Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go!

Which dwarf has to stay at home with the rule of six? Happily since Snow White and her seven dwarves are in the same family bubble, they should be OK. 

The summer holidays are now a distant memory, the kids have gone back to school and the fortunate people with jobs to go back to have been relishing the opportunity to get properly stuck in to work with minimal outside distractions.  This blog reflects on our collective ‘return to work’ after the summer recess and questions whether it will ever revert back to pre-covid patterns of working. 

I personally saw the start of September as a key date to sharpen my focus, both in my work and personal life, after what seems like five months or so of ‘taking each day as it comes’.  In my work life I was operating at around 70% productivity in the preceding five months to September, with home schooling being added to the mix amongst other distractions.  Most of my business contacts with young children have relished the re-opening of schools so that they at least have some kid free time to be more efficient in their work life. September is when I consciously return the productivity dial back to pre-covid levels and enter the Autumn with a renewed vigour and spring (!) in my step. 

The late August/early September news (pre last week’s announcement of tightening of restrictions) was dominated by the Government’s call to arms around getting back into our places of work, if safe to do so, and supporting businesses, particularly those that have been so reliant on worker trade.  UK GDP fell by a record breaking 20.4% in Q2 (April to June 2020). In comparison, throughout the 2008 recession, GDP declined by no more than 2.1% in a single quarter.  GDP in July 2020 grew by 6.6%, which is the third consecutive monthly increase, but this has covered off just over half of the lost output as a result of coronavirus.  This is coupled with the recent news that 695,000 fewer people were on payroll in August 2020 compared to March 2020.  This is only going to increase as the furlough scheme winds down and companies look to remove costs in order to remain viable. 

Whilst it’s hard to ignore the ongoing covid doom and gloom, there do appear to be some green shoots of recovery.  Scouring the job boards shows that there are still a reasonable amount of roles out there – the challenge is that there will be many more candidates chasing down fewer roles.  We are helping candidates ensure that they stand out in that crowd.   I have just had an email from two of my clients who are looking to recruit into their team and need our help, which is the greatest number of new assignments we have had in a long while. 

This blog outlines four of my predictions in relation to changes at our work:

Working from home

Working 9 to 5 

Speaking to a variety of clients and candidates on a daily basis provides me with a great cross-sectional sample of how individuals (and businesses) are dealing with the pandemic.  Individuals are generally a little sick of constantly being on Zoom/Teams and having to stare at the same four walls of their office/bedroom/kitchen/lounge.  Quite a few people I speak to are now trying to break their lockdown routine by having a change of scenery once or twice a week.  Most are itching to engage face-to-face with their colleagues in some capacity.  There are a lot of benefits to home working but two downsides of it are the varying practicality of individuals being able to work from home and issues of isolation.  I recall one candidate I spoke to admitting that they just didn’t have the discipline to work from home. 

A lot of individuals are using the time to think about how work life will change post covid and if they have been used to a five day in the office pre-covid they are challenging the notion that they need to be in the office five days a week moving forward.  Many have proven that they can do a more than adequate job working from home.  I’d be interested to hear of any scientific studies that accurately quantify work productivity at home – anecdotal accounts suggest that home workers tend to start work earlier (as they don’t have the commute time to take into account) and are often working later as they are not subjected to that familiar signal at head office home time when co-workers start to leave.  True, there are distractions at home (deliveries, laundry, cleaning) but there are also may non-productive distractions in an office environment. 

Prediction 1: Finding balance

The days of the typical daily grind into an office are firmly over and will never fully return to previous patterns of commute. It is all about balance and I believe that many will settle on 2-3 days in the office and the rest of the time will be spent working from home (clearly this will depend on role/grade/location).  As long as this change doesn’t materially affect their ability to do their job.  This could also change the dynamic on where people live, relative to where they work; more on that in a future blog. 

