After several weeks of lockdown and social isolation it's fair to say that there are many diverse reactions to the easing of restrictions.
Now that it's coming time to venture more outdoors some people can hardly wait for the freedom to get out and circulate, catch up with family and friends, visit their familiar haunts, the bars, clubs and restaurants, enjoy some live music and a little relaxed shopping. They may have a job or business that needs to be focussed on and brought back up to speed.
There's pressure to resume trading in the post-corona world as quickly and efficiently as possible from day one. But what's that going to look like? Will customers be attracted back to a high street initially full of restrictions; of one-way systems, queuing to get in, no browsing or trying things on?
Understandably many people are cautious. They're nervous that the virus is still out there and has not fully run its course or is waiting to resurface. They may feel vulnerable and uncertain as to whether it's okay to return to work, to freely visit places. Shopping online has become the norm for many people, many of whom will continue to use it, feeling it's safer and is also a great way to save on travelling time, whilst removing the temptation to fritter money on random purchases made when shopping in-store.
Some will have lost their job or business, or be only able to return to work part-time and need to quickly find another route to earn money. Do they start a new business, look for another job? What's the best way forward?
How do we start to venture outdoors after so long spent indoors, detached from normal life, in lockdown and isolation?
- Many of us will venture outdoors with revised priorities, far more appreciative of our health, family and friends rather than any desire to return to working long hours or travelling miles. We may be less focused on money and status. Leaving our homes will be more about reconnecting with relationships, sharing time with family and friends, enjoying nature, valuing the cleaner air, reduced congestion and a modified pace of life.
- A 2020 survey commissioned by bottled water firm Evian, found that 70% of Britons expressed the desire to live a greener life as a consequence of lockdown and had become more aware of their impact on the planet. They wanted to fly less, reduce their carbon footprint, generate less waste, work more from home and be respectful in their behaviour.
- Consequently, many people will retain their lockdown discoveries; baking, spending more time outdoors, still doing their weekly food shop online. Online may have become a convenient way of shopping for routine purchases. Some will have found excellent suppliers of goods or services, and a preferable way to manage their time.
- Outdoor walks and bike rides have become increasingly popular, either being shared with family groups or enjoyed alone for a break. Finding local beauty spots and trails near their homes has been an unexpected treat and many intend to continue supporting their health with regular outdoor exercise and designated personal time.
- Over 50% of UK shoppers have voiced a heightened awareness of the need to shop local and support local farmers, traders and artisans after such a devastating year. Many local, independent bars, coffee shops, restaurants, salons and traders have been unable to work or have had to seriously modify their offering, threatening their future existence. Customers need to return to the high streets or risk them becoming empty ghost towns.
- From a work perspective now's the time to find a balance between working, running a business online and the requirement for more personal face-to-face interactions. Virtual meetings and networking via Skype or Zoom have their place, but are exhausting when done too frequently, involve little eye contact or personal connection and require high levels of concentration when several people are included. They remove spontaneity and the opportunity for individual relationship building.
- Setting up an office from home can be a worthwhile investment for specific tasks, freeing people to work their own hours, allowing time to accommodate other areas of their lives, supporting the needs of both staff and the business as everyone finds their new normal. In-person meetings, trainings and seminars can eventually be arranged in co-working areas, hotels or sociably over a coffee or lunch.
- Becoming home based for some, if not all work requirements, could well be the way forward. Certainly as people return from furlough there may not be enough to occupy them full-time and a part-time option may not warrant a journey to the office, with all the safety and social-distancing considerations. Some tasks may now be deemed non-essential and trimmed altogether.
- Whilst many businesses have found moving more online very lucrative others rely on personal engagement and presence; hospitality, salons, hair-dressing, concerts are just some examples. And of those businesses who have successfully adapted for the duration of the pandemic, like online delivery or coaching services, they may now find that as demand readjusts, they need to revise their staffing levels and supply chains. Some with furloughed staff, may never be able to pick up where they left off, with various estimates forecasting up to 10 million staff could lose their jobs post-corona.
So, now that it's time to venture outdoors it will initially require that we stay alert and appreciate that there's much recovery time ahead. Sensitivity, patience and taking one day at a time are important in managing the first stages of this new era.