19 Jul A step further from uncertainty
19th July marks the official end (at least for now) of all Coronavirus restrictions in England and comes some 490 days after I emailed the team to ask them to work from home ‘for the next few days or weeks’. It is hard to believe this will be the end of restrictions but, for now at least, there are not any.
500 days of shutdown
For any business, a partial shutdown of the economy is a huge negative and a full shut down (which the period between March and June last year felt like) is catastrophic. Most of our work can be done remotely but, at least in part, our business was fuelled by other businesses that saw revenues fall 90 percent. The knock-on effect is bound to have an impact.
We were fortunate: while we were certainly impacted by the pandemic, the consequences were not dire. We did not need to fundamentally change the size of the company or impact people’s lives by making them redundant. Had life taken a different path – perhaps as a PR company for the hospitality industry – things would have been very different.
The human impact
There are plenty of unknowns that remain before we get to the end of the crisis: will the growth in case numbers in the UK continue? Will new restrictions be needed in the Autumn? Everyone has an opinion, but nobody can be sure of the right answer.
Personally, I am curious about the human impact. Having a son starting University during the pandemic makes me wonder whether he will ever experience the kind of University life that I did. As an employer I wonder whether people will want to take more holiday having missed at least one, potentially two, summers of holidays abroad? How will that tally with concerns over travel risk? Will people become more entrepreneurial having seen how simple it is to buy and sell online? Will they value a reliable job with a reliable income more in a world where uncertainty has been the watchword for almost 18 months?
At the very worst, this move marks a ‘beginning of the end’ of uncertainty that people have lived with for such a long time. Will things be back to normal? Not at all, but the lifting of restrictions enables more planning and a little more certainty than before.
Back in March 2020, nobody was expecting restrictions to continue for almost 500 days; the average estimate at the time was around one month. Regardless of the rights or the wrongs of the political decisions made today, the impact of the last 16 month will be profound and – as yet – unclear.