With the government’s new three-tier lockdown system in place, much of the UK is once again looking forward to easing out of restrictions. However, it’s unlikely that we will revert to the bustle of busy offices and packed shopping centres for some time yet. While most children have returned to school, the government is still encouraging us to work from home where possible, socially distance, and wear masks in indoor public spaces. Most of us also can’t cross the border from one town or city to the next, see many of our loved ones, or attend the events that we’ve been counting down to for months or even years. COVID-19 has adapted pretty much everything about how we live, from the way that we work to the way that we socialise. So, what can we expect to see over the next 12 months as the UK gradually eases out of the second lockdown?
Ten differences that we can expect to see when easing out of the second COVID-19 lockdown
Here, Jack Mason examines the shifts that we are likely to see in our economy, environment, work routines, and social events over the next year. As the Group CEO of Inc & Co, a digital collective in Manchester, Jack has been keeping a close eye on lockdown trends to inform his predictions for the future. These are his 10 anticipated changes for the UK.
1. Higher wages for key workers
While the government has advised the majority of us to stay at home to protect ourselves and others, key workers have continued to work in full exposure of the virus to keep medical facilities, schools, shops, and transport systems operative. As a result, the UK has been celebrating its NHS staff, care workers, teachers, transportation staff, cleaners, and retail workers who are so often unappreciated.
Jack predicts that the government will work to level out pay inequality over the next year, improving wages and benefits systems for the UK’s key workers. Perhaps instead of debating the baseline for the minimum wage, we should be thinking about which roles the minimum wage applies to. Now is the time to question whether we should be using the minimum wage to pay the key workers who keep us safe and allow the nation to move forward during this difficult time.
2. An improved sense of equality
COVID-19 has given everyone in the UK – and most of the world – a mutual concern. While most challenges only affect certain demographics or groups, people from all backgrounds have tested positive for coronavirus. Celebrities, politicians, and even our neighbours have been infected. Despite the tragic nature of the number of cases, the virus has ironed out any notions of inequality. Everyone is at risk. Jack suggests that, as increasing numbers of people become reliant on government support, societies may well overcome some of the negative stigma associated with the welfare system. More of us are sick, and more of us have found that our ‘secure’ jobs are, in fact, not secure at all.
3. Economic downturn
The widespread – and in some cases repeated – business closures have had a devasting impact on the UK economy. In April, the government borrowed £62 billion to provide business grants, self-employment grants, and funding for the furlough scheme, which covered 80% of some workers’ salaries. While this offered an initial safety net for many employees and businesses, the government can’t cover all the costs required for businesses to stay afloat long-term. On top of this, there were inevitable loopholes in the support system, meaning that some people didn’t receive the financial support that they needed to keep their businesses afloat at all.
Now that we are visualising the future of the economy, many are questioning what form the recession will take. The best-case scenario is that the recession will see the UK face an economic downtown over a few quarters before bouncing back. However, the reality may be much longer-term. Jack highlights the major concern that yet more businesses are likely to sink further financially before the economy has a chance to recover.
‘Whether it’s a short-term dip that can be quickly rectified or a longer-term economic recession remains to be seen,’ says Jack. ‘However, I think we could be in for extremely challenging times economically, and that some businesses won’t make it through.’
4. The rise of remote working
COVID-19 has triggered the worldwide shift towards embracing remote working. Remote cultures were already making a positive impact in forward-thinking companies before the outbreak, but many firms were reluctant to test the waters until the government implemented mandatory lockdown measures.
Now, millions of companies worldwide have been pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of working from home and have therefore adopted remote working as a permanent measure. Though there are plenty of reasons to work in-house, remote cultures enable huge cost savings for employers and employees alike. Plus, the majority of businesses have been able to maintain high levels of productivity and collaboration while their teams have been working remotely. As the majority of teams can collaborate just as effectively using digital tools like Slack and Zoom as they can in the office, home working will be a long-term solution for many companies.