Businesses, in the main, are being exceptionally flexible and supportive of their remote teams in coping with the pandemic.  There are some businesses that have closed their offices permanently and have no intention of getting a new office for the foreseeable future.  Most businesses are slowly opening up their offices, albeit with significant reductions in occupancy levels to ensure they remain covid-compliant.  These companies are often taking an individual level approach as everyone has a different perception of risk to the current pandemic.   This approach is contrasted by other businesses who are expecting colleagues to come in.  This is a scheduling/management challenge to have different groups of colleagues arriving on different days and starting/leaving at different times which has the potential to erode the face-to-face benefits of being in an office with colleagues. 

Prediction 2: More flexibility

Businesses in general need to improve their flexibility about how, when and where their teams work. If they fail to show flexibility to the new worker demands then they risk losing talent once the employment market recovers. 

I won’t be home for Christmas 

Prediction 3: Christmas sales suffer

Apologies for switching back to full on doom and gloom mode but the way things are going in the UK I think Xmas will effectively be ‘cancelled’.   Christmas is obviously a time for most families to come together but this year it will be very different.  Families will not be coming together in the way that they have traditionally.  I anticipate sales to be supressed at the grocers this Xmas (it will be interesting to see what the tone of their Xmas adverts will be this year) as the traditional seasonal uplift in spend from home family catering will be subdued.  The upside is there is likely to be less food waste! Average spend per household is likely to be down as people tighten their belts in anticipation of continued financial and economic uncertainty. I also anticipate the cost of domestic short-term holiday lets to sky rocket as more people will want to celebrate Christmas within their family bubble in a different setting. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes 

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about the impact these work changes have had on work attire.  Over the last 5-10 years I have seen a general ‘softening’ of work attire from very formal to smart business casual.  I can’t recall the last time I wore a suit and tie – it was probably for a wedding or a funeral.  This increased working from home has created an entirely new set of work/home combinations.  I have been relatively casual when working from home (particularly in the hot weather), opting for comfort over style.  When I know I have video calls, depending on who with, I will tend to change into smarter attire.  Workers attire has moved from smart formalwear to smart casual workwear (pre-covid), to a wardrobe of casual day wear that they supplement with an occasional smart casual outfit that comes out at video conference call times during the working day.   I am yet to meet someone who has conducted a Zoom call with a full suit, shirt and tie on.  Let’s face it, it’s much easier to quickly change when you only have to modify what you wear from the waist up. 

We have seen the demise of TM Lewin as a result of covid-19 and the other formal wear specialists will certainly be assessing their existing portfolios and product ranging in order to survive.  This will  also have an impact on dry cleaners, as their volumes will reduce across the board as people tend to wear apparel that can be washed at home. 

Prediction 4: Christmas best sellers

Christmas best sellers, particularly catering for middle aged professional males (such as myself), will be a nice selection of casual shirts and polo shirts (with colour coordinated face masks).

Time will tell how we all adapt and how much our lives change to make way for new and hopefully better working practises. 

I’d love to hear what you think the impact of covid will be on our future working patterns. Have you already begun to reassess how you want to work next year?  

Please let us know in the comments below and if you need some advice on how you can stand out from the crowd, get in touch on 07979 756257 or email steve@redtigerconsulting.co.uk 

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

My first week as an apprentice

Throughout my time at college, despite enjoying studying and being relatively academic, university was never at the top of my list of paths to take after my A-levels. I took Business Studies, Geography and English Language, and after an unusual end to my college years I received BBB in my A-level results, and am currently waiting for my business studies appeal to go through (hopefully to an A). The fact I was unsure on my ideal career path, along with the growing student debt, meant I was on the search for alternative routes after college. After researching and learning more about apprenticeships, the idea of earning and learning seemed perfect for me. I applied for the Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship with Red Tiger Talent, in which I will receive a National Vocational Qualification (Level 3) after around 18 months.

