Yesterday marked a full year since the first lockdown of the pandemic was imposed. In that lockdown, practically everything closed and the majority of workers stopped at home.
In the second and third lockdowns, most industries could continue their normal operations—excluding, of course, non-essential shops and the leisure, tourism and hospitality sectors. This constant ‘moving of the goalposts’ caused some business owners a great deal of stress. Retailers of non-essential products, for example, forked out for equipment and fixtures to enforce social distancing in their stores, only for them to be ordered to close.
Brexit finally going live piled on the pressure when it came to distribution within businesses, with reams of new policies and procedures to understand and implement. It’s safe to say that it’s been a challenging twelve months for most businesses in Yorkshire—few would have seen the year as ‘business as usual’.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Positives and opportunities have come out of the pandemic.
A small number of business owners who had previously resisted the inclusion of an e-commerce arm to their offering had no choice but to go digital during the pandemic. Even those who already traded online spent time they would have stood in their bricks-and-mortar shops honing and perfecting their online operations.
The events industry proved it could carry out notable occasions via livestreaming. Business meetings were still effective via screens and employees/employers benefitted greatly from remote working and no commuting.
The value technology brings to our lives has never been clearer.
Just imagine if this pandemic had played out in the 1980s, with few, if any, ways to keep in touch with people in a social or commercial manner. Whilst our economy has suffered a huge blow, it would undoubtedly have been hit much harder without the advent of technology.
The re-emergence of community
Despite its success in keeping us all connected during the pandemic, it wasn’t long ago that technology was blamed for creating distance between us humans. Kids (and even adults) addicted to their screens instead of interacting with each other. Technology and remote working offering people the opportunity to move away from their home cities and their wider families.
There have been many examples of communities coming together again during the last twelve months. Getting to know neighbours, for one, whilst clapping for the NHS each Thursday.
Volunteering schemes sprang up, to ensure no shielding or vulnerable resident in the community was left to fend for themselves. Fundraising initiatives, such as the campaign by Captain Tom, brought the nation together; people across the country went out of their way to do good and put others first.
Following the first lockdown, the climate has had chance to heal itself a little. With fewer vehicles on the road, the grounding of planes, fewer industries at work, and fewer people outdoors to cause calamity, the planet has flourished. Certain species, long-thought to be extinct, returned to our oceans as the level of plastic within waters reduced, and our coral reefs are healthier than they’ve been for a while—with the ecosystems they support positively flourishing.
Agility and resilience came to the fore
Business owners may not have wished for the world to undergo a huge shake-up, but they had no choice. Sometimes, it’s easy to become set in our ways, to do the same thing day in, day out—to concentrate only on working in the business rather than on the business. Such apathy can result in missed opportunities and your competitors getting ahead.
When everything turned on its head a year ago, practically every business across the land had to look at the way they worked and how they could fit into this new, if not temporary, world. In most cases, they had to change what they did, streamline their practices, adopt technology they may have otherwise ignored, in order to survive. Undoubtedly, most of the changes businesses have made, if they’re still around today, will stand them in better stead for the future. They will be more flexible, resilient and stronger than they were twelve months ago.
We know now just how much face-to-face interaction means
As social creatures, it’s been so very difficult to stay apart from family, friends…and even strangers. Even though the likes of Zoom and FaceTime have enabled us to keep in touch, they haven’t enabled us to, well, touch.
Being in-front of someone, reading their body language, being able to hug, shake hands or fist-bump, may seem alien now after a year of relative isolation. Gathering in crowds for large-scale events is a risky concept as we stand today…will this feeling dissipate so that we can return to the way things were?
As with anything, when something you take for granted is taken away, you appreciate its value more, and this is absolutely the case when it comes to seeing people face-to-face. When we are allowed to interact with others outside of our households once again, it will be a glorious day.
Employees of the NHS may have always been revered, but when lockdown was announced and everyone was forced to stay at home unless they were deemed ‘keyworkers’, it soon became apparent who were the real heroes of the UK. It wasn’t the high-flying city types and fancy financiers. It wasn’t celebrities or social media stars. It was everyday ordinary folk who kept the world moving.
Supermarket staff, delivery drivers, refuse collectors and teachers were amongst a select group of essential people we found we couldn’t do without. These jobs, sometimes perceived as lowly or of little value, were suddenly everything to the people of the UK.
Young adults saw first-hand what a steady, reliable career actually looks like in the twenty-first century, and it wasn’t what they may have originally thought.
There are many other positives to have arisen from the last twelve months, though none outweigh the pain the virus has caused.
In all honesty, who amongst us would have thought our lives would still be affected so significantly a year on?
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