Prospering sectors in uncertain times
As the lockdown eases for many people and things like shops and other venues reopen, people are starting to think about returning to a workplace, in some capacity. For some people this will be easy to do – if you work in a small team, for example, with plenty of office space. But for other firms, it is more complex. The logistics of a large workforce simply accessing a multi-storey office building – think 20 floors – is difficult when it’s difficult to be socially distanced in a lift.
Many businesses have been adversely affected by the lockdown – such as recreation, leisure, and hospitality. These have become very competitive in terms of vacancies, with dozens (and in some cases hundreds – or even thousands) of applicants submitting CVs for scarce roles, as has been prominently highlighted in the media. The fallout of the mass-shutting of venues where people can gather to socialise and relax has had catastrophic consequences for employees.
Thriving and surviving
On the flipside however, many roles that can be carried out remotely have been able to continue as normal, with some even showing improvements in productivity and efficiency. Distractions such as chit-chat and random meetings have become a thing of the past, as employees have been able to focus only on their work at hand.
And then there are the companies which have found that the situation has actually allowed their businesses to flourish. For example, textile manufacturers that have been able to divert their production lines to making masks have been able to help their fortunes and also the national effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Fashion labels have stopped selling beachwear and instead made leisurewear, such as jogging bottoms. Anyone in healthcare has been very much in demand and jobs at supermarkets have been multiplying, with the definition of ‘key worker’ broadening to include a range of professions you wouldn’t have grouped together last year – refuse collectors, pharmacists, postmen, carers, bus drivers and doctors have all remained active during the pandemic.
Any business that relies on online delivery has also been able to continue to operate and reach its audience at the click of a button, so if you work in these sectors, instead of customers visiting your store, they simply visit your website. Home and garden-based activities have seen an upturn in fortunes too. And the delivery sector itself has prospered during lockdown, with companies such as Hermes taking on swathes of staff to cope with supplying demand.
So, it is not all doom and gloom during this extended period of economic uncertainty. The more imaginative among us have managed to adapt, or completely change, the way we work. But is remote working now with us forever, which will also alter so many other aspects of our lives, such as reduced social interaction and decreased commuter travel? Cafes and food retailers are suffering, due to a lack of workers in cities, but smaller towns and villages are prospering, as people use their local amenities much more and their cars less.
What will give us a clearer picture of the economy is when some of the governmental support measures – such as furlough – are withdrawn and the true condition of the business world will be revealed. Only then can we really start planning for the future in earnest.