Remember the fairy tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes?

A vain emperor is conned into paying a huge sum of money for a suit of new clothes, that don’t actually exist. He parades through the streets in his non-existent clothes, and the sycophantic citizens buy into the myth that he’s wearing a wonderful new set of clothes. They are afraid to call out the truth and are complicit in the lie.

But, so the story goes, a small boy shouts out “but he’s naked”, shattering the “illusion” and the Emperor is ridiculed by the previously complicit citizens.

What’s that got to do with anything?

Well, I’m beginning to think that the COVID lockdown is a bit like the little boy – shouting out to all of us “but he’s naked”. Let me explain…..!

Up until recently many businesses have been toying with remote working, thinking about it, but not really doing much. People were worried that we will miss “something” if we don’t all work from one (expensive, centrally located) office. Along comes the COVID lockdown forcing many of us to work from home, and we suddenly realise that it’s perfectly possible.

The COVID lockdown is the little boy shouting “but everybody working in that office is stupid”.

So what else might the little boy laugh at?

“Wait what … you spend hours traveling to and from work?”

I’m lucky – for the last few years my commute has been about 10mins. But I did spend years traveling in and out of Edinburgh. Nobody enjoys that – and if we no longer need to work from one centrally located office … we can all have a 30sec commute to our “office”.

“But why do you need to work then?”

And if you work remotely, from home – why do we need to work between the hours of 9-5 (or a rough approximation of those hours!)? Are we going to see working hours becoming much more flexible?

“But why does it need to wait until the weekend?”

So if working hours become more flexible, will weekends matter? If you’re working from home, with no commute and no fixed hours … why would you split a week into 5 days on and 2 off (schools I hear you say….but I suspect the little boy will be laughing at them too!)?

“So, why is it we live in this tiny house near all these other people”

Looking further ahead, the only reason cities exist is to bring people to one place allowing them to collaborate and work together. Will the little boy’s ridicule reverse the last 100 years of urbanisation? If I don’t need to work in an office, and have no fixed hours, I can live wherever I have access to a fast broadband connection!

So, you get my (somewhat laboured) point …… the COVID lockdown is forcing us to confront long held assumptions. It’s forcing us to look hard at whether the reason we held them in the first place, remains valid now.

And one last question the little boy might ask (!)

“So, why haven’t you outsourced your cash room yet?