Jack Mason, founder and CEO of Inc & Co, an innovative business collective discusses his post lockdown predictions.
Picture this… lockdown is fully lifted in the UK. People are back to their offices, city centres are packed with shoppers, the sun shines on thousands of beer gardens and the country is back to normal.
Sound realistic? Probably not.
While we may want post-pandemic life to return to normal and for everything we’ve been missing to return, the fact is that post pandemic life is likely to be very different.
Working, socialising and living post-lockdown in the UK
The UK has been in lockdown since 23 March 2020, and while there are still more than 1,500 new infections and 100 deaths every day (as at 1 June 2020), lockdown restrictions are easing.
Countries around the world are easing lockdown in different ways. Here in the UK, some school classes are returning, vulnerable people no longer have to shield and market stalls have reopened. But we’re all being asked to socially distance still to avoid a second peak of the virus.
Coronavirus has changed our lives in unprecedented ways, from how we work, how we eat, shop and socialise to how much contact we’re allowed with loved ones.
And therefore, what we’re doing now is moving into a new normal’, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and our lives will not be returning to pre-pandemic conditions. Here’s how I see the next 12 months for life after COVID-19.
5 post lockdown predictions
- Life after COVID-19: keyworkers’ rights
The pandemic has highlighted just how important keyworkers are. As well as NHS staff, cleaners, bus drivers, care workers, teachers and many more have all been praised for their work during the crisis. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the inequality in the rights of workers.
While many of us have the luxury of working from home, key workers are forced to brave public transport to get to work regardless of the risk. I think that there will be more attention on levelling some of these inequalities over the next year. It’s clear that we need a fairer wage and benefits system across the board. So, my post lockdown prediction here is that there will be a big debate and changes happening in this area.
- Life after COVID-19: the economy
Widespread closures of businesses across every sector are really impacting the country’s economy. In April 2020, the Government borrowed £62bn to keep the economy going. State assistance ranges from small business grants to the furlough scheme and self-employment grant.
The UK was already heading towards a recession even before the pandemic, and now we are inevitably facing an economic downturn. Coronavirus has hit world economies hard, and the question now is what form the recession will take. The best-case scenario would be short-term recession over a few quarters that will quickly bounce back when world economies get going.
Whether it’s a short-term dip that can be quickly rectified or a longer-term economic recession remains to be seen. However, I think we could be in for extremely challenging times economically, and that some businesses won’t make it through.
- Life after COVID-19: office culture
For millions of office workers, working from home has become the new normal – at least for a while. The enforced shift to home working is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to find out whether home working is as effective as office working, and whether it should continue post-coronavirus.
And I think it’s a no brainer. Many businesses will continue in this way to reduce overheads and give employees more flexible working hours.
That said, a permanent move towards remote working would have a profound effect on city centres, the road system, public transport and the environment. I think it’s most likely that we’ll end up with a combination of much more remote working and businesses turning towards flexible spaces for meetings and creative discussions.
- Life after COVID-19: socialising and culture
We’re all missing social interaction. Closed restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes, museums, theatres, cinemas and just about every other cultural venue is hugely challenging for a nation that likes to be sociable. As lockdown begins to ease there are signs that there may be ways to maintain social distancing and safety while opening to the public.
Social distancing will be with us for at least the next six months, if not longer. This forces pubs and restaurants to completely rethink how they serve customers. Previously crowded spaces will be much more controlled, capacity slashed and payments accepted online only.
Delivery services will be more popular than ever as people have experienced the benefits of services such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats and supermarket deliveries. It’s likely that many people will feel uncomfortable in public spaces for a long time to come, which will mean more a steady trade for deliveries.
- Life after COVID-19: events and festivals
Live events may never be the same again. Certainly, for the next year, I can’t imagine that concerts, gigs, festivals and conferences will reconvene. We’ve seen the likes of Hay Festival innovate and hold events virtually, which has worked well. And I think this will continue, although where that leaves music and theatre, it’s difficult to say.
Virtual meetings can fill the gaps for now, but longer term, the events and entertainment industry will need to completely reconfigure how they host and serve attendees. Other countries have said that events of more than 1,000 people will be banned for the foreseeable future, but I think it’s more likely that all events will be limited to very few people for at least 12 months.
We can’t know for sure how the next 12 months will pan out. After all, at the beginning of 2020, who saw this coming? Uncertainty is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and while we will get back to some kind of normality, I think everything will look very different – at least for a while.