An eternal urge to move

FIDI President Ebru Demirel on why the moving industry will be well served by humankind’s irrepressible wanderlust

These days, a lot of people ask me what I think COVID-19 is going to mean for the industry. Not just colleagues from the business, but also friends outside the business. When they ask, I start with a little story…

A Turkish friend of mine is a manager for an international company in Istanbul. For years, it was her dream to work abroad. She applied for an internal transfer to another country, but it didn’t work out. She applied for another transfer – which didn’t work out either. Finally, her third transfer application was successful. In normal times, she would pack up her family of four and they would move to London. As we all know, that means a home for four people would be packed and moved across the continent. A new apartment would be found, work permits applied for, and the kids would be enrolled in a new school.  But what is happening instead? For six months, she’ll be telecommuting to London from Istanbul. After this maybe, just maybe – if the company decides she is needed in London – the family will move.

It has been said that COVID-19 hasn’t introduced new trends, it’s just speeding up trends that were already in place – putting them into hyperdrive, so to speak. In this case, the trend that is being sped up is telecommuting and videoconferencing. If you are a big multinational, why go to the expense of moving your employee, and her whole family, to London, when you can make more aggressive use of the internet? Why lease that expensive office building when you can have your employees work from home? These changes aren’t all bad for us movers. I can make use of videoconferencing too, having three meetings with colleagues in three continents before lunchtime.

Then, of course, there’s the really big thing, which lights up the optimist in me: human beings have, for hundreds of thousands of years, moved around. It is just in their blood. They have to, and are compelled to. This goes all the way back to when early humans first moved out of east Africa and spread out over the other continents. This is the rock we need to build on and what will still be there when the short-term challenges have been overcome.

Human beings have, for hundreds of thousands of years, moved around. It is just in their blood.

This industry has seen other pandemics, and world wars – and disruptions of all kinds – and, every time, it has come roaring back. Humans need to move, and they want to see each other in person. It’s what they do.

While we are getting through to the other side, there are things we need to come out of the current, white-knuckle period.

For FIDI, this has meant holding its General Assembly, Board meetings and Delegates Meeting online. It has also meant being extra protective of FASI, finding new ways to open up the Academy to more people, and analysing how we can cut costs without reducing the quality that is FIDI’s trademark. It has also meant taking a deep look into the purpose of our association, where it has come from and where it is going, in the short and long term.

So, when friends ask me about the business, this is what I tell them. Sure, there are short-term challenges with the lockdowns, the telecommuting, and the working from home, but, when that passes, there’s the fact that early humans moved out of east Africa, reminding us that, for hundreds of thousands of years, humans have felt the call to move and the need for face-to-face interaction. No virus is going to kill that off. 

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