Southport Office

Due to the current uncertain times, I wasn’t actively looking for a job/apprenticeship, and was considering continuing with my part-time shifts in a café, or looking for extra part-time work, for a year, or until an opportunity came along. However, I received an email from an “apprenticeship-finder” company who listed multiple business admin/marketing apprenticeships for me to potentially be interested in. The one with Red Tiger Talent particularly appealed me as it included areas from both administration and marketing, which I have had an interest in since starting business at college. I applied at the start of July and a week or so later had a call from Runshaw that I had been offered an interview. My first interview was through zoom, thanks to COVID, so I spoke to both Steve and Paul and they asked me general questions about myself and my experience and how I would approach the role. Shortly after, I received an email from Paul stating I had been accepted for a second interview, which this time would be face-to-face (socially distanced of course!). So I drove to Southport for a chat about the role and what I would hope to achieve if I was successful in becoming the apprentice. Within the same day, I had a call from Paul where I was offered the role and was set to start at the beginning of September.

On my first day at Red Tiger, I was introduced to the systems that I would be using and found out more about the business and what it does- a lot of information to take in! I learned that my duties include updating the customer database, along with helping with blogs and marketing on the business’ social media. Paul talked me through the different areas of Red Tiger, including Recruitment and Training, and how they are about to formally launch their Career Coaching services in the near future. Although the amount of information was slightly overwhelming, I feel I have a relatively clear understanding of the company so far and can see myself becoming more and more familiar in months to come.

Within my first week, I have listened in on candidate phone calls, watched multiple training videos and updated contact lists and candidate details. I’ve learned more about the type of jobs Red Tiger recruit for and how the process is carried out. Learning whilst on the job is much more interesting than simply learning at college, as with the 1:1 training I feel I am more engaged and can frequently ask questions. As well as being in the office, I’ve also had a small amount of days working from home, where I am set tasks to complete throughout the day, as well as sometimes having scheduled calls to join. On one of my days working from home, I joined a live webinar about Targeting on LinkedIn, which I made notes on, for me to use when I become comfortable with advertising on the site.

Within my next few months on the apprenticeship I hope to become confident using the systems introduced to me, and become comfortable with the marketing side, including advertising on social media platforms. I hope to get as much training as possible and to keep learning about different areas of the company, so that in a years’ time I will be capable of developing the marketing on social media, as well as being competent with keeping all the sites up to date. As well as this I plan to gain and improve skills on different software, like Excel, to widen my ability.

Algorithms Evolve – How human error, not Artificial Intelligence failed our A Level students

In a previous blog I waxed lyrical about how one benefit of COVID-19 has been the very clear use of data (not always the right data) and analytics/modelling to help drive decision making (not always the right decision!). Then the dominating UK news this week has been the right royal mess up over the A level results and the use of the ‘Algorithm’ to change some people’s final gradings, resulting in around 40% of results coming out lower than predicted. 

Exam results time is always stressful and there will always be winners, losers, and surprises in between.  The marking of most subjects is certainly going to be more art than science and in a ‘normal’ year there will always be a challenge around consistency of marking.  Allowing each student’s teacher to grade them is intrinsically going to impart bias that wouldn’t be there if it was handled by an external examiner.   This latest fiasco, with a last minute change in methodology, will mean that there is even more stress and uncertainly as a result.  There are students who have initially missed out on places who may now retrospectively get the grades they need and the place has been offered to someone else.   I personally think that the Universities with oversubscribed courses should scrap any offers to date and start the process all over again if it’s not too late to do so. 

Algorithms are becoming increasingly pervasive in our lives, and many people are not aware of their uses.  From insurance quotes based on home postcodes, to selective advertising on social media – our clicks, likes and location are being used by a number of Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to, in theory, serve us appropriate content.  It doesn’t always work – the number of times I am promoted hair care products is testimony to that!  There are plenty of examples where there are good applications of AI, from insurance costs based on how you drive through data collected via a black box, to uses in healthcare where speedier diagnosis and access to the most appropriate treatment can vastly improve outcomes.   The algorithms are only as good as the data they utilise in order to develop their ‘intelligence’ and in a lot of cases require use of inferences that are wide of the mark.  Timandra Harkness (@TimandraHarkness) summed it all up quite nicely: “the data used by an algorithm to make a decision about you is largely about other people, rather than you personally”. 

