It goes without saying that COVID-19 is a human and economic tragedy – one we all wish we didn’t have to face. Yet the coronavirus crisis is reshaping several elements of home and working life in a positive way that I hope will continue once the pandemic has passed.
Like many other business principals, the last 11 weeks have been a whirl of activity and emotions for me. The rapidly changing information available to us has meant that decisions have had to be reviewed and amended almost daily.
The bookshelf in my office is, unsurprisingly, missing an instruction manual on how to survive a global pandemic so I’ve been making it up as I go along, relying on my values and beliefs. I have a growing feeling that the big decisions are yet to come and COVID-19 will completely reshape our home and working life. Despite the doom and gloom, some of these changes are likely to be positive.
Beautiful blue skies
It is not just in Northern India where people are seeing the Himalayan mountains for the first time in 30 years. I don’t remember the sky above the UK ever being such a bright blue!
Lockdown has had a marked effect on air quality and the environment, and across the globe there are many examples of how the natural world can reboot given a little time. When things normalise, we will all have a clear picture of what action on environmental issue can do for us and the planet.
Time well spent
A lot has been written in recent years about robots and artificial intelligence (AI) taking over much of the work traditionally completed by people, creating massive amounts of free time. While the extra time I’ve gained during lockdown is not quite the freedom envisaged by the writers, it’s free time all the same.
Many people I know, myself included, are exercising more, learning new skills, baking, cooking, and eating together as a household – and enjoying it. We’re reflecting on the things that truly make us feel happy and relaxed, and how we can better spend our free time to match. I hope this will continue.
Tech-savvy remote working
Large numbers of us are now working from home with a commute just the length of our staircase. Out of necessity, we’re getting up to speed on digital technology – especially communication tools like instant messaging, online meetings and video calls – and becoming more organised in the ways we collaborate.
Some of us are even more productive at home without the office chat! Still, working from home can be challenging as the nine to five blurs into home life and employees miss the casual collaboration and interaction with colleagues.
In any case, businesses are becoming more comfortable with large numbers of staff working from home and I’m sure that increased home working will be here to stay even when we have the virus under control.
Some of the UK’s tier one manufacturers have strived for ever-increasing efficiency by squeezing costs from suppliers while benchmarking them against competitors working to very different regulatory and environmental standards. The current crisis exposes the push for leanness above all as coming at the cost of resilience and agility. I believe that companies who have treated their staff and suppliers well during this unprecedented period will be in the best position for success moving forward.
I hope that as things settle, we can all see that doing the right thing for people and society is equally as important as the bottom line – and that having a diverse UK manufacturing sector is vital for the strength of the economy.