Innovation from despairIf not for World War II, the NHS would not have been created so speedily. The conflict lead to the creation of the Emergency Hospital Service, dependent on the Government for its operation. Its success demonstrated what was capable of being achieved even in desperate times. Similarly, following the devastation caused by the IRA bomb in Manchester, the beginnings of one of the UK’s most vibrant cities emerged.
There’s no escaping that COVID-19 will devastate lives and leave a trail. However, it’s likely to change the world as we know it. COVID-19 will undoubtedly hit the reset button on the way we live.Obvious changes will come about with more resources being channelled into laboratories to ensure that we can combat future outbreaks. Perhaps less obvious however, is the impact it will have on the way we live. With the instruction to ‘stay at home’, many feel resentful, instead of heeding the advice, they flocked in their masses to enjoy the rare sunshine. Fear of losing the freedom of choice and working from home, seemed too much to bear. Employers feared that staff would interpret this as holiday.
The benefits of home workingInstead what we discovered was that by utilising conferencing software, our efficiency increased and our stress levels diminished. We stopped our routine morning rush to the station where we endured the daily fight for a seat on the delayed train. Reversing the process at the end of the day arriving home with time to kiss the kids goodnight.
What we hadn’t realised is that Boris’ instruction had temporarily taken away our freedom of movement but given us something greater.As we flirt with mortality, it’s clearer than ever that time is precious. Crisis forced ‘home-working’ has given the greatest gift of life; more time. And not just any ‘time’, but time to be shared with our dearest. Today, I arose gently from my slumber, showered and adequately dressed my top half for a string of video conferences. In between meetings, I spoke with my wife, and realised I quite like her; enjoyed the kids playing ‘tag’ in the garden. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, exactly how I wanted it. I completed all my work tasks, and hey presto; at the end of my working day, I was home. Totally stress free. Technology has enabled us to be in the room together, though we’re apart. We’ve become creative and gone beyond simply working from home. Birthday, and dinner parties have taken place virtually. Like many forced to resort to finding ways to operate in the midst of the crisis, court hearings held remotely will result in savings to the public purse.
Happier, less stressed and more productiveEmployers renting expensive real estate can pass savings to their employees or invest in growing their businesses. The workplace, as we know it is likely to change and the availability of office space can be directed to much needed housing. On an individual level, we will save hugely on travel and incidental costs such as pricey lunches. We may choose to live beyond commuter territory, taking advantage of lower house prices and upping our standard of living. Less travel, means less pollution. However viewed, that equates to a win for everybody. If we change how we live, house design needs to follow suit. We’re realising that our homes were built to live in, and not to be used for any meaningful working. Purpose built live / workspace cannot be the preserve for young professionals, but also families too. Homes with one study have to give way to space for two offices. We need to think of carving out workspace under stairs and within cupboards, and configure living space away from study areas. Through adversity we may inadvertently become more efficient, save money, protect the environment and improve our quality of life. As we fight COVID-19 and accrue mammoth debt in the process, we will have to pull together as we emerge to meaningfully strengthen the economy. We need all hands to the pump in this national effort.
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