Lockdown Day 50: Time to wake up?

Just about seven weeks since the country went into lockdown, and three months after the first reported deaths in the UK and it looks like we finally have the end in sight.

It’s been a terrible time for the country: over 30,000 dead, 6m folks off work, families ripped apart, and households pushed to breaking point Hundreds of thousands of businesses have shut up shop and gone home.

Sadly, the real economic toll has not even started, though. Many of those shuttered businesses will not make it back, and lots of furloughed employees won’t go back to their previous lives. It’s been expensive for governments, companies and individuals alike – paying this back will take decades. But, the social upheaval will be nothing short of world-changing, echoing long into this century and the next.

Some industries, such as retail, leisure, and travel, will be battered and may never recover. Others, such as the online world will flourish and quickly replace the dying bricks and mortar establishments of old.

We’ve grown accustomed to our extended holiday, on 80% pay to sit at home, but now is the time to get moving, wake-up and rebuild our economy, remake our society – and work out how we both pay for this and avoid it happening ever again. A world that falls to its knees after a few months of hardship is not a world that will survive very long.

Our business is a different shape, too. Starting in February, we made changes to our company – streamlining the business, not just for the current crisis but for the long shadow it will cast deep into this decade. We’ve not needed, nor wanted, any government grants, bailouts, or deferments as we think they falsely inflate the viability of a business.

Many businesses supported by the government now will not survive in the new world. Connected can, and will continue to thrive as we have done for the last 25 years (surviving three significant recessions).

We’ve also all learned that the environment can recover. With substantial global drops in vehicular traffic, commuting, air traffic, CO2 output, and air pollution we’ve all seen the benefit with clearer skies, quieter streets, less stress, more nature, and fewer deaths from breathing poisonous air. Do we want to go directly back to that dirty, polluted world?

Workplaces have changed too. Lots of people in cramped spaces with no physical separation might be cheap for employers but are unproductive, stressful, and a health hazard for employees. The rush-hour commute to the office is unpleasant, expensive and time-consuming. And offices are costly to rent and maintain to be used for just 25% of the week. Will companies want to invest in safer office space? And will they need as much as folk vote WFH?

The workplace now is agile, flexible as to location as much as time and blurring the work/home boundary. People have seen an increase in quality family time and productive work effort while reducing wasteful work and commuting hours. Do you think all those who work at home now will want to return to the office?