Well, the UK has gone into Lockdown, and a really a spooky and eerie feeling has descended upon the nation. It’s very easy to get depressed by all the news, statistics and forecasts being bandied about at the moment, so in an effort to relieve some of the anxiety that my readers may be feeling, I’d like to offer up some reassuring news.
Rest assured that whilst the shops are all closed, we are working away at Eclipse Financial Planning to serve our clients and help them plan their next steps for when we begin to see normality again. In the meantime, to help stay the course and in my usual optimistic manner, I’ve thought of a few positives that may come out from all of this:
The lockdown will make us all question why we work in the way that we do. The disruption we have already seen has highlighted the fragility of our system – working in a way that that hasn’t really changed all that much since the 1970s. Lots of people from lots of different locations leave their expensive accommodation – be it rented, mortgaged or owned outright – to take their car (or worse, by cramming themselves onto public transport which in itself sometimes feels like it’s from the 1970s), to then pile into a single location (which is also very expensive but paid for by the employer) to carry out monotonous or routine tasks, whether it’s with their hands, with a machine, or on a keyboard.
We then all rush out at midday to queue for three quarters of our lunch break for a sandwich, often getting soaked in the process, to return for the afternoon shift. The lucky ones among us can squeeze in a cheeky thirty minutes at the end of the day to do our internet banking, just in time to fight the crowd and jump on the same public transport to go back to our very expensive accommodation that we haven’t used all day.
This lockdown has highlighted those businesses who haven’t embraced flexible working, technology, or a forward-thinking nature around employee flexibility. I won’t mention any names, but in every industry, there will be some. We (and you) know who you are…
I hope and anticipate this crisis acts as a catalyst to drive real change in working practices – not least because of the significant financial savings both companies and individual can make.
A bug bear of mine for many years has been the requirement for inked signatures. This recent lockdown as highlighted just how unworkable these practices are, and in my eyes, unnecessary. At Eclipse Financial Planning we have incorporated digital signatures wherever we can in our administration processes.
Business idea anyone? A highly secure unilateral format for showing and proving that you are who you say you are, and that you and you alone have authorised an action. It’s 2020, and we should have this by now. No one wants wet signatures – it’s very 1920s.
I have noticed a renewed emphasis on spending time with family and loved ones – even if for now, we have to connect with one another remotely. With reduced commuting times or less work altogether we have more time together, and by speaking to many I have sensed a real focus on the home. This has been even better, or worse, with the kids being off from school – in these uncertain times of health scares and economic instability, we often particularly value the time we have with them.
Working from home has presented a new opportunity to do the things we used to do whilst working. For example: cooking together as a family, thanks to the saved commuting time, and not resorting to a freezer, box, microwave lifestyle.
I expect takeaway consumption to go down rather than up in this crisis. Bad for retailers, but this was always a negative social externality that wasn’t being addressed – a solution that created more problems that no-one was really addressing. As we are less stressed, with more time, we are now thinking clearer – planning our days more effectively, making better decisions, and eating healthier. All-in-all, a much needed improvement in today’s breakneck speed society.
Coupled with healthier eating, I’ve also noticed a lot of people taking up running on Blackheath. Even yours truly as donned his 4-year-old Asics and has taken to a refreshing run outside – which if we are honest, beats the gym hands down (I for one don’t miss it).
Travel and the Environment
Reduced public transport use has also reduced not only the spread of the coronavirus, but all coughs and colds.
Reduced traffic means that when we do go out, the air we breathe is cleaner, with noticeable reductions in harmful gases from cars and buses. It’s safer for cyclists too, and has anyone noticed the birds seem louder these days…?
I am hoping, and anticipate, that for those industries that can adapt swiftly to a remote working model, we see a limited impact to productivity. This would help us see the error of our ways in the past, and offer a direction for the future which restores many of the balances that seem to have fallen out of quilter (oops, did I just product-place my network?).
Some of these imbalances include:
• A work/life balance. We can, and should, have both.
• Time. Cutting two hours of commuting each day will double mid-week spare time for many, and alleviate strains on public transport to help those that absolutely must travel.
• Safer roads for all.
• Better, cleaner environments.
• Property. If we replace the current necessities of tube stations with internet points, this will transform our property market for the better – offering more options to more people and less concentration of property wealth within tiny areas of the country.
• Disabilities. Modern technology could provide more working opportunities for those who want to work, but are currently unable to adapt to our rather more rigid and antiquated methods of working.
• Respect for others, their space, their health conditions and their anxieties
For years my parents said I should get up from off the sofa and do something better with my time than watch films and play video games.
It turns out, that in the time of the coronavirus, this was all good practice for being a model citizen.