Right now it may seem like there’s nothing but gloom ahead for the UK’s economy. COVID19 refuses to disappear or submit to a cure or vaccine. Brexit is on the way in less than five months. Whatever opportunities it creates in the long term, it looks certain to cause at least some degree of disruption in the short term. In the spirit of optimism, however, let’s look at the good news.
Bricks-and-mortar companies are adapting to the new normal
Nobody’s saying it’s perfect, but overall it’s becoming a lot more manageable. There may be disagreements on what businesses should be allowed to open where and under what conditions. Businesses are, however, reopening and customers are heading back through their doors.
Of course, it’s true that some of the businesses which shut their doors for the lockdown will never open them again. Others will reopen, albeit into an uncertain future. They will, however, curtail their operations, with the loss of jobs. It is, however, very much open to question how much of their woes were caused by the Coronavirus.
For example, Travelex was recently hit by a major ransomware attack. There is no reasonable way COVID19 can be blamed for this. Admittedly, you could make a case for arguing that the attack came at a horrendously bad time. This is true. It is, however, also true that ransomware is a known cybersecurity threat and Travelex should have been better prepared.
Companies are updating their business models to manage risk better
If there has been one shining silver lining in the dark cloud of COVID19, it’s been how it’s driven companies to update their business models. Probably the most obvious example of this is the way businesses have been forced to pivot to remote service delivery models as much as feasibly possible. Depending on the business this could mean anything from encouraging staff to work at home to switching from holding live classes in the real world to live-streaming classes online.
What may be less obvious, however, is that COVID19 has underlined the dangers of relying on any one area to be the world’s manufacturing hub. This could generate exciting opportunities for the UK to promote itself as an alternative. Loss of access to the single market could be somewhat of a hindrance in this regard. It is, however, important to remember that the UK does have plenty of other benefits to offer. In particular, it has a workforce which is both highly skilled and highly flexible.
Remote working could be (part of) the way of the future
Remote working has been around since long before COVID19. For most of that time, however, full-time remote working has been largely reserved for freelancers. Employees have generally been expected to get themselves into the office as much as possible. When the lockdown went into effect, however, all that changed, literally overnight.
Now, almost five months on, remote working is the new normal for office workers. This hasn’t gone down well with everyone. The government, for example, is eager to see people return to their desks. It is backed by some major employers and even some workers. Other employers, by contrast, have indicated that they are perfectly happy to keep their employees working at home for the foreseeable future. Likewise, many employees are happy to ditch the commute and stick to remote interactions with their colleagues, at least during work hours.
If remote working does become established amongst all employment sectors, it could have huge implications for all areas of the UK’s economy. In particular, it could lead to cities becoming much more affordable places for the people who do still live and/or work in them, while stimulating regional economies.