Of course, a permanent shift towards remote working would have a huge impact on city centre businesses, impacting public transport networks and eateries that rely on office staff who visit on lunch breaks. With this in mind, a combination of remote working and flexible office hours could be an ideal compromise for UK workers. Jack expects that most businesses will keep remote working as at least an option for their staff to reduce overheads and allow employees flexible working hours but the benefit and cultural impacts of staff meeting regularly in an office still outweighs the isolation of staff working remotely.
5. Lower property prices and higher rural demand
Amongst the vat of concerns associated with coronavirus, many worry how their housing situations could be affected. Thankfully, the government has implemented measures to minimise concern in this arena. For example, tenants benefit from the government’s ban on no-fault evictions. This ban means that landlords can’t evict tenants should they miss a rent payment because of the virus. Meanwhile, the government has also set up a system that enables affected home-owners to take three-month mortgage holidays.
From a wider perspective on the property market, Jack expects that the recession will trigger a sharp drop in city house prices and a simultaneous rise in the number of people claiming housing benefit. While this may well benefit home-buyers, those looking to sell will likely feel the impact of weaker property valuations. On top of this, the UK housing market is already seeing interesting trends as office workers who are now able to work remotely full-time have sold their once-sought-after city accommodation to live in beautiful rural areas and beachfront locales. As a result, Jack predicts that we’ll see drops in prices for city accommodation, while demand for the previously less popular rural spots rises.
6. Increasing levels of CO2 and air pollution
With the whole of the UK in some form of lockdown, we have seen vast decreases in CO2 and air pollution levels, particularly as transport levels have dropped exponentially. In fact, the Guardian reports that global emissions are likely to come in at around 8% lower this year than in 2019. However, as the UK eases out of its second lockdown and we take to the roads on a daily basis once again, Jack expects that this reduction in CO2 and air pollution levels will soon revert. Having said that, the rise of remote working should reduce the number of people commuting to and from work ten times a week, hopefully reducing emissions to some extent.
7. Safety measures in entertainment and hospitality venues
The closure of restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, theatres, cinemas, museums, and other entertainment venues has deeply challenged the UK during this time of crisis. Though some of these venues are now re-opening in lesser affected towns and cities, new measures are in place to promote safety and infection control. We can expect social distancing measures to be in place until March at the earliest, though Jack expects that these measures will likely stay longer than this. As a result, the popularity of delivery services is on the rise – and Jack only expects this to increase. Whether it’s a supermarket delivery or a takeaway from Uber Eats or Deliveroo, those who feel uncomfortable visiting supermarkets and restaurants are gravitating towards these services.
Plus, many of our once crowded spaces are now carefully controlled with slashed capacities and card-only payment systems. Handling cash isn’t ideal when trying to control infection rates, and the UK is therefore likely to shift to a cashless society. Jack suggests that it probably won’t be long until we’re even paying for takeout coffees with only our debit and credit cards. While the UK was already in the transition to cashless payments before the pandemic, COVID-19 will only accelerate this shift. This is just one of the many ways that the virus is fast-tracking trends that the UK has already had in the pipelines for some time.
8. Virtual events and festivals
Moving on to some of the UK’s biggest events, we can expect festivals, concerts, gigs, and large conferences to take much longer to return to any sense of ‘normal’. Virtual events can work as a temporary compromise, but the live event market thrives on the physical presence of visitors. As a result, the events and entertainment industry has the challenge of entirely reshaping how they will serve guests and ticket-holders. Some countries have announced that they will ban events with more than 1,000 people for the ‘foreseeable future’, and Jack suspects that all events in the UK will be limited to very few guests for at least the next year.
‘Live events may never be the same again,’ Jack says. ‘Certainly, for the next year, I can’t imagine that concerts, gigs, festivals, and conferences will reconvene. We’ve seen the likes of Hay Festival innovate and hold events virtually, which has worked well. And I think this will continue, although where that leaves music and theatre, it’s difficult to say.’