I stumbled upon an excellent piece in the Guardian by Dan Davies who succinctly summarised the A level issue by saying: “The problem was fundamentally insoluble, from a mathematical point of view. If the system is dependent on exams to allocate the grades, but it can’t have the exams, then it can’t allocate the grades. No statistical method in the world is going to be able to give you good results if the information you’re looking for is fundamentally not there in the dataset that you’re trying to extract it from.”  It’s worth looking into his article in more detail: 

Read: This year’s A-level results are a fiasco – but the system was already broken by Dan Davies

Ofqual’s Research and Analysis Findings

Ofqual, the Examinations watchdog have published their findings on their whole approach (be warned, it is a 318-page extravaganza).

I’d love to hear from anyone who has read the report from cover to cover!  

Ofqual have to be held accountable for this and I’m sure Gavin Williamson will be getting some tips from Dominic Cummings on self-preservation. 

Download Awarding GCSE, AS, Alevel, advanced extension awards and extended project qualifications in summer 2020: interim report.

Life is a Roller Coaster 

It’s been a roller coaster in our household, with my step-son being one of the Covid-affected students who did not manage to sit his A level finals this year.  At the start of it all, when he realised he wouldn’t be sitting exams and they announced his grades would largely be based on his mocks, he was all for re-doing the whole year again.  Like many students he didn’t apply himself in the run up to his mocks and was aiming to knuckle down and achieve at least one grade above his predicted grades in his finals.  I advised him that as long as he got to a decent University, studying a good course, his A levels wouldn’t really matter in the long run.   Granted, employers still look at A level subjects and grades to get an insight into the person (e.g. are they Arts/Maths/Science focused) but grades and subjects aren’t necessarily a guarantee of success in a role – strong marks merely indicate that the candidate is good at study and retaining information for test in exam conditions. 

Fast forward to last week’s results day and my step-son was much more philosophical – he was a little disappointed with his final grades but happy in the knowledge that he had been accepted into his first choice University on his first-choice course.    I was also happy as he had achieved his aim whilst coming in below what I’d budgeted for when I offered him a financial, grades based, incentive to encourage him to put the effort in. 

These are some of my tips for the weeks ahead: 

  • Don’t Panic – September is only around the corner but there are a lot of people in the same boat.  I know that Universities will be bombarded with enquiries so please be patient but persistent in your enquiries.  Remember that the admissions folk will be working flat out to ensure they deal with it as quickly and fairly as possible. 
  • You are not Alone  Every individual is different in terms of what they got, compared to what they expected, and where they will end up.  But you are united in the fact that you are the class of COVID-19 and there will be outpourings of empathy for what you have had to experience. 
  • Universities of the UK Unite – This is easier said than done and I know there has been a lot of work to date, but I do think that most Universities will be overly accommodating to the current situation and do their best to help students who have been unjustly failed by the system.  If they aren’t, then imagine what they may be like when they have already collected your fee income?! 
  • Employers’ Empathy – As someone working in recruitment, I do believe that the class of 2020 will have a special place in peoples’ (HR and hiring managers) hearts. There will be a degree of leniency towards those who went through that year and the grades achieved.  If necessary, make sure you stand out in other ways – your passion, knowledge, skills, experience and drive will get you much further than your A level grades. 

What next for this class of 2020?   I personally think Ofqual should not be seeking to fit a ‘bell shaped curve’ or attainment quota to the distribution of grades and just go all out to award people the grades that their teachers felt they could have achieved.  So what if this year more people than ever got higher grades compared to previous years – they deserve it for the disruptions that COVID-19 and this marking fiasco have provided to them. 

