I have been busy asking a lot of folks about what they think the future holds for us all as lock down comes to an end as part of The Homework Podcast. It has been a lot of fun and I have enjoyed listening to everyone’s view and opinions – we will get more in depth in next week’s edition. The purpose of this post is to set out my own thoughts – the cathartic process of writing them down helps to crystallise my own thoughts, so bear with me.
To start with, I count my lucky stars that I work in the sector that I do. I am not on the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19. I have not had to face the worrying lack of PPE every day or deal with the challenges of caring for seriously ill patients. All carers: I salute you.
I am also lucky that I do not work in the hospitality sector, where there is absolutely no prospect of that sector returning to business in a pre-Covid style. Our voyeuristic consumerism in coffee shops, restaurant and bars has been replaced by a contactless dine at home experience. Families have learnt how to cook, and that home cooked food is not that bad. I cannot remember the last time I saw flour in my supermarket. Restaurants will re-open very quickly after lockdown ends – but they are likely to be at a much smaller capacity and will struggle to make ends meet on wafer thin margins.
I am thankful that I do not work in the travel industry. International travel for leisure is not going to return to how we used to enjoy for perhaps a decade. In fact, international travel may be prohibitively expensive for business initially too, especially if airlines are made to enforce social distancing regulations on flights. Your £99 flight to Dublin just became £5,000. Budget airlines and larger carriers that do not receive government help will go into receivership. Planes are very expensive to lease are not easy assets to mothball or furlough. Hotels will re-open but will need to rebrand themselves around their hygiene rating and how they deep clean their rooms after every guest.
High Street retail is the new dodo. You could see the end of the High Street coming pre-Covid as more and more retailers crumbled at the feet of the mighty online players. A handful of artisan local providers tried to fight back but Covid has put the High Street out of its misery.
City Centres are going to turn into ghost towns; premises boarded up or repurposed to provide cheap accommodation. You will find yourself reminiscing about the days you walked down the High Street in the rain, holding your child’s hand. The post-Covid high street is going to be a grim place.
Poor footballers. Sitting at home, still earning their millions, the sport sector is going to need to dramatically change to survive. Professional sports clubs have made great efforts to move their revenue streams away from the humble punter coming through the entrance gate but how long will the television companies be able to afford to subsidise the frankly ridiculous demands of some of “the stars”. Do you think rugby might become a contactless sport?
The legal sector will go through its own transformation as staff refuse to want to return to an office where hundreds of people share the same stale air. The birds have flown the nest and have learnt to fly free. The distributed workforce has been born, dragged rudely into the world before many were ready for it. All the security, management control, cost and productivity objections have quietly been put out to pasture Woe betide the fool who attempts to bring them back home.
Against this rather bleak Orwellian landscape there are going to be some winners as well.
Wasn’t it ironic that some of the lowest paid jobs in our economy suddenly become the most important? The value of our healthcare system has never been better highlighted, and my hope is that those that work within it become rewarded appropriately.
Supermarkets have cemented their value to communities and have embraced social distancing very quickly. It is no surprise that these stores are enjoying record levels of turnover as “the weekly shop”, last seen in a sentence around 1988, returns. With no Starbucks, Nandos or Pret, those budding home Hestons all need the best of ingredients.
The pharmaceutical industry will make a killing. Someone will find a vaccine and get ludicrously loaded. Medical equipment suppliers, mostly from the home of the Coronavirus are going to have to upscale their production facilities to accommodate demand. With oil prices now negative, PPE will become worth its own weight in gold.
Amazon, eBay, and Ali Baba will continue to enjoy their dominance in retail with the former achieving an annual turnover that will exceed many countries GDP.
The environment has enjoyed a lay off. We will need to make sure that as we adjust to life in the New Norm that we do not abuse our Earth again and learn the harsh lessons from our recent history. The beauty of being human is that we evolve. We must make sure our planet continues to heal so that we can leave it in the best possible shape for our own children.
Pods – new shared office spaces are going to spring up in swanky out of town locations near to transport links. These will provide an “office” for those sectors where face-to-face interaction is unavoidable. They will be built and purposed to adhere to social distancing regulations.
Some software companies, such as Microsoft, have seized the opportunity of demonstrating the value they can provide to an organisation in a crisis. Cloud service providers will see streams of businesses run to them as old IT hardware platforms sunset.
Hackers and phishers have also done very well out of the current crisis, taking the opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting victims at a time when people are feeling at their most vulnerable. These feral scums are enjoying almost unprecedented success. I suspect that we are going to see a new generation of personal data protection tools arrive in a new gen of Information Security, as individuals protect themselves and businesses manage their distributed workforces.
There will be some winners in the Legal industry but the recent downturn in revenue may mean that there is once again an increase in M&A activity as firms strategise how they can continue to operate in the New Norm. The value of IT systems and services has never been higher, and the sector is going to see record levels of technology expenditure supporting their distributed workforces post-Covid.
Finally, as a race we have learnt to become human again. I have seen countless examples of altruism, selfless acts for the greater good. Community has value again. Work has become a verb, not a noun. We can once more restore the Great in Britain.
Fair well, stay safe and stay healthy. I will see you again. In the New Norm.