9. Various impacts on relationships and dating
Relationships across the UK have been drastically affected by the virus – and Jack predicts that the contexts surrounding relationship difficulties could be around for some time yet. For starters, cohabiting couples are likely seeing more of each other while under lockdown – perhaps their children too. But those who thrive off having their own space and routine may struggle to live in close proximity with their partners 24/7.
At the other end of the spectrum, many couples who live separately are struggling with lack of contact. It’s difficult enough for couples who live in the same town or city, but with the government’s three-tier lockdown system in place, many people now can’t cross borders between towns and cities to see their loved ones. As lack of communication can put a strain on even the healthiest of relationships, Jack emphasises that many couples now need to rely on technology to communicate with their significant others, even though this isn’t comparable to face-to-face conversations.
When it comes to casual dating, Jack predicts that we’ll see a shift in the match-making industry. Not only does meeting strangers from dating apps and sites increase the risk of spreading the virus, but online dating comes with a whole host of other risks. Instead, many people in the UK are now getting to know potential matches through video chats, which may offer a long-term solution even when infection rates decline. However, Jack warns that chatting virtually doesn’t allow you to get to know a person in the same way that you would in person.
10. A surge in mental health issues – and acceptance of these issues
As the UK struggles to curb infection rates, we continue to question our safety and the safety of our loved ones. It’s hardly surprising that mental health issues are on the rise, and anxiety has become a new norm for many. Mental health charities such as Samaritans, Mind, and CALM report huge rises in the number of calls over the last few months, while the BBC has documented the struggles that people across the UK have experienced at the hands of the pandemic.
Jack recommends making the most of resources that many reputable organisations have curated to manage mental health struggles. A good place to start is the government’s guidance. Jack’s business partner Scott Dylan, founder of Fresh Thinking Group and a keen advocate of mental health, also offers a wealth of tips for entrepreneurs and business leaders on his blog.
Though the rise in mental health diagnoses is distressing, the more we talk about our struggles, the more society understands and accepts anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other psychological disorders. As a result, we can expect to see fewer prejudices in the workplace and a wider acceptance of mental health struggles.
About Jack Mason
As the founder of group collective Inc & Co, Jack Mason is a people-driven business leader who implements and oversees dynamic business transformation models for the firm’s acquisitions. He nurtures and blends a multitude of teams to encourage skillshare and cultivate a knowledge hub for a vast range of digital experts. Jack employs his consultancy-led approach to map success routes for struggling enterprises, integrating such companies with Inc & Co to achieve impressive growth targets. With a strong eye for team-building, Jack project manages various teams, strategically partnering experts with complementary skills to develop the best solutions.
Within a year of Inc & Co’s launch, the group generated a £10 million turnover, boasting an 11% month-on-month increase. Inc & Co provides the collaborative space that companies specialising in marketing, PR, design, server technologies, and software need to develop forward-thinking solutions and redefine digital markets. The collective’s technical and HR specialists support the acquisitions towards their individual goals, harnessing Inc & Co’s high-level marketing, HR, financial, and sales frameworks to generate higher returns on investment.
Inc & Co’s acquisitions include the on-demand laundry service Laundrapp, mobile-app development specialists Cuhu, award-winning marketing agency Brass, creative applications agency Neon, data-preference experts MyLife Digital, not-for-profit data management organisation Wood for Trees, sports brand-building agency Skylab, and global analytics firm Insight Analysis.
Jack has also launched Inc & Co’s sister company, Inc & Co Property Group, which leases incspaces office accommodation to teams of all sizes. With the rise of remote working, the UK can expect to see a decrease in the number of set office locations for firms, and many employers will lease flexi-spaces for their teams when they require face-to-face meetings instead. incspaces is well-positioned to offer business-grade facilities to these firms in London, Leeds, and Manchester and will soon expand to provide office spaces in other cities across the UK.
Jack is also a member of Forbes Business Council; he meets with other invite-only entrepreneurs to formulate business guidance for firms looking to scale their product offerings and services.