A few shared thoughts on the future

MD, Alice Buttling and former MD and Attinger Jack founder, David Attinger, discuss the potential impact of the pandemic and what might lie ahead for businesses in the UK after lockdown.

David – Just starting to think what the short term might look like for Business and society in general, once the ‘lockdown’ is over. Will home-working really take off after it’s been forced on the Business community?

Alice -I don’t think so, I don’t see how it gets the best out of your team.  Most people that I have spoken to would rather be working in an office environment once the perceived novelty of working from home wears off.

People work better, harder and are more motivated in an office and within a team. Those who prefer working  from home are likely to be those you need to keep an eye on most to ensure they are working hard.  That said, I do think that for some a day a week at home to focus on getting tasks done where you need to focus uninterrupted has merit – you can get a lot done in a short time with no disturbance or disruption. 

David -The ‘lockdown’ has now been extended to mid May, what do you think will happen at that point ? Presumably some of the restrictions will be lifted but lots will not I’m sure.

Alice – I think it will be gradual and I think that the general public will want that, there will be a lot of concerns about coming out of lockdown but we have the benefit of being behind other countries to see how the impact works.  I think that businesses and schools will be first but that anything that involves large groups will be postponed until the end of the Summer. 

David – President Macron is suggesting the ‘Schengen border’ will be closed until September so travel across Europe will remain restricted until then.     

Alice – It is hard to imagine the costs to the individual countries if they do restrict travel throughout the entire summer period.  This will destroy so many businesses that rely on tourism and the government simply don’t have the funds to replace this. 

David – I think there is a very real danger of social unrest if this situation continues for too long.                                                                                                                                                            Alice – I think that the social issues are huge, the message of stay home and save lives is fine for some, reality of doing this is horrific for many.  Millions of people are being asked to lock themselves into flats with no outside space, this would be tough enough with a nice flat in a pleasant location but add to this kids all at home, sick people around you, no access to support and at times abuse etc and you have a situation that we should just not be asking -never mind telling – people to put themselves in. I think we are paying too high a price and asking too much. 

David – but the biggest damage is to Business in general. Travel, Hospitality, Retail, Holidays, Automotive, Construction, Property, Aerospace, Oil, Sport etc, will be damaged and plenty of small players will not survive.                                                                                                            Alice – We will lose so many businesses, some that were fragile anyway who now have the perfect excuse for their failure, but some who were good solid small businesses who just didn’t have the cash in the business to keep afloat – mainly seasonal businesses who rely on the April to August period to carry them through the rest of the year.

David – But most will, so how will they and their sectors change ?                                       Alice – The ones that survive will be a combination of the big, fat, greedy ones and the really smart ones.  We have seen a real mixture of lay down and die or stand up and fight and we have seen clients willing to try new things, adapt, invest and do all they can to ride the storm, others who have been surprised to actually do really well and have been focussed on maximising this advantage.  I think this could be the final straw for retail, with those who were reluctant to adopt shopping online now being forced to do so I am not sure they will now return to the high street.  Who knows when the travel industry will recover, I think even when restrictions are lifted there will be a lot of fear about travel, there will also be billions of pounds lost in refunds which will finish off many companies and I am sure many consumers will lose out here.  I think there will be a greater divide, those who have retained their jobs, kept working (albeit mainly from home) will feel pretty financially strong, they have retained their income, saved a fortune not leaving the house for 2 months and will have money to spend.  Those who have been furloughed on 80% are probably all square having saved the 20% by staying at home, but there will be a chunk of those furloughed who don’t have a job to go back to, the 3 months are up, the mortgage holiday is over and things are going to look very grim.  So for the markets that service the higher end, I think recovery will be quick and there will be a backlog (this also applies to the 70+ market who when they are released from lock down will probably be the best off as their income has stayed the same but their outgoings dropped) 

Personally I think that we need to come out of lock down as soon as possible and for there to be a better balance of priorities – we need to save as many lives as possible (obviously) but the lives of those vulnerable to Covid 19 are currently being valued far higher than the rest of the world, social welfare, business, the economy – the main reason for this has been the rapid spread and NHS not being able to cope with the sick.  When we start to see the spread being under control then I hope more priority will be put on everybody and everything else – we will have a build up of immunity, more knowledge, more tests, capacity in the new hospitals, ventilators etc – we could then start seeing some of the death statistics in context of other deaths the day – like normal flu, cancer and one that is likely to start increasing…suicide