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April 29, 2020

Without doubt, technology has changed the way the world communicates on an unprecedented scale. Few would have dreamed of billions of people working remotely even 10 years ago, and the advent of the smart device and numerous networking platforms has opened up a world of information and communications channels, to the extent that some fear the slow deterioration of actual social interaction on a personal level.

In many ways this is already the case, and it is not uncommon to see a number of people around a table all looking at smart devices – even messaging each other as opposed to holding an actual conversation whilst in close proximity. Real human emotions have been replaced with colorful digital representations in the form of emojis, and even making a telephone call is more often than not replaced with an SMS – a medium which leaves many messages open to interpretation.

Conversely, it has to be said that online forms of communication have reduced the size of the world entirely, allowing family, friends and businesses to communicate and connect from all corners without the need for travel. A colossal amount of money can be saved by holding a conference call online as opposed to travelling to a specified location, for example, and carbon footprints can be reduced considerably as a result – which if you are a business feeds directly into your CSR initiatives.

For businesses, it is especially relevant in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is true that many employees work remotely already, the scale of this is unprecedented at present, as office buildings, cafés, restaurants and all but essential services close their doors. Online channels of communication have become essential, and the video call has become the happy medium between physically being in a room and simply holding a conference call.

There is something about seeing a person’s expressions when they talk that makes a meeting like this so much more personal. It adds a human element that many may have been missing before this situation presented itself, and for many it offers a glimpse into the lives of their co-workers that they would otherwise not have been privy to. Children and pets are popping into view, while the way we choose to work from home in terms of our ‘office spaces’ is broadcast over the cameras of laptops and PCs.

The old adage that ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’ is resonating the world over, as it is often only when something is taken away that we realize how much we have taken it for granted in the past. To be able to gather and interact on a personal level is a privilege that many have come to ignore in favor of the digital alternative, and it is my hope that when we eventually emerge from this crisis, people will be more inclined to revert to a situation that balances the online with the face to face.

Our sense of human connection has been questioned by many in recent years, but our current situation has shown that it is actually stronger than ever before. The global initiatives to help keep morale high and support strong for those in need has been overwhelmingly positive, and this presents an opportunity going forward. How we build on this in both our personal and professional lives is up to us, but the hope is surely that the human connection can return in full force – bringing us closer together both in life and in business.

 

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