For me personally, I wait with baited breath as my step-son is already anticipating an improvement on his grades, which will mean additional ‘incentive payments’ due from me.  The impact of COVID-19 could have further financial implications for me personally I’m afraid! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts… let’s have a heated debate!

Feature image: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

A workplace paradigm shift?

Many companies are now planning to bring staff back off furlough (at its peak there were 9.3 million people furloughed) and start to open up their offices, albeit with a reduced capacity. The question still remains about where staff will be expected to conduct their work. This blog outlines some of the observations I’ve had over the last few months and speculates as to how this virus will enable a significant shift in where we work and our work commute patterns.

I do think it is unlikely that there will be a return to the commuting patterns pre-covid. This has numerous implications for businesses that accommodate staff in offices, businesses that are located to service historic worker populations, support the journey to and from work, and also how we utilise our home space.

Our 2020 Location Planning and Customer Insight Practitioners’ Salary Survey (collected pre-covid in January 2020) indicated that flexible working is on the increase, from 68% in 2018 to 71% in 2020. Working from home has significantly increased, from 58% in 2018 to 69% of respondents in 2020. It is very likely that these percentages, in our focus industry of Insight and Analytics, will increase when we carry out the survey again in 2022.

The commuter commotion 

I have done this myself and know of hundreds of people who have followed a similar path. As people move through their life-stages there is often a desire to move from renting to getting on the housing ladder and purchasing a property. There tends to be an affordability gap between homes in close proximity to peoples’ work (which are typically city based) forcing first time buyers to look further afield, which results in a longer, more expensive, commute.

Before coronavirus, my Facebook timeline was occasionally littered with complaints from friends’ commuting experiences. They followed a common thread; their commute was a necessary chore, fraught with overcrowded, inconsiderate (and sometimes smelly) people the ‘pleasure’ of which often comes at no small price (which only increases every January!). I read in the Sunday papers the other week that our trains are currently operating with better punctuality than German trains, granted services have been severely curtailed and are operating at less than 50% of capacity, but is it economically viable? This pandemic will change commuter patterns long term and it has the attention of Whitehall officials both from a financial support perspective, where billions are being spent to ensure the transport system remains in operation, to pressure on the transport providers to find new ways of incentivising ‘regular’ passengers.

Pre-lockdown behaviour for those who typically did a 4 or 5 day commute was influenced by company culture and expectation but it was also influenced by the use of rail or tube season tickets. In terms of culture one person I spoke to described it as being made to feel guilty for working from home – this was obviously pre-Covid and I would imagine that this guilt may dissipate to a certain degree post-Covid. On the commute there is normally a cut off (usually between 3-4 commutes a week) that means it’s economically beneficial to switch from individual day passes to weekly, monthly or yearly season tickets. Once you have bought that longer-term ticket you are likely to feel even more compelled to make sure you are using it above the magic number of trips. No one likes to pay for trips that they don’t use.

The train operators will have to (and some have already) introduce more flexible options, such as 3 or 4 day season tickets, and the option for ‘carnet’ style tickets which allow you to bulk buy a set number of journeys per month, quarter or year. Like with many businesses this pandemic may significantly change the business model of the transport providers – which currently ‘penalises’ peak time commuters with high ticket prices for a (largely) poor experience to subsidise the provision of services at off peak times. Regular commuters may be concerned about the price increases that are likely to be implemented in January 2021 given the volumes of passengers will unlikely return to previous numbers.

Redress the balance for working mums 

It has been a well-documented frustration of mine that our industry has not been very good at retaining working mums. Some mothers find it hard to justify continuing in their employment if they are expected to do a full commute, particularly if that commute is lengthy as they have moved to a place in the suburbs that is more affordable and offers better schooling options. I know it is getting easier in terms of parents sharing the parental burden and the traditional role of the male as the ‘main breadwinner’ is thankfully changing. Businesses can also help by being more flexible in their expectations and to show willing and more understanding of the impact a commute has on young mothers who have to often juggle two full time roles.

