Markets have rallied as vaccine developments sparked a rush of hope that an end to the pandemic – and the resulting restrictions on personal freedoms – is close at hand.
Although the health crisis continues, the UK has proved to be a global role model in terms of vaccine rollout. Milestones along Boris Johnson’s roadmap to ending lockdowns have been met and the British economy should get back into gear in the coming months – with growth in the second half of the year hitting multidecade highs.
Businesses were forced to make bold decisions they may not otherwise have made as the virus spread, including mass remote working. Lockdowns forced a sizable proportion of the population to work from home and, in the process, they demonstrated that this was not only feasible – but that it comes with a range of positive benefits too.
Removing the commute gave many people more time to think and a better work-life balance overall. The stress of commuting can be a significant strain on many employees.
Research demonstrates that remote working can benefit mental health – and improve job satisfaction too. It can also allow businesses to save costs by leasing less floor space in high-rent areas. This means a hybrid way of working now looks more likely, which should benefit both workers and companies alike.
Technology uptake and innovation
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the widespread adoption of digital technology at an incredible pace. Older people were forced to get to grips with technology such as video conferencing to keep in touch with their beloved grandchildren. This has increased the addressable market for tech businesses – but it should also help improve the wellbeing of older people after the pandemic, as they have become more connected to the modern world.
The rising importance of technology in the future economy, with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other developments, cannot be overstated. Innovation has been boosted by the pandemic response and new technologies, such as temperature-reading robots, were deployed at an accelerated pace.
National security and cost management
Supply-chain security came into sharp focus during the pandemic, as trade disruption led to shortages of vital medical equipment. This has led to a renewed focus on global trade in key strategic industries, with US president Joe Biden recently signing an executive order that will implement a year-long study of important US supply chains.
The latter half of the 20th century saw western companies rush to outsource operations to regions of the world where employment costs were lower. But the pandemic has demonstrated that such moves can come with a significant long-term cost.
The supply shock that started in China in February last year and the demand shock that followed as the global economy went into lockdown exposed vulnerabilities in the production strategies and supply chains of companies everywhere. This is likely to result in a reshoring of some operations into western nations, boosting jobs prospects in lower-skilled areas.
A cleaner environment
Governments plan to use cheap money to refresh ageing infrastructure as a key plank of their pandemic-recovery plans. These grand projects will create much-needed jobs in pandemic-scarred economies and will accelerate the move towards cleaner energy production and sustainable businesses. The response to the pandemic will result in the construction of the infrastructure needed to drive the economy of tomorrow.
Although the virus shut down global supply chains and crippled industry globally, it has opened the door for us all to try a new way of living and working. If lessons are learned, this is likely to be a locally supplied, remotely-connected, greener, digital way of doing things. From the devastation, positive things are going to emerge.
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