Well, the last few weeks have certainly been different! Today is my 40th Birthday and my plans to celebrate are certainly different from what I would have anticipated 6 months ago!
It’s given us all some time to observe & reflect as to how we run our lives on a daily basis, which without doubt will change the way we live & work going forward once lockdown is over.
Whilst this has come with its strains many will have felt quality of life has improved. Working from home, spending more time with family, avoiding the commute and experiencing more flexible work patterns all positives that may have evolved as a result of the lockdown. In the meantime, businesses have had a chance to stand back and asses their working methods and see what benefits there have been from staff working from home. Has productivity gone up or down? Could profitability be increased? Is there a scenario where the business could expand without an increase in overheads such as rent and business rates. I’m anticipating the answer to a lot of these questions will be YES and whilst this pandemic has clearly been tragic and catastrophic, all of us need to take what we can out of it positively to move forward.
Going forward could it be the case that we see a drastic shift to companies implementing more of a hot-desking policy enabling staff to work from home one or 2 days a week or more perhaps? With a company looking to grow, by having all team members working from home just one day a week this would enable the business to increase staff numbers by 20% without increasing rent, rates, and on-site facilities at the same rate. At the same time a business looking to remain at their current size there is an opportunity for cost-saving by implementing this policy. With 2/3 days a week working from home and a hotdesking policy, some firms could reduce property costs by up to 50%.
As well as financial factors an increase in homeworking could perhaps also have significant positive effects on our carbon footprints and overall mental health. With the lockdown across the world we have seen pollution levels fall, so with a reduction in commutes, the presumption would be that we would see similar benefits. At the same time could a varied working environment and less commuting be something that helps individuals mental wellbeing and thus also have a bearing on their levels of production.
In other areas of business, I read a blog by a food and beverage operator in Brighton earlier this week in which they stated that they anticipate change in their industry also and foresee an increase in the cost of dining out to make allow for workers in the industry to earn a better wage alongside rising food costs. With an increase in costs and a suggested wartime mentality to be less spendthrift, will dining out only be for special occasions, as it was in years gone by? Will there be a greater divide between fine dining and fast food, or will we see a closing of the gap between the two and more focus on middle ground dining?
The continued possible need for social distancing could also be a factor going forward. There have been suggestions that pubs and nightclubs might not re-open until December at the earliest, whilst dining establishments may need to keep a certain distance between customers as such reducing capacity. If this is the case operators will need to factor this into their margins to balance the books and whilst it may not directly be referred to as a cover charge that we have seen when abroad we may well see a hidden charge factored into the cost of the bill to make the business viable. Something else we have seen recently is a variety of restaurants including fine dining offering delivery & collection options that didn’t exist previously. It will be interesting to see if this is something that customers have been receptive too and going forward will continue to use whilst paying a premium price!
Without doubt, there will be changes going forward and we are all going to have to adapt in some form or another whether good or bad. Hopefully, there will be more positive changes coming from this dreadfully sad situation we currently find ourselves in right now and we will evolve positive manner that we will all prosper from!