Our world has been forever changed by the impact of COVID19, but as countries around the world continue with social distancing measures, people are appreciating some of the positive changes that lockdown has brought into our lives- and potentially into our futures.
But what exactly are the positives of lockdown that we take away from our time under restrictions, and are the changes sustainable?
- Reduced pollution
- Life without coal-powered electricity
- People are exercising more
- More time with family
- Remote work has proven to be possible and effective
- Online training
- Reimagining the future
Read ahead to find out more about what each aspect entails.
Reduced pollution and improved environment
If the COVID19 is our short-term crisis, our battle to change the path of the climate crisis is our long-term one.
While we were wondering what COVID19 meant for us as individuals, families and society, the environment was taking a much-needed, overdue break.
Lockdown measures introduced in March brought traffic levels, whether in the air or on the ground, plummeting. In fact, less traffic on the road meant that air pollution fell by up to 60% in parts of the UK. This improvement is life-saving for some- the increase in air quality could reportedly save around 77,000 lives.
But what does this mean in the long-term when restrictions no longer apply and people can travel as much as they like? While it’s inevitable that we’ll see a rise in air pollution as rules are relaxed, there’s been a lot of talk in parliament about the importance of making our recovery a green one, which has garnered significant public support.
It’s a rare opportunity to reverse the damage inflicted on the planet through human activity and could be the key to our biggest long-term crisis.
Green party co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, was quoted saying:
“Lockdowns around the world have pressed pause on much environmental destruction. It would be wrong to celebrate these things that have come as tens of thousands have died from the pandemic and millions face huge hardship.
“But right now decisions are being made that will determine whether we use what we have learnt to create a safer world in which we can live better lives.
“The response to the pandemic has given us a glimpse that another world is possible.”
With the climate crisis on the minds of so many, even amidst the pandemic, it’s a real possibility that serious, impactful change can be integrated with recovery policies.
Life without coal-powered electricity
The positives of lockdown measures on environmental impacts don’t stop there. On 10th May 2020, the UK achieved something unprecedented: for the first time since the first coal power plant was introduced in 1882, the UK had gone an entire month without burning coal for electricity.
This is a result of lockdown measures decreasing demand and lowering power prices, making coal much less profitable. This is another essential step in the right direction to reach the UK’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
However, to achieve these goals, our aviation and transport sectors will still need massive amounts of innovation to cut emissions.
People are exercising more
Pre lockdown work-life looked pretty similar for most people: get up early, commute to work, spend the day in the office, then commute home. TUC analysis showed that prior to lockdown, people in the UK commuted for an average of about an hour a day.
The problem with that lifestyle is that it can begin to wear on your energy and can throw your work-life ratio out of balance, but just think about the possibilities an extra hour every day can bring.
It’s unsurprising then, that one of the most notable revelations of the positives of lockdown is more people finding the time and motivation to exercise.
The two most popular forms of outdoor exercise during lockdown have been walking and cycling. By week six of restrictions, walking was up 63% and cycling was up 13% from pre-lockdown numbers. 45% of people also claim to be keeping fit from home, which is unsurprising with the number of live stream workouts and fitness apps, two effective substitutions for gym classes.
Increasing your level of activity is well-evidenced to have a knock-on effect on many areas of your life, including:
- Mental health
Even as lockdown restrictions begin to lift, commuters are being actively encouraged to replace public transport with walking or cycling. The government is even investing in pop-up bike lanes to help with social distancing, making it easier for novice cyclists to get around safely.
We can also expect to see pedestrianised areas expanded. Deansgate in Manchester, usually clogged with traffic, is currently closed to traffic and council bosses hope to make the change more permanent, creating a more permeable city centre experience for those on foot.
Pedestrianisation can also help localisation, but even without it, there’s been an increasing demand for shopping locally- corner shops and independent grocers have seen an increase of 63% in sales during lockdown.
While some of this is due to the demand for certain household essentials during lockdown (think pasta, soap, toilet paper, etc.), people seem to be actively seeking out local shops. Doing so gives a boost to your local economy, and if we all do it, local businesses can weather the storm much better.
