The warnings were there. Are we living in unprecedented times or is it history repeating itself? The indications of nature’s exploitation were so evident. The unsustainable rate in which society consumes has forced a grind to a halt, paralysing life as we knew it. Upon reflection, now that there is time and data to analyse, to kickstart local business we need reinvention.
Gibraltar has dealt with the COVID-19 crisis admirably. leading globally in the containment of a health pandemic by Government, healthcare professionals, and community at large. Unity and solidarity are the order of the day as much as a great reduction in pollution, which in the long-term vision of emerging stronger as a jurisdiction must be retained globally also. It is a story that will serve as additionally attractive for Gibraltar, not only having upheld the safety of citizens but also businesses as a priority offering security and assistance with no contradictions in the decision-making processes.
HOW WE DO BUSINESS: ONLINE PRESENCE
Target markets need to open up; the days of selling locally alone have abruptly left us. In the private sector there is little or no cooperation to sell the local brand as a product internationally, which would be essential for competitiveness in the global market. The finance sector has always been a unique selling point for the jurisdiction, local governments have provided the platform for the sector in Gibraltar Finance. Last year they launched the extremely well received #ThinkGibraltar campaign for closer financial sector ties to the UK. These initiatives could have a more widespread adoption across other local industries.
In order to maintain business as usual, online services have been fast-tracked in the public sector too, this is an opportunity to improve and secure these. Providing the resources, tools and training for the workforce to engage in best practices for all types of online services will benefit both businesses and the civil service.
REMOTE WORK, CO-WORKING & CONTINGENCY OFFICES
As business was conducted in the great majority from home, Gibraltar experienced a huge reduction in traffic, air pollution, and noise. Walking or cycling have become part of everyone’s daily routine in order to maintain a healthy mental and physical balance during lockdown. This has resulted in proposals, for example of road closures, although peak traffic times are school runs, work start and finish hours plus border traffic. However, a major factor that has alleviated the use of a car on a daily basis is remote work, which should be adopted whenever possible or at least on rota. This is a contributing factor to the pollution and traffic problem locally.
The rise of flexible working spaces initiated in 2001 but they have taken on a new role during this time. Companies with large workforces have looked towards business centres like Regus Gibraltar to split teams for their safety, setting up contingency offices. Even their own clients have increased the number of offices for the same purpose. The service of being online virtual assistants to their clients has also proved increasingly valuable for those who could not travel to their office, for example being able to access physical mail by having it scanned or handling courier services.
It will be almost impossible to look back without having experienced an online meeting or webinar in the past few months. From virtual wine tasting to huge conferencing events such as Consensus (coindesk.com/events/consensus-2020), adapting to this new line of communication has for some been the only way to conduct business, which will in most cases be here to stay, cutting costs and travel to a minimum.
Education of all ages has transitioned into the online space which has been overshadowed by the lack of preparation in most cases, but essentially it has been a time to get creative in order to survive the new challenges of a life with restrictions.
Businesses and other industries who had already adopted online and e-commerce into their functionality have a huge advantage over those who are dependent on offline business. It will be necessary for these types of business to educate, research and engage with the resources available to reinvent themselves for the future.
THE NEW NORMAL
Society is yearning to embrace the positive impact that the crisis has presented us with, especially the solidarity, environment impact, and workspace. There is a new trust and empathy that has proved that understanding individual needs can lead to greater productivity and efficiency. Professional stability leads to greater economic outcome for any business or jurisdiction. There are many other factors or lessons that should be adopted but as Gibraltar experiences the phases of unlocking the Rock, we cannot take for granted that our community in general has been kept safe. The hard work really begins now.