The pandemic is radically changing the way we live

Simon Read

Simon Read

When do you reckon we will be free of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Will things be back to normal by Christmas? Or will we have to wait until the spring? Or, heaven forbid, could it last much longer than that?

With so much uncertainty still around, it is a guessing game, isn’t it? But I hear that senior bankers are working on the basis that the current crisis could last until 2024 – which would give us another four years of pain.

That is them naturally being prudent. But anyone who thinks we will be returning to normal any time soon, needs to take off their rose-tinted glasses, throw them to the ground and grind them into dust.

For starters the nature of the pandemic means life will not return to what it was. Do you think hand sanitisers and masks will simply disappear? They will not. They are part of our daily life for the foreseeable future.

What about the shift to working from home?

That is certainly going to become a permanent change for many folk, even if only because some companies have discovered they can function perfectly well while saving a packet on office leases.

Legal giant Linklaters, for instance, has said that all of its 5,300 staff could spend up to 50 per cent of their time working remotely from now on.

Lloyds Banking Group said it is reviewing its office space needs and working practices after discovering that most of its 65,000 staff have worked effectively from home during the crisis. NatWest and HSBC have also said they will allow much more flexible working in future.

Meanwhile many workers themselves have realised that working from home can be better for them and are likely to fight to be able to continue doing so.

Eliminating the commute, whether it is on public transport or in a queue of cars, has improved many people’s lives for instance, even if it is just because it has freed up an extra couple of hours a day.

Some people, of course, have struggled with having to work from home.

It has been a nightmare for those in flats or who have had to work from their bedroom, which means there is no escape from being reminded about work 24 hours a day.

Those people are more likely to want to return to former practices. But will they be able to? The government certainly hopes so. It has splashed out on an ad campaign to encourage workers to return to offices.

Critics said that was just to keep sandwich bars and coffee shops in business, but it is more fundamental than that.

The Confederation of British Industry has warned that city centres are in danger of becoming “ghost towns” if workers do not return.