Is the new normal here to stay?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ……”

Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities

Never has this quote from Charles Dickens resonated with me more than over the past few weeks. Our world has been turned upside down and for some it is very much the winter of despair as they lose loved ones to this dreadful virus or see their businesses that they worked so hard to maintain crumble around them. For others it is a time of hope, opportunity and innovation, for trying out new things and for making an impact on the community around them.

What is clear, however, is that none of us know what lies before us.

Or is it nothing? We may all be longing for life to resume as normal but what will be the new normal? For many of us simply slotting back into our old lives won’t be possible.  And old accepted ways of life won’t be tolerated anymore. One clear example of that is the arguments against remote working. As lockdown was imposed overnight, we all very quickly became masters at remote working because we had to. In addition to that, with childcare unavailable for most, working parents have had to juggle childcare and remote working. Guess what? Its been a struggle but they have done it. Clients have still been contacted, deadlines have still been reached and jobs have still been done.

You can't say 'no' to remote working...it's all about trust...

So, to all those naysayers out there who for years have argued against the efficacity and productivity of remote working, I think you have your answer. The tech has done its job and all credit to platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom for enabling team meetings, coffee sessions and Friday drinks to take place, ensuring that teams can still communicate, share ideas and de-stress at the end of a long week. It has also put pay to the argument that a lack of contact with colleagues at the office could limit the cohesiveness of teams and exchange of ideas. Whilst for many of us face to face social interaction is an essential part of our lives and a clear building block to our positive mental health, remote working has not in fact led to a complete breakdown in our work communities. One may even argue the reverse as people reach out to others online for a break from social distancing.

And yet, there are still employers who will argue there is a lack of control and/or awareness of the work being carried out on a flexible basis. Your employees aren’t children.

They have been employed for a reason:

(i) for the most part they want to be there and to do their job well; and

(ii) they are good at their jobs.

If they aren’t going to work or do their jobs well, it won’t make a difference whether they are in the office or not. You can just as easily watch you tube in the office as at home. This is where the implied covenant of trust comes in for those lawyers out there. In an employment relationship, there is a strong element of trust. You either trust your employees or you don’t. If you don’t, then why are they there at all?

Worst of times

This strange and unsettling period may indeed by the worst of times for many and at Parental Choice, our thoughts and feelings go out to all those who have been affected by the virus either personally through family losses or financially. However, it is important to be optimistic and believe there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. And once we get there, all those who have argued against remote or flexible working will find it very difficult to have their voices heard. And finally, hopefully remote working will be the new norm.

This article was written by Sarah-Jane Butler, founder and CEO of Parental Choice.

Sarah-Jane founded Parental Choice in 2011 in response to her own experience of juggling becoming a parent and managing her career as a city lawyer.  She is passionate about supporting working parents and making their lives easier, less stressful and allowing them to succeed.

Check out About us for more information on how and why she has created Parental Choice.


Parental Choice works with businesses to support their employees who have childcare or eldercare responsibilities.  We do this through helping them secure long-term dependable childcare or finding care homes for the elderly, all supported with a programme of wellbeing talks and presentations to provide emotional strategies designed to help with the challenges of juggling a family and a career.

We have a programme of webinars to help businesses support their employees through the coronavirus outbreak, check out our full programme.

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