The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has meant that, along with the rest of Britain and indeed much further afield, most London businesses have experienced a trying 2020.
Government data for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme shows that, at the height of the scheme in the summer, more than one million workers across London had been furloughed – accounting for 12% of the national total at the time.
As we navigate lockdown 2.0, it is hardly surprising that our latest Business Barometer, which measures firms’ confidence and outlook, revealed that business confidence in London fell 20 points during October and that companies in the capital felt less assured about their own business prospects month-on-month.
Driving London’s recovery was the theme of one of our recent series of virtual events called The Big Conversation, which brought together local business leaders to discuss the key challenges and opportunities for the city.
The events were aimed at giving businesses a voice in the debate over how best to set London on the path to recovery, as well as finding out how Lloyds Bank can continue to back local firms with support that is tailored to their needs.
New ways of working
In such an unpredictable business environment, one of the biggest challenges firms face is continuing to adapt and, of course, a major consequence of Covid-19 is that the trend towards flexible working has accelerated rapidly. Around one in 20 people worked mainly from home during 2019, which leapt to one in two during April 2020*.
It’s a shift that’s likely to endure, because having the capacity to work from home makes firms more resilient to disruption, as long as their employees have the skills and technology to work productively.
Before lockdown began, Lloyds Bank conducted research which found that one in six (18%) people in London lacked some of the most basic digital skills. But a separate poll after lockdown began found that more than a third (35%) had taken action to boost their digital skills.
This has been an incredibly difficult period for the London economy. But the evidence is that there are businesses showing resilience and innovation to survive and setting themselves on a path to future growth.
With The Big Conversation event we began a journey to understand the specific challenges and opportunities faced by London firms.
As we navigate lockdown 2.0 and the path to recovery together, we look forward to working with the business community and all those who stand with us in support of the capital.