If you say “new normal” one more time, so help me …

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that marketing narratives drive us all up the proverbial wall. None are as horrible as the “new normal” phrase, thrown about with reckless abandon. Simply put, the concept of “new normal” is insulting. It means that, for reasons unbeknownst to all of us, we must now accept what 2020 and 2021 have done to our collective wellbeing, personal psyches, health, and global economy.

Personally, I will not accept it. What I will accept, however, are the lessons learned from an otherwise terrible year—a year that has led us to an introspective and retrospective analysis of how business affects our lives and surroundings. It’s these learnings that bring us not to a new normal, but a new future—one divergent from where we all may have gone if a global pandemic hadn’t happened.

Think of where your own company was in 2019 and into Q1 of 2020. Most likely, operations were status quo. Goals were set, targets were acquired, and everyone simply kept coming into the office just like every other day. If nothing COVID-related had transpired, nothing would have really changed.

Pandemic aside, what 2020 taught all of us is that the world of a hybrid work environment isn’t just possible—it’s actually good for us. Gone are the required five days every week of long commutes, bad traffic, dealing with bad weather and road conditions, and so on. Instead, we get to enjoy the comfort of our own homes for days that require solitude and focus—plus, a work environment at the office on days when team interaction is needed.

But there is far more than that in our new future. For everyone around the globe, the talent pool just increased exponentially. Now, businesses are no longer defined—or confined—by their geographic location. Knowledge workers can work from anywhere in the world, and companies can hire the best-of-the-best from anywhere globally. This changes everything. In fact, recent studies indicate that 25% of Americans will now continue to work from home after the pandemic is over.

And that’s not all. Studies are also showing that at-home workers are 13% more productive. This is in direct correlation to more time spent doing actual work, as opposed to trying to duck out early to miss traffic jams. It also directly reflects the impact of having more work-conducive and quiet surroundings, where more calls can be made and more work can be done. Best of all, horrible cubicle environments don’t add to the stress of the workday by way of constant environmental interruptions. As such, improved work satisfaction has lowered attrition rates by 50%.

So, what of the companies themselves? Placing aside this new future of global talent paired with outstanding productivity, businesses are also simultaneously winning the overhead war.

If 2019 required 10,000 square feet of office space, then 2021 and beyond should require 50% of that. And that’s okay. The usual office trappings have been just that—trappings. Office phones, desks and cubicles, family photos, awards, and the ubiquitous filing cabinet—those are all things of the past now.

The overhead that accompanies all that office space is also a relic of history. No more desk phones and in-house PBXs means no more technical debt. Instead, we’re seeing cloud-hosted solutions and flexible pricing plans. Then of course there are furniture and rent—all decreased and replaced with more work-friendly environments built for a more modern time. Now, work-from-home employees who need to go into the office once in a while can simply grab a workspace, plug in a laptop, and get to work.

Simultaneously, this nomadic lifestyle means more in-person, planned meetings packed into a single day—leaving more work-time during the rest of the week, with fewer hourly disruptions.

So yeah … “the new normal”? Not at all. A new bright future that includes a hybrid environment—one where everyone is happier and more productive, plus it’s more cost-effective for businesses? Absolutely. COVID never defined us, nor will it. Our future is ours to define, ours to live, and ours to make spectacular. Welcome to your new future.