The Head/Support office

This pandemic has certainly challenged thinking about the future role of offices as a place to work.

Offices should be a place to promote corporate values, provide a meeting place for clients and suppliers and somewhere to foster collaboration between colleagues.

Covid-compliance for offices contains some fairly stringent guidance which will certainly impact offices in terms of occupancy, cleaning and layout.

 Working Safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres

Download Working Safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres

Companies have always had an obligation to provide a safe work environment for their employees.  The above guidance states that “no-one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment” particularly in relation to a potentially fatal virus.  This will mean that there will be a shift in emphasis to an individual assessment of whether working in an office poses an acceptable level of risk, coupled with the individual’s role/function and their ability to perform to the expected level in either an office or home environment.  Other changes are at force which are driven by technology.  The main driver is the increase in broadband speeds to residential areas (granted there is still great variability depending on how near you are to a switch or exchange) meaning that the office is no longer the only place to find fast connectivity speeds.  Most households that have teenage children (including mine) will see an immediate increase in their bandwidth when schools are able to open at capacity.  Mobile computing means that most office tasks can be carried out securely and efficiently from home. Connectivity software such as Zoom, Skype, and Teams etc. means that we can connect with distributed colleagues in a variety of manners. 

For those of us used to working in collaborative office environments the lockdown has certainly been a challenge and most people miss (and crave) that face-to-face engagement with colleagues.  Humans are naturally social animals and despite the fantastic features with these connectivity tools, it’s never quite the same as being in the same room as someone. As confidence improves and measures are eased it is all about finding a balance that works for both the company and the individual. 

Businesses with central offices, reliant in the main on public transport for staff to get in, will need to be more flexible about office staffing levels and acceptable hours of work.  This will allow staff to decide on the most appropriate times to commute in order to avoid peak congestion times.  This will help alleviate some of the peak pressure that has been faced by the transport companies and help spread demand to times where there is more capacity. As well as reducing the risk of virus exposure there will also be the benefits of a nicer commute.  It could also result in offices, which will have to operate at reduced capacity, being utilised for more hours of a day.  I could envisage there being two office shifts – one for those who come in early and leave early and one for those who travel later and leave later. Alternatively, people may wish to extend their office hours for the limited days they are in i.e. come in early and leave late. 

Some business are moving completely to remote – given that the second biggest cost after staff costs is usually office rent, I can see why some businesses are doing this.  A close friend of mine who works for a tech business in central London was in the process of moving to a new office as the virus impact took hold.  They have now decided to go completely remote as this significant cost saving could help turn the business around as revenues have been hit by the pandemic.  They will be looking at flexible, cost effective ways to get everyone together at periodic times through the year once it is safe to do so.  One potential challenge with a move to more flexible working is that of clarity in an employment contract and definition of their usual place of work. 

The new town centre use

This section was inspired by an excellent panel discussion a few months ago hosted by Said Business School.  The discussion centred on some of the issues highlighted above in terms of changing commuting patterns, the future role of the office and the opportunity that presents itself as a result for our town centres. The panel talked of a ‘third’ workplace (first being the office, second being home) which is likely to be within a short distance of home, based in some of our smaller towns and cities.  This third space is likely to be flexible, affordable co-working space.  A place where people have a safe and secure working environment with good wi-fi connectivity, private rooms and good drink making facilities! A good example of such facility would be Perch in Bicester (https://www.perchcoworking.co.uk/pioneer-square/).  The major cities often have a range of co-working facilities and there are a number of national providers in this space.  My sense of smaller locations is that these are often local run initiatives.  Perhaps there is a franchise opportunity for a chain of co-working spaces in smaller locations that could leverage the abundance of (retail) space that a lot of our town centres can offer? 

These spaces provide an opportunity to have a break from the home office environment or an alternative to going into the central office for those people that are unable to work from home.  It’s not the same as working with colleagues in an office, unless by chance there is a local cluster of colleagues living near each other, but there are still opportunities for networking and collaboration.  The other benefit would be that it would give a vital footfall boost to some of the smaller towns and cities which could be important to help national and independent retail, service and F&B chains survive this crisis caused by the pandemic.  

