Maximising the opportunities of the new normal

Mike Gilligan, Mercury Search and Selection
Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Although an awful and unexpected national crisis, the advent of Covid-19 could have some profound and long lasting positive benefits to UK businesses and herald a new era of competiveness.

Mike Gilligan is a director of Mercury Search and Selection
Mike Gilligan is a director of Mercury Search and Selection

Increased demand in many areas of packaging since the outbreak of Covid-19, has seen UK manufacturers treading the tightrope of increased production demands whilst rightly respecting social distancing requirements and protecting the health of their workforce.

For the vast majority of those organisations non-production roles are now being carried out by employees working from home. Whilst normal for external salespeople, for many internal customer service personnel are having their first experience of working from home.

With little time to plan makeshift home offices were hastily put together with remote access to systems and crash courses in the various video conferencing platforms rapidly rolled out.

Couple this with the overall uncertainty of the current climate and the potential of true isolation this could have been disastrous to day to day operations. Yet, we are hearing numerous success stories of staff members going above and beyond and in many cases being more productive than before.

The initial shock of life in lockdown is abating and many of our clients are looking to the future. Much has been learnt after the initial difficulties many now realise there is a significant opportunity to reshape their business once the world returns to some sense of normality. I say normality but the reality is I believe there will be a totally new version of normal.

Developing home working capabilities has been forced on business who wouldn’t have dreamed of it before. Even for those who may have had a few home workers the scale of opportunity is now dawning on them. It is clear that for many businesses large offices are no longer essential and there could be opportunities to significantly reduced running costs without a reduction in team size or customer experience. Of course the practical difficulties of downsizing offices space means that these savings will not be immediate. Indeed much of this office space is attached to factories so it is no a simple as terminating a lease, but there will be opportunities to repurpose even this space.

An immediate benefit will come in terms of talent attraction. Typically for internal/administrative roles staff are drawn from a “reasonable commuting distance". Within greater London and hour’s commute can be a relatively small circle. With the option for remote working with perhaps a weekly catch up in person at the office what becomes a reasonable commute dramatically expands.

There can be no doubt that the interactivity and collaboration of staff working together brings great value and managing that with remote working is more difficult. However the judicious use of technology and a culture of embracing this “new normal” clearly has many benefits. I mention culture because we do need a shift. Its not just about working the same ways with a video link to your home office. People will need a shift in mindset to address the changes, for example the absence of “water-cooler” conversations that can inspire creativity.

Think too from an employee perspective. We know well the cost of commuting, particularly in the South East, is typically thousands of pounds per year. The future may allow people who work from home to accept slightly lower salaries or have higher disposable income without a pay rise.

These changes are not simple and shouldn’t be under-estimated but the combined benefits of reduced costs and wider choice of talent could have a very positive impact on competitiveness.

Other course other countries are in a similar position so long term the winners will be those who can seize and maximise the opportunities.

About Mercury Search and Selection

Founded in 2000, Mercury Search and Selection have established an enviable reputation in the print, packaging and recycling industries.

Working with the industry’s leading companies we have divisional structure allowing us to specialise in the different sectors of the print and packaging industry including: commercial print, digital and point of sale material, direct mail, web offset, financial print; cartons, labels and flexibles, corrugated, rigid containers and devices, end users, recycling and waste management.

In addition we are able to offer specialist services when handling vacancies at board and director level in all disciplines including sales, production and manufacturing, technical, purchasing, finance and managing directors.

Like our clients, we value quality and professionalism and we invest heavily in training our consultants to the highest standards. For more information, visit




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