This week’s thoughts pick up on a couple of themes from earlier pieces in this series.
Lockdown - Reflections at the end of week 11
Week 11 was a curious mixture. Other stories have knocked Covid-19 down the running order of news broadcasts and off the front pages, and the speed and, at times, apparent randomness of the release of some lockdown restrictions and the introduction of others seem to have created in many quarters a sense of truce. It is notable that the ongoing number of Covid-19 related deaths is barely reported and, in that light, the very public succumbing to Covid-19 symptoms of the Business secretary in the House of Commons comes as a sharp reminder that it hasn’t gone away.
Rather than dwell further on the detail of this week’s announcements, my thoughts this week are about acceleration, a word which has featured increasingly in conversations with our clients and contacts. It may seem strange to talk about acceleration in the context of a dramatic fall in economic activity and lockdown restrictions giving many of us, whether we like it or not, a lifestyle with less time pressure. Nevertheless, the lockdown period has delivered acceleration in a number of areas and will continue to do so. For example:
Remote working. Many organisations who distrusted remote working or didn’t think that it was possible have been given no choice but to embrace it, and so the shift towards remote working and away from working from a fixed office base which many sensed was creeping up has taken a huge leap. It means that people no longer need to be in the office so much, (or at all) and makes it much easier for someone who lives in Newcastle to have an employer in Suffolk or for someone to work in London without actually having to go there.
Technology which supports remote working. How many of us had participated in regular video calls before the 23rd March? They’re now commonplace, the technology is improving, it seems, daily, and we are bombarded with other ideas and products which will aid and enhance remote working. Don’t expect there to be anywhere near as many face to face meetings as before lockdown in a trend which has already moved us a long way towards remote delivery of services.
Shopping. Many commentators are saying that the High Street will never be the same following our not being able to visit it due to lockdown whilst online shopping powers on. Many people who have not used online shopping have been forced to try it and have found that they like it, and who would go back to the lengthy supermarket queue when we’ve been successfully getting the groceries that we need through click and collect and delivery. This change has been coming for a number of years, but it has moved significantly during lockdown.
Environment. Environmental improvement during lockdown has put environmental considerations to the forefront of the thinking of many people and, in consequence, of major companies. There is likely to be a keenness to preserve and build on those improvements.
Wellbeing. Wellbeing has been a growing part of work and home life, but the risks to mental health of people being isolated in lockdown has moved the conversation on significantly and put wellbeing, and particularly mental health wellbeing, much closer to the top of the agenda.
The upshot of all this? Whether you regard these changes as positive or negative, they have taken place and they’re not going to go away-indeed, their momentum is likely to increase rather than decline. So when planning for business and personal life as lockdown eases, assessing these and other changes must form part of your thinking. This won’t be easy, especially when there are also going to be some financial imperatives to address, but businesses in particular who don’t are likely to find recovery more difficult.
Ian Waine leads Prettys’ Corporate Services Team and has advised on a large number of corporate recovery and corporate restructuring cases over the last 30 years. He can be contacted on 07979 498817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.