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Life after lockdown: how we work, shop, travel and play will never be the same after the COVID pandemic – April 2020

Keeping your (social) distance will present new challenges as employers & businesses try to ensure everything is clean

Tomorrow’s customer is likely to be poorer, quite nervous and obsessed with social distancing and hygiene. So, when the shops, cafes, restaurants and gyms can finally reopen, clients are likely to expect more regular cleaning to be visibly happening to give them the confidence that they are safe to be there as well as more space between customers.

Nearly all companies on the globe are in the midst of “scenario planning". Besides drawing up social distancing norms for the return to the workplace, including limiting the number of staff permitted in a workspace at any one time. Not to mention how their staff will safely travel (by public transport) to their place of work without getting infected and potentially making their colleagues sick. A lower number of people out on the streets and in the community for quite some time is going to affect the demand for so many products and services.

Many organisations are planning how they will manage their costs to take advantage of the upturn, whilst being mindful of controlling tight cashflow. Some will be up-skilling their workforce and working out how they will get back workers who may have been stood down, giving them the opportunity to return if they have been forced to relocate temporarily due to loss of earnings.

Permanently retrenched workers are said to be looking to retrain as essential workers so they can return to paid work quicker and there has been an increase in the online searches for training courses to enable this.

School children will slowly be returning to their classrooms after a carefully staged process involving the older students and the youngest (those with the greatest need basically) to return to school grounds first. Universities will also be going back to face to face learning but given around 30 percent of our university population is from China, this may take a good while to recover to “before Coronavirus” (BC) levels, and it may not rebound until the next academic year in 2021.

Having spent so much time at home with little to do, many people have resorted to creative pursuits like singing, playing instruments, making Tic-Toc videos, as well as exercise, gardening, decorating and baking, with varying degrees of success. Some of these people will have had time to rethink their lives, relationships and careers and a lot will not be happy to return to the crazy busy chaos we all lived in before this pandemic.

Depending on the sector, demand could take anywhere between a quarter or even more to rebound. The travel sector is going to be impacted for possibly the longest as we will likely keep our borders closed to international visitors for some time to come and whilst domestic travel will pick up first, many will not be able to afford to pay exorbitant fees for flights and accommodation as they did before.

Considering all of this, it is hard to tell how long unemployment will take to return to pre-COVID levels if it ever will. There is going to be a long period of recovery, with shorter periods of lockdown to continue in schools, workplaces and suburbs where there are significant COVID outbreaks as we enter the second or third wave of this pandemic.

What is certain is that there is a future beyond Coronavirus for most of us, but what does it really look like and what positive elements can we take from what we experienced or achieved during the lockdown and will continue with going forward? Many will have acquired new skills, not least the ability to do a video call or online class of some kind.

Will people stay so connected to their friends and family, care so much for their neighbours and will more people work from home after this is over? Are we going to travel less and appreciate our homes, our pets and our loved ones more, or are we all busting to get on a plane and return to our crazy lives before Coronavirus?

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