Campaigns like SupportUKBusiness also play their part in raising awareness of what we can do to help small businesses to stay successful.
More time with family
Family time is precious, but pre-lockdown life was hectic, and taking the time to connect with loved ones can fall to the wayside when you have a poor work-life balance.
Spending so much more time at home means many of us are now constantly surrounded by our immediate family- one of the big positives of lockdown.
This can make a significant difference for young families, who can now spend more time with their children around working from home.
For families who are further apart, video calls have been invaluable- and from all the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard, people are spending more time on video chat with their family and are hosting quizzes and games nights to have fun and connect. The stats back it up, too- The Office for National Statistics reported 78.7% of people said that staying in touch with friends and family remotely was also helping.
It almost goes without saying that lockdown has been a worrying time for everyone for many obvious reasons, and having time to talk with your family and support each other is invaluable amidst a pandemic.
Proving mass remote work is possible
The days where we got up early to head into the office almost seem like a distant memory as many of us enjoy a little extra sleep in the morning and a much shorter commute to our workstation.
Before lockdown, the case for remote work was on the rise, but that didn’t mean it came without its critics. While it was difficult to discount the positive impacts related to better work-life balance, there was hesitation from lots of businesses in taking a leap into the unknown. How would the team still work together effectively? How could task management be effective?
In adapting to remote work, there’s been a few revelations for businesses:
- It’s possible to work and collaborate with others without meeting face to face
- No shows for meetings are no longer a problem- only 10 minutes get wasted
- You can be more flexible meeting clients as you can meet at any time and not be restricted by travel
- Reduction in office costs if you want to make the change more permanent (smaller offices also contributing to localisation and more vibrant cities)
- Business people are making more time for each other as its quick and easy to have online meetings
- A move to better management is possible as it takes more thought to ensure that everyone is included when WFH
A lot of businesses were already aware of the holistic benefits WFH could supposedly bring, but only a shift on the mass scale we’ve experienced to remote working could have proved to the extent it has, just how practical WFH is.
Even if it doesn’t suit every individual, remote working does work, and businesses will do well to think about how they can maintain and integrate that flexibility as restrictions lift and offices begin to open.
With 1.7 million people reportedly working from home under the current lockdown, and many businesses set to continue with the new-found setup, it was inevitable that there was going to be an explosion in online training.
There’s an array of training options to choose from so that your staff can get the ongoing development they need to improve their work and feel valued.
A big drop in vacancies has sparked fears surrounding the jobs market means that employees are also keen to upskill in areas that are going to make them more attractive employees, and the education secretary agrees:
He urged furloughed employees to “improve their knowledge, build their confidence and support their mental health so they have skills they need to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak”.
Online training has been one of the particular positives of lockdown for furloughed workers where businesses have offered free online courses to boost their digital skills. Focusing on improving digital skills across the board will also mean that WFH can become more sustainable.
Ultimately, online training for employees is bound to become a more permanent solution for adding more capability and value to our businesses- all while helping improve your overall culture and retention.
Reimagining the future
Last but not least in the list of positives to come out of the lockdown is the fact that businesses are starting to reimagine what they do, based on what customers actually need, opposed to what they have traditionally done.
This is because, as services become increasingly digitised, they also need to be seamless to a fault. The only way to do that successfully is to know exactly what the customer needs or wants so you can facilitate the right path to get them to convert into paying customers.
An example of this is the rise of customer service software. Chatbots and live chat are there because businesses know that customers expect support throughout their journey and a quick response without the effort of making a phone call.
In the future, businesses will have to invest in many more of these softwares to ensure the user experience (UX) is always at the forefront and works seamlessly and effectively.
Life might seem like a far cry from what it was at the beginning of the year and there’s still much turmoil. With that in mind, it’s crucial that we can hold onto the few positives that have come out of lockdown life.
Most of all, those positives stand as opportunities, which if we leverage and make the right (and sustainable) decisions now, will lead to a better and brighter future for work-life, personal lives, society and the planet.
We hope that you find this article informative and that it provides you with the ideas, tools and confidence to take advantage of the positives of lockdown for your business. If you have any questions, get in touch, and we’ll be happy to help.