The ‘new normal’ – it’s a strange new phrase that conjures images of people touching elbows instead of shaking hands, of people wearing foam pool noodles on their heads in cafés to maintain social distancing, and the ability to turn up to a work meeting on Microsoft Teams as a potato and still have a serious conversation about budgets. Over the past few months, things have changed significantly, but I think that as a community of already ‘virtual’ workers, we are well positioned to navigate some of the challenges to come.

Many of us were already familiar with video-conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams; we already use team and task management tools like Asana, Slack and Todoist; we already had the tech in place to work from home as effectively as we would in a corporate office – because home may have already been our business headquarters! We didn’t necessarily need to learn these new skills, and many of us have probably even learned some new things about these tools over the last few months to further develop our skillset! Even if your workload has reduced as a result of the lockdown, in this new world where remote working is ‘normal’ and flexible, freelance staff are a more economically viable option for many business owners coming out of the coronavirus crisis, there will be more opportunities coming.

I have spoken to a number of business owners over this last few months and for me, one of the things I have heard a lot is that businesses simply weren’t prepared to move online in the short timescale that they were given when lockdown began. They might have had services that could work online (who’d have thought that remote children’s parties and virtual fitness sessions could be a thing?) but didn’t have the systems and processes in place to set this up in time to make anything from it. Even if they are planning to re-open as normal in the coming months, it seems that a virtual fall-back option for the vast majority of businesses is a sensible thing to establish now, not just because the virus may have further peaks over the coming months/years, but because there is a real likelihood that things won’t get ‘back to normal’ for a very long time, with some people choosing to live a more virtual and remote life even post-coronavirus.

Helping businesses to establish and maintain a presence online via website design and digital marketing, or helping them to set up and effectively use tools like Zoom or remote task management systems like Asana – these are the kinds of things that I see more and more call for in our community. I’ve had significantly more people asking me about the creation and management of passive income streams (from pre-created digital products, like webinars, eBooks and templates) and membership communities, and I’ve started to see some of the businesses who had to let their employees go as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis tentatively reaching out for virtual and/or ad-hoc support to help them work more cost effectively in these challenging times. These are all things that we can do well in our community (to name but a few!), so there’s never been a better time to increase the visibility of our talented community.

So how can we publicise our skillset? It’s not quite business as usual when it comes to networking, and probably won’t be for a while (I’m not sure the humble business card will ever recover!), but if there’s one thing that’s booming it’s networking online! I’ve seen a number of business networking organisations take their meetings online recently, which could be a nice way to test the water in a new group if you’ve been reluctant to attend their physical meetings. There’s also a plethora of social media networking communities on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, all of which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home whilst wearing pyjamas and drinking tea, and I’m happy to admit that I’m actually quite liking that aspect of the ‘new normal’!

How are you finding the ‘new normal’? I’d love to hear your thoughts – feel free to share them on any of the APVA business or community pages on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.