October 26, 2020 2.06 pm This story is over 10 months old

James Pinchbeck: The new COVID business lingo bingo

10 words or phrases that caught on

By Marketing Partner, Streets Chartered Accountants

It has now been seven months since the start of lockdown and certainly the business world has experienced many changes in terms of responding to, and getting to grips with, the impact of the pandemic.  

The way we work, where we work, when we work and even the type of work we do has changed for most of us, if not all.

As is often the case with such significant changes and circumstances, it is not untypical for new words and phrases to come to the fore as we look to be able to communicate with each other on and around the situation.

Over the last few months or so there have been a number of words and phrases bandied about, some perhaps new words and some words and phrases that have gained increased use or used in a new context.

The following 10 words or phrases are the ones that seem to have had wider use and perhaps some of these provide a little light relief:

  1. Unprecedented – How many meetings or discussions are including this word and the use of the word ‘times’ to follow as we try to understand and assess the situation we are in and the conditions we face.  
  1. New norm – in a world turned seemingly upside down and with our pre-lockdown sense of the norm and routine gone, we are all trying to define and even shape what normal now is and looks like. Most of us want some sense of order, routine, processes and structure so that we can function and have a sense of purpose.
  1. You’re on mute – whilst the likes of Zoom, MS Teams and google hangouts existed pre lockdown the norm was still to have in person meetings, perhaps with the occasional virtual one. Virtual meetings though have given rise to its own language and typical behaviours. It would be interesting to know how many times someone has said ‘you’re on mute’ as someone attempts to re-enact a silent movie without the subtitles.
  1. Sorry I am late I had trouble connecting – with our roads less busy, stuck in traffic is unlikely to be something you hear from someone late for a meeting. It now seems either as a genuine or less so excuse we seem to blame our connectivity or this has become an acceptable excuse.
  1. Pivot – whilst some businesses may have considered the need to respond to lasting change brought about by the pandemic, others have been more focused on short-term survival. In doing so they have chosen to ‘pivot’ their business looking at business models or practices conducive to survival.  According to the Harvard Business Review, pivoting is a lateral move that creates enough value for the customer and the firm to share.
  1. Repurpose – whilst sounding like a word you might here in a spoof business comedy as some form of management speak, many business leaders and managers have had to either look for alternative markets for their goods or services or look to different business models and processes. The skills and role of those able to repurpose are likely to be in demand for some time – perhaps with businesses even looking to appoint Repurposing Officers (ROs).
  1. Blursday – a new made up word being used to describe the situation when lockdown and working from home has got to the point that you have no real idea what day it is, even that you didn’t realise it is a non-working day.
  1. Quranteams – a term being used to describe your virtual work bubble – we do like to have a name for everything.
  1. Worklife blend/balance – even before lockdown greater consideration was being given by individuals to their work-life balance. Though for those working and perhaps surprisingly those furloughed, greater consideration and importance is being placed on one’s worklife balance, wellbeing and mental health.
  1. Embracing technology – whilst technology, its use and application has accelerated the pace of change it has never been as fast as it has been since lockdown. The term embrace technology has possibly been used to describe the situation where we all, whether in our work, personal or family life, have had to get to grips with and use more technological applications. For some this may have been easier than for others, however it has highlighted issues around skills and proficiency and the need for training, support and investment.

No doubt more words and phrases will come to the fore over the coming months, some will be lasting in terms of vocabulary and some new words may even make the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. 

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James Pinchbeck is Marketing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.