Not surprisingly it is difficult to find or even discuss positives in an era where people are dying, hospitals are overwhelmed, livelihoods are destroyed and future “look forward to” events are replaced by simply worrying about what further upheaval will emerge at the PMs 5pm call. Things that we take for granted such as food on our shelves and access to an outside world have suddenly and traumatically been removed from us. Its horrifying, it scary and it feels like a scene from the Walking Dead.
However, whilst no-one can or is underestimating the devastation that the Covid-19 has caused – we do need to look and consider the positives that will not only emerge but indeed have already started to appear.
Local spirit and collaboration
Whilst there have been the inevitable stories of individuals exploiting or ignoring the current crisis (that includes the idiots who seem to think a pub lock-in is appropriate), we have also seen far more stories of people rising up to help. From local community groups to family members banding together to assist each other, the crisis has shown that the human spirit and predominant willingness to help does exist. A call to arms for 250,000 volunteers resulted in over 700,000 applying, we all stood at our doorways (enjoying the breath of fresh air) and clapped our appreciation for the NHS and I even read about a “mysterious” benefactor buying fish and chips for the next few weeks for his/her/they village. We can all moan about the circumstances we find ourselves in but the underlining social spirit and willingness to help is still shining through.
The emergency services have to be the one area of our society that is too often taken for granted. We criticise the NHS and spend little time thinking about the work that they do every day. We moan about waiting times, we moan about the state of wards and we moan about the wasted money that inevitably runs through the system. Whilst we have reached out and started to recognise the efforts of the NHS, we should also ensure that we do not forget the immense pressure that the rest of our emergency services are having to deal with. I had the misfortune of catching Nigel Farage on the radio this morning criticising the police for their “over the top” clamp down on our “civil liabilities. Ignoring the irony, all of our emergency services are and continue to risk their lives and the lives of their families to protect us and this crisis will highlight their contribution and when the dust settles we will reward them accordingly. It is time to ensure that the wealth of the country is better spread (and this is from a conservative).
Work from home
I have read numerous articles about how the enforced “work from home” is going to revolutionise the way we do business. It isn’t. We are naïve to believe that this crisis (however long it lasts) is going to result in businesses deciding they no longer need office space and resorting to skype, zoom etc. We are, however, going to see a change, albeit not as seismic as some prophesize, but without doubt the crisis has shown not only businesses but also individuals that “work from home” is not only possible but also easy to implement. This shift has numerous potential advantages, (i) our use of “business space” has always been poor. Whether dedicated space or hot desking, space is ill used. What we will see going forward is reduced office space requirements, a better balance between work from home and office (which in turn should help with the inequality that often runs through the gender gap) and a move towards shared collaborative spaces rather than inefficient and individual designated desks.
With a rebalancing of the work from home set-up, the inevitable impact on the environment cannot be underestimated. The bandwagon started by Greta and her army of supporters will be heartened by a reduction in people visiting and working in offices. We will also see a much greater appreciation of our local environment – we have got used to the simple package holiday and the cheap trip on EasyJet but the crisis has highlighted the benefits of what is around us.
Whilst the current stories of pollution levels plummeting are not likely to remain, they will and should find a better balance as people build on the environmental charge that was already starting to gain traction. Sometimes people just need a kick to change a habit – this will be it.
We should also be mindful (but careful) to remember that for those dying, the reduction in environmental pollution will also save lives. This is not to discount one life for another but simply to highlight that others will live as a consequence of a crisis that has killed many.
The business reborn….
There are going to be many casualties of the crisis both in terms of individual deaths, job losses and businesses that do not have the cash to survive the difficult months ahead. All of this is a tragedy. Equally, crisis breeds innovation and ambition, businesses will rise from the ashes, new ideas, new concepts and new people will look to maximise opportunity. Green shoots of confidence will re-emerge and job opportunities will reappear. It is going to take time but whilst adversity can bring the worse out in people, it can also bring out the best.
It is a difficult time but it isn’t and wont be all bad…..