Hope for the other side

Beautiful blue sky, blossom on the trees, roads quiet. Pandemic, lockdown, 759 deaths yesterday in the UK. Stark reality. Out of this tragedy, good things can come, there is hope for the other side of lockdown. The pandemic has caused tragic deaths and terrible suffering, but out of this enforced lockdown change has come. On the other side of the pandemic we can choose what changes to make permanent and which to forget. We will be able to question the validity of how things are done, and not be blinded by history, being told “we’ve always done it that way.”

The wonderful and inspirational Captain Tom Moore has raised more than £28m for the NHS by completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. More than 65,000 birthday cards have been sent to him.

At 8.00pm every Thursday, we clap for front line health care workers. They are the true heroes of this pandemic, putting their life at risk. Some tragically have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others, others have moved out of their family home to continue with their vital health care work, while protecting their family from the virus they might carry, so sacrificing precious time with their children. Some care workers have moved to live in residential care homes to protect their elderly residents from outside contamination. Our supermarkets are being stocked and staffed by an army of workers, keeping the country fed. Delivery drivers are making it possible for vulnerable people to receive food, medicine, and keep the country moving. There are also many others. But these people are typically some of the lowest paid workers. If measured by their income, their perceived value to the country has been low.  We have clearly got this wrong. The value of these workers is enormous, immeasurable. On the other side of the pandemic, how do we pay people based on their value to society? This is something to consider for the future.

For many people there has been no choice but to work from home. This is in stark contrast to requests for flexible working or working from home, made before the pandemic.  The typical response to these requests was “no, it can’t be done, you can’t work from home, you need to be here at work”. It has taken this lockdown to prove that many jobs can be done from home. Victorian presenteeism is no longer valid. This has now been demonstrated, people no longer need to sit in post-industrial workhouses. Technology has enabled many people to work anywhere, Zoom, MS Teams, etc. facilitate productivity from any location. On the other side of the pandemic, flexible working and working from home could have a very positive impact on wellbeing and productivity. It is only our mindset that is slower to change, we now need to move away from presenteeism, to trust that people will work hard and do a good job, even when working from home. Productivity is measured by output, rather than input. It is not the number of hours that we are at work, rather, it is what we produce and deliver that is of real value. Can we trust that this will be the case, or do we still need ‘overseers’ from Victorian workhouses to check on staff? This is something to consider for the future.

We are also seeing global change. National Geographic reported that as people stop commuting and traveling, seismologists observed that the Earth’s surface vibrated less. The BBC reported that since lockdown, air pollution has dropped significantly. Some UK cities have seen nitrogen dioxide levels (a serious air pollutant which indirectly contributes to global warming) fall by up to 60% on the same period last year. CNBC also reported that northeastern U.S. has seen atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution decline by 30%. On the other side of the pandemic, we can do things differently. This is something to consider for the future.

Most importantly, can the world come together and find a cure. No blame, no ‘them’ or ‘they’. Just “we can work together across the globe to find a cure and a better way of being.” This is something to consider for the future.

There is always hope.

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