"The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom." – Then-Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani
If you are old enough to remember exactly where you were and what you stopped doing when news broke on 9/11 about the atrocities that were happening before your eyes will never forget.
What we witnessed then and in the following few days and weeks could be described as unreal movie scenes and were unbelievably horrific.
The Day that Changed Everything
After the grim reality set in that thousands of people’s lives were lost or seriously affected in less than twelve hours, the months and years ahead were challenging and it was from that date that life and a change in culture altered the western world.
Life would never be the same – even for those that were not directly affected.
After that appalling life event that was and will always be remembered as 9/11, a more human touch was formed. Nations became closer and empathy was felt, particularly from those that worked in the square mile of London and cities around the world, with a universal understanding being formed that life was fragile and was not to be taken for granted.
Less than four years later, again, a city was subjected to terror beyond our imaginations. The horror was repeating itself.
Not being able to get through to loved ones by phone who were in an area in which one of the bombings took place is indescribable for those affected. The loss of communication felt longer than the hours it took to be restored and trying to account for staff without open lines of communication working, the day felt like a week.
London, certainly, became a different city after that terrorist attack.
People came together more frequently, colleagues genuinely cared if someone was unexpectedly not in the office, the culture changed for good.
And, unfortunately, there have been many more terrorist attacks since then.
They have changed us, they have changed our culture.
I recall the culture in the office being different back then. It was not encouraged to take calls of a personal nature before these atrocities unless they were an emergency. That was not because the companies for which I worked were draconic, it was purely the culture that a person’s work and personal lives were kept separate.
No one knew much about a person’s family, questions weren’t asked, it was almost like having two personas – and that was that.
Every office desk is likely to have a number of mobile phones sitting on them, charging so that communication lines are never lost. Some people will choose to keep a certain degree of separation from their work and personal lives in that they have a company phone and a personal phone.
Phones constantly buzz, chirp, vibrate and sing as people work. The main difference now is that a person’s life is less separable – what forms a well-rounded person is their work life and personal life coming together harmoniously.
It is not frowned upon if personal calls are made or taken and it always amused me that if my Dad (very much a traditional banker who led a very structured career in the financial sector until he retired 20 years ago) would call me (I could probably count the number of calls I received from him on one hand) apologetically and with brevity for what he needed to talk with me about during ‘my working day’.
This is only part of the change in culture that has evolved.
Companies are conscious that if employees do not feel they have the opportunity to spend quality time with their families and friends, the business relationship will soon grow sour. Technology has allowed people to take their work outside the office and continue working on many tasks beyond their desks.
Give and Take
The office culture has changed more and more as negative life events have presented themselves.
The ‘give and take’ culture has been adopted and any reasonable employer will grant an employee more flexibility to deal with their personal life without docking a half day’s holiday for example. In return, employees are often at the end of their company phone working well beyond their contractual hours to either make their lives easier or to build a better relationship with their boss and fitting in with their perceived company’s culture.
After all, most people work to live rather than live to work – and those that choose the latter path often, in time, change their direction due to a number of reasons. For those whose lives are their work, it is usually their passion in which they are personally invested in and who are fortunate to have found a career personally rewarding as well.
2020 will remembered for the biggest health pandemic almost all of us have experienced in our lifetimes.
Once again, unbelievable scenes unfolded of frontline key workers wearing masks, visors and protective suits that, until then, were mostly viewed in sci-fi movies.
Covid-19 has literally brought families closer together. Very few people have lived and worked in the confines of their home with their spouse, partner, parent or child.
A new found respect for one another has been discovered and a better idea of what each other does (to a degree) during the day is a new concept.
Evaluating what has taken place in the last 20 years and how we have adapted, will a change in culture ever rule the world?
“Study the past if you would define the future.” ― Confucius
How can life return to what it was before the lockdown that Covid-19 created? Can people return to office life as it was? Will people want to shake hands, a tradition widely recognised to greet or part ways of a person? Will global travel be a thing of the past (or certainly for the foreseeable future) unless absolutely necessary?
Consideration might be given to how Covid-19 has forced a change in culture to date.
Independent working, improved productivity, a less polluted environment with a slow-down on climate change; as well as the person’s quality of life being enhanced in that working parents have had the opportunity to spend much needed time with their children, long commuting times have been replaced with more time with family or concentrating on work, all of which might have reduced stress in an unforeseen way.
Change in Culture
Has the culture been affected long-term or even permanently? Can companies claw back what they have instilled within their environments or should they embrace the change which could well become the new norm?
The change in culture forming, as I see it, is an amalgamation of all that we have experienced and learnt from in the past:
We are grateful for life and all those that make it special.
We want a simple life without unnecessary stress imposed upon us.
We don’t need to be fast paced and slowing down has had great benefits.
We can work more flexibly and independently and still achieve our objectives.
We want to be less wasteful and more mindful of what we consume.
We can be more autonomous and still be part of a business.
We want a change in culture to change the world for the better.
But will a change in culture ever rule the world?
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