with what we asked. We asked people to compare their face-to-face contact with customers and clients before Covid-19 and after, and to tell us what they expected in their future contact. The choices we gave them were:
- 100% contact with customers and clients.
- About 70% contact with customers and clients.
- About 50% contact with customers and clients.
- Less than 50% contact with customers and clients.
We expected that around 10% of people would go back to 100% face-to-face interactions. Teachers, care workers, construction workers, transport and maintenance staff all need to be face-to-face.
Our survey results: just 5% expect to go back to 100% contact with customers and clients.
We expected the majority of our audience would go back to around 50-70% contact with customers and clients. Given some industry and government recommendations to spend 30% of staff time working from home, we thought this would be the level where most people would position themselves.
Our survey results: just 15% expect to go back to 70% of the contact they previously had with customers and clients. And only 22.5% expect to have half the time they used to spend with customers and clients.
We anticipated that the numbers of people with less than 50% of the time they used to spend with clients face-to-face would be fairly low, but still significnt. We thought perhaps 20-30% of workers would substantially change their business practice.
Our survey results: nearly 60% of all survey respondents thought they would spend less than half the time they used to spend in front of their customers and clients.
Again we emphasise the skewed sample we had for this casual poll. But even taking this into account, the overwhelming anticipated reduction in contact with customers and clients points towards a very big shift in the way we run events, the way we engage customers, the way we collaborate, and the way we rely on technologies. And it’s not going to be enough to just use virtual conferencing for this purpose. Businesses will need to be able to facilitate creative collaboration to maintain the creative problem solving they took for granted in the pre-Covid-19, face-to-face era.