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Blog post - enough with the "new normal"

Enough with the "new normal"


We look at what the next 12-18 months are likely to bring for social landlords and how digital has a powerful role in overcoming some of those challenges.  

5th November 2021

Simon Wilkes

Barely a day goes by where I don’t get an email with the word “new normal” somewhere in the title, and to my mind it’s time to consider the new normal simply ”normal”.

Now, I’m by no means downplaying the challenges and changes we’ve all experienced over the last 18 months or so, far from it, but I also feel that we in the housing sector in particular, but in many other walks of life, simply can’t continue to look at everything through a lens of “post covid”.

The fact is, social landlords , their staff, communities and commercial partners have a number of challenges to tackle. Some of these may be a direct result of Covid, but many are not – and many have been left unaddressed precisely BECAUSE Covid has dominated our thoughts, resources and budgets.

Issues around the quality and maintenance of housing stock, and tenants’ right to redress are just a couple of examples of long-standing issues that have now started to gain the attention of the national media recently,  but in reality had already become a significant issue pre-covid.

It’s unfair to suggest that progress on these issues ceased during the last 18 months, but understandably, with resources stretched thin, it’s clear that the progress all stakeholders had hoped to have made, has not yet been delivered.

Is there an opportunity here to harness some of the agility and community spirit that many organisations bore witness to during lockdown? I’d like to think there is: I have seen first-hand how even the most entrenched habits and mindsets have been changed by the experiences of the last 18 months, with tenants, staff, even the odd Chief Exec, coming to the realisation that established ways of doing things can be replaced quite successfully with other – often digital - systems.

That’s not to say that digital platforms are panacea for all Housing’s challenges, but the right choice of technology, with the right human support and appropriate promotion, can go some way to helping address many challenges.

You just have to look at the adoption of mobile banking, takeaways, even doctors’ appointments– all of which has been driven by a widespread and seemingly permanent adoption of apps and websites  in lieu of phone calls or physical meetings, to see that even the most set-in-its-ways of sectors, such as healthcare can be transformed  by the right technology being made available at the right time.

48% of GP appointments in April this year were carried out by video or phone.

As the guidance from the Government Social Housing Whitepaper is seen as heralding a shift in the relationships between social landlords and their tenants, placing greater emphasis on the latter’s rights, and demanding greater transparency and reporting, there is undoubtedly a case to explore how investment in the right technology can facilitate this. 

By opening up more channels through which to communicate with tenants, and by providing accurate, transparent updates on individual service requests and larger scale commitments, social landlords can both win the hearts and minds of their customers, and enjoy the benefits of real operational efficiencies to boot. 

It may be a long and bumpy ride over the next few months, but the final destination looks bright.

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