1 Sept. 2021. Many of you will be familiar with the infamous Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” and no one can deny that, from any perspective, the entire world has experienced ‘interesting times’ since we started the first lockdowns in March 2020. Over the last eighteen/nineteen months, work patterns have changed out of all proportion and it is almost as if the pandemic has given us the freedom to perform a massive social experiment, and many companies have come to realise that things they might have thought impossible are in reality achievable, and (in some cases) can even be beneficial.

Perhaps the biggest change for many has been the forced shift to home-working. Expensive offices, which previously had to be ‘manned’ (possibly even ‘crowded) to make them financially viable, have been largely empty for much of the last eighteen months – yet work has continued. Indeed, many have relished the opportunity to work from home, and have shown that it is possible for firms that allow such working practices to not only ‘survive’, but thrive and without the dreaded ‘daily commute’ efficiencies and productivity have risen.

So it is that we at PITA, in our Centenary Year, were also forced to take part in this global experiment; and it is largely thanks to Covid-19 that we came to realise how easy it is to operate remotely. With cloud-based systems, the accelerating move towards Digital Platforms and the exponential development in communications during this period, we have even surprised ourselves as to how easy and beneficial this mode of working can be – such that we wonder why we never did it sooner!

As the months rolled by we became fully confident that the day-to-day work was uncompromised by not being under the same roof, and it became obvious that our need for a fixed, central location had gone – for good. Therefore, we now operate a ‘virtual office’ where all three office members (Barry, Daven and Helen) and PITA’s five Board Members operate as a seamless entity, separated geographically by nearly 300 miles whilst communicating as if we were sat opposite each other.

PITA’s Training Programme has been an integral part of many paper mill operations and that too had to be transferred onto a Digital Platform to allow mills and suppliers to access this key resource. As we emerge from the Covid-19 restrictions, we anticipate that training will revert to a Hybrid Platform, providing the core training and allowing delegates to develop the networks that are so characteristic of our industry.

Telephone numbers remain unchanged and we can all be contacted via the PITA Central Number: +44 (0)300 3020 150. The Postal Address has been updated to a PO Box to consolidate mail addressed to an unmanned office, although the volume of ‘hard copy mail’ has fallen to an almost indiscernible trickle and for day to day operations the only difference any members are likely to see are improvements our ability to deal with queries.

We had intended to mark our 100th Anniversary in 2020 with a major conference event, but Covid-19 deprived us of that option. Instead, we have transformed the Association into an organisation fit for the 21st Century, reduced our costs and significantly reduced our Carbon Footprint – what better way to celebrate 100 years of serving the global paper industry?