There’s no simple answer…

Over the past 10 years we have seen gradual change in working remotely, with office spaces such as WeWork providing startups with short-term leases and flexibility, and large firms embracing ‘hot desk’ systems to prevent wasted square metres. But being thrown into extreme situations always enforces bigger and faster change, and this year COVID-19 left most with no option but to work remotely – with many businesses worldwide actually experiencing the upside of this.

The consulting industry has always had to be one of the leaders in terms of working remotely – we pride ourselves on adaptability, ensuring we’re flexible to client’s needs. Despite this, I was still pleasantly surprised when experiencing just how fluid moving our whole team to remote work was (with very little warning) during the COVID period. It made me reflect on many meetings in the past that could have been just as effective and efficient conducted virtually – saving time, effort and money in the process. View this on a mass scale and it starts to have serious environmental, cultural and economic impact.

So, this poses the bigger question, whether digital collaboration can truly replace human interaction in business? Or does a rise in ease directly correlate to a drop in effort – with customer relationships suffering as a result…

Does a rise in ease directly correlate to a drop in effort – with customer relationships suffering as a result…

In my view it’s the ‘high value’ moments that are almost impossible to create on a Zoom, Microsoft Teams or any other virtual platform. As advisors primarily in strategy, (the kind that changes the way CEO’s act and behave in their companies) it requires a level of trust and human interaction that is built over time, and usually established over physical meet ups. When I think back to the most distinctive moments over the course of my career and in Elixirr’s history, I struggle to imagine a ‘digital’ alternative.

That being said, during this period we have worked with new clients, welcomed new members to the team and developed some of our most important relationships with external advisors – completely virtually. So, is it just a case of getting accustomed to a new norm?

Some of our best ideas, and crucial business strategy have been generated in our 3-day quarterly Partner meetings, where I have always been resolute on physical attendance (regardless of conflicting commitments). There’s something about the physical collaboration that sparks new energy and drives important conversation, often influencing the course of the business for the months that follow. Likewise, although a proportion of our team are based outside of the UK, I am always adamant that within their first year of joining our team attend our company ‘Indaba’. A chance to initiate everyone into the team, and allow them to hear the story of Elixirr in person – soaking up the culture we have created. Could this ever be replaced online?

Is this the wake-up call we all needed, to start really utilising technology?

Maybe this is the wake-up call we all needed, to start really utilising technology, and think quality over quantity in the way we work. But the one thing in my view that should never change, is the effort behind building relationships, the very foundation that Elixirr was established on.