Lockdown and beyond - Reflections at the end of week 78

When I started this column in March last year, there was an awareness, through information rather than experience, of the threat to life that the Covid virus represented, and an understanding that it would have an immediate and significant effect on our everyday lives. What we didn't know with any precision was what would happen next or how long the effects of Covid would be felt.

We now have the most, but not all, of that knowledge and a pretty clear understanding of the probabilities of the Rumfeldian known unknowns. The cost in human life has been significant, with most of the population being affected directly or indirectly by the death of a relative, colleague or neighbour. Because the virus and its effects can, for the time being, be mitigated but not eliminated by the vaccination, there will be further loss of life. The number of people who have or will experience health problems, whether as a result of Covid (including long Covid), mental health issues or because the NHS lost capacity to deal with non-Covid related illnesses is and will be significant. The cost to the Exchequer has been of a scale only previously seen in time of war. Whilst many, counter-intuitively, are better off than they were 18 months ago, a sizeable number of people have suffered or will suffer financial hardship as a direct or indirect result of Covid and its impact on our economy. 

We have experienced an increase in community spirit, volunteering and, at times, tolerance and understanding. We have rallied around unlikely heroes such as Captain Sir Tom and rediscovered just how important human contact is. We have invested heavily in terms of time and money in gardening, diy, knitting, jigsaws, dogs, home brewing and a host of other hobbies and distractions. Mental health and wellbeing have shot up the agenda and whilst there's a way to go, can now be spoken of with honesty and freedom never before seen.

As I write this column today, we at Prettys are entering the home straight of our move to new offices which are fully equipped for agile working, a move which firmly reflects the survey published yesterday that Covid will create a longstanding legacy of working from home for part of their working week for people who have previously worked only in the office. It also reflects the universal acceptance of Zoom and Teams as a replacement for a large number of meetings and that the conclusion of both simple and complex matters on a remote basis has become the norm. We are not alone in our embracing of agile working as a trip to London on any commuter train from East Anglia will tell you. Whilst moves in this direction were slowly taking shape pre-Covid, the epidemic has been the catalyst which has accelerated change. It has, of course, also hastened the demise of the traditionally constituted high street, with one of the known unknowns being what will take the place of shops in the rows of empty buildings up and down the country.

With schools going back full time, furlough coming to an end and the new normal being close to being established, it's time for me to sign off. My thanks to those of you who have read the potpourri of technical advice (which many of you will have noticed was left behind long ago), broad brush economics, political observations (trying with, at times, some difficulty to remain within the bounds of restrained observation) and general ramblings of a middle aged man. I have found writing it cathartic, and it's always been encouraging to understand that people who I'm not related to are reading it. Thanks also go to my colleagues who have served as my editorial panel and publishers and to Olive the dog who has had to put up with my inattention on our walks on a Friday morning as the week's edition has taken shape.

There will, I'm sure, be more to come from me in the months ahead on a variety of topics, so watch this space. In the meantime, I hope that the new normal treats you well.

Ian Waine
Senior Partner