Looking Forward

As we enter what is now week four of lockdown, I think we’re all desperately waiting for some indications from the government of what the eventual exit strategy will look like. Countries that entered lockdown before us, including Denmark and Austria are opening primary schools and small shops. Spain is this week restarting construction and manufacturing and even Italy is tentatively opening some shops.

Obviously, restrictions here won’t be relaxed for a few weeks yet and certainly not until new infection rates have fallen and the NHS is confident that it can cope. But, what happens in these countries will probably give us a good idea of what our own route out might be.

Like many of us, I’m working from home alongside a small Mila team ensuring that the business is ready to reopen safely as soon as we get the go ahead. Having never really worked remotely before, it has made me think about what impact the lockdown will have on how we work in the future.

I’ve read predictions saying that staff will scatter, offices will fall, and robots will rise and there’s probably an element of truth in each of those, but they’re definitely not the whole picture. Clearly, the likes of Zoom, Teams and Slack have shown that it’s perfectly possible to be productive while working separately but, if my own experience is anything to go by, when people do get back to work, they’ll appreciate the value of the support network they have from the group that they work with a lot more. The rise in virtual lunch dates and happy hours between colleagues shows that, however much you might be glad to skip the commute, it’s very easy to feel isolated from the rest of the team.

I’m sure we’ll see lots of business travel deemed unnecessary in the future, and that can only be a good thing for the planet, but we certainly won’t stop meeting. This is an industry built on relationships and, while video calls have undoubtedly been fast tracked into the mainstream in just a few weeks, I think networking, exhibitions and events will probably become even more important to us all.

Maybe it’s the speed and flexibility we’ve witnessed in this crisis which will have the biggest legacy. Things that would have taken years to achieve in normal circumstances have taken weeks. Before the lockdown, individual businesses had already responding and many, including Mila, had implemented new technologies and transformed the way they operated in just a few days; and we will all be ready to do that again. We were told, for instance, that it wasn’t practical for GPs to cut waiting times by seeing patients remotely – now they’re seeing 90% of patients that way. And, no matter what you think of the government’s response so far, the speed of the roll out of its Job Retention and various loan schemes has been genuinely impressive.

We are in the midst of this crisis and not even starting to think about the shape of the recovery and what it means for consumer confidence and demand for our products, but, what we have learned is that, when pressed into emergency mode, remarkable things can be achieved and I think that should give us all real confidence to face what lies ahead.



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