As the COVID-19 outbreak v1.0 passes the peak, the light at the end of the tunnel is now clearly visible.
Yes, it is still a month or two before we’re even beginning to get a sense of what this might be. But it is different; the world is different. The light at the end of the tunnel looks very alien indeed.
Working From Home
For the millions of us now working at home, ask yourself if you want to go back to that rush-hour commute, the crowded tube, parking costs, wasted hours in traffic jams. Oh, and the money and time you’ve saved in the last month. Nope, many folks will refuse to go back into the office, and quite rightly so.
Why should you rock up to an expensive, inconveniently-located, and over-crowded office when you work better at home? Why attend classes in a lecture theatre mile from home and friends when you can catch-up anytime?
Those that flourish at home will no longer work the horror of an office-based 9-5. Their working-related hours could be easily chopped in half, freeing up stacks more time for family, mental wellbeing, leisure, education, and downtime.
Non-essential travel has become unacceptable – but oddly, as travel is so expensive in time and money, why wasn’t it always frowned upon? Whether that’s the rush-hour commute or the last-minute weekend in Berlin. The drop in combustion-based transportation in March and April has seen an uptake in cycling, considerable reductions in CO2 and NOx pollution, and wildlife return into our lives.
We’ve had a small glimpse of what life might be like in a post-combustion society, and most of us appreciate the quiet, the air, the stillness of it all.
While the world can’t remain a facsimile of “28 Days Later”, it may just be a little calmer, less travel-based economy. Besides, squeezed together in a small metal tube is pretty much the antithesis of social-distancing. Nor is it pleasant, very little transport is pleasant.
Refactoring Our Cities
The fast-fashion end of the high street is dead much of the current high st is under threat from home delivery, click-and-collect and digital service delivery.
Add in the collapse in the commercial office space, and we’ll see lots of cheap, centralised space in our towns and cities. These hollowed-out space ate an opportunity to create new experiences, space to develop culture, support for the local community – things that make the world a better place for everyone.
(Besides, who liked the idea of cookie-cutter high streets made up of River Island, Top Shop, Costa, and a handful of uninspiring office blocks.)
Firms have yet to make the actual cuts in the number of employed – the Gov.uk furlough scheme is merely hiding the millions of folks that will lose their jobs as a result of this economic shock.
Come to the end of the summer, and firms will make redundant the fat, the least efficient – the luxury element of the workforce. A new leaner model will appear, at a lower cost, with non-core functions outsourced forever.
Telemedicine was previously frowned on as being a bit crap. But what we’ve seen during this outbreak is that remote technology has a critical role to play in the provision of simple medical care – the kind of stuff that is a waste of resources for a £100k pa GP to deal with.
We’ll see the rise in private services, too, not just for viral testing but across the whole telemedicine spectrum. Video consultations are the new face to face.
The timing of leaving a Europe that has now closed its borders from each other and playing the protectionist game is quite ironic. The reduction in cross-border flow of goods & people and the move to location-independent work could make the current shape of the EU irrelevant overnight, and a longer-term damper on growth.
Germany might come out of this crisis as the “belle of the ball”, but for those living in northern Italy, or in Spain’s major cities that is cold comfort. Where was the mighty EU when the crisis hit? Oh, yes, bickering with the UK over an acrimonious divorce.
A Rethink on Globalisation
Its driven the world, particularly China, over the last 30 years, but globalisation has come up short. A long, long way short. Just in time logistics, cheap imports, single-source supply, vast manufacturing miles – these have all compounded to create many of the current supply-chain issues.
We’ll see improved local supply and manufacturing, shorter and less complicated supply chains, and increased domestic-sufficiency. Resilience will trump efficiency and low cost.
Try to envisage improvements in international communication and cooperation, where standards for trade, tracking, and taxation create a frictionless environment for the flow of information, finance, and goods.
A Virtual World
While under the excesses of lockdown, virtual access is our only outlet to communicate with friends, family, loves, hobbies, and passions. With social distancing likely to be a thing for a long time to come we’re going to adapt,
Pub quiz on a Friday? Set it up in Zoom, deliver the beer prior and off you go. Formula 1 racing in Silverstone? Most watch it on the telly, so hold it behind closed doors, hell, why not do as Dorna has done for MotoGP and race in simulators. Darts from home. The sports and leisure list goes on and on.
Family and friends probably appreciate the current situation where everyone is in all the time. With
Mass lay-offs, incomes capped, rising prices as we reshore production and the cost of international transportation rockets. The time is right to extend the current income support programme into the long-term.
The much-vaunted Universal Basic Income bridges that gap. Everyone gets a flat income from Gov.uk, funded from an increased and fairer corporation and wealth (unearned income) taxation.
The New Normal
The tinge of the new light we see at the end of the tunnel is not new; we’ve been writing about it, applying it, and living it for decades. It is not new at all.
What is new is the shock mass adoption of much of this. The ripples will stream out for years to come, and being adaptable and pragmatic are the keys to surviving this decade.
Now, stay safe and see you on the other side.