There is little doubt that this pandemic will change the way we (workers and companies) evaluate our commuting choices and our workplace locations in the light of pandemic risk.   

I do think there has been a significant psychological impact of the pandemic and a lot of people, myself included, are now caught in two minds.  We crave for some of the freedoms to return but we are also fearful of potential exposure to the virus (regardless of the extremely low probabilities) from doing certain ‘unnecessary’ activities.  This fear will dissipate as we slowly take back some of those lost liberties and gain confidence in our diminishing chances of catching the disease. For me, I’d rather not share a cramped enclosed space with a host of strangers on a tube (regardless of whether they have got masks or not) but still crave going to support my favourite football team in the stadium or going to watch an indoor gig.  

I do think that individuals will want to have greater flexibility in their commuting patterns and caring, trusting organisations will support that to the benefit of all in the move to recovery. 

What are your thoughts? Are you planning and hoping to return to your normal commute and working environment? Think you’ll end up with a blended working structure or would you actually prefer to work from home? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo by Visual Tag Mx from Pexels

Post Lockdown – What are our predictions for the future?

It’s the end of the (old) world as we know it (and I feel fine) 

Now I have finished with my review of how businesses and individuals have been coping, (Click to read Part One and Part Two of the New Normal) I thought I would conclude the final part with some predictions:

  • Too many people, too few jobs – I do believe that we will start to see an increase in the announcement of redundancies as the Government looks to end the Job Retention Scheme.  Once businesses start to incur the significant costs of staff and premises it really does depend on how their revenues recover post lockdown as to whether they can maintain their pre-covid employment levels.  We are already seeing some businesses (including those owned by Gordon Ramsay) using the Job Retention Scheme funding to pay people through their redundancy notice. 
  • Head Office/Home Office balance – This isolation has proved that a lot of people can successfully work from home and businesses are still able to function.  Offices will need to be repurposed in order to cater for reduced employment densities (most offices are now aiming to operate at 20-25% capacity immediately after lockdown easing) and the way we interact with them will change.  Some businesses have already made the decision to not open their offices until 2021.  Most of us will still desire that face-to-face interaction and collaboration with our colleagues, albeit, on a less frequent basis. 
  • Hours to suit – Flexi-time will see a resurgence. Most businesses will need to show willing to enable their staff to commute with minimal exposure at peak times on public transport. The authorities and environmentalists would like to see everyone walk/cycle to work (participation will inevitably be higher during the nice weather) but where public transport is the only practical mode it will mean flexible start and finish times to minimise peak travel. 
  • Digital dominance – We will all emerge from lockdown with new abilities for the digital age – particularly around remote working and video communication.  I feel that this will help diminish the need for some physical face-to-face contact in order to get business done.  It will mean greater scrutiny and justification of travel, particularly with use of public transport.  There will also be an emergence of new rising stars within businesses who have a natural flair for engaging in the digital world – some skills may translate from the physical world, other competencies will be discovered or developed. 
  • Home delivery and online will rise sharper than recent historic growth levels – The grocery sector has seen phenomenal growth in demand for online services in the last few months, to the extent that they have been unable to fulfil all the potential. I believe this will continue as more capacity is added and the crisis proves to be the trigger that forces a step-change in people’s behaviour, with more preferring to have their regular groceries delivered, to the detriment of the environmental considerations. 
  • People will shop local and support their independents – The successful independents have been very good at adapting their offer in the crisis and really engaging in support of their local customers.  I believe there will be a lot more emphasis that people put on supporting these independent businesses and shopping local. 
  • Retail Phoenix from the flames – There will always be a physical retail/leisure/F&B sector in the UK but there will be some clear winners and losers that emerge.  Some businesses will be rendered flightless (excuse the analogy) and be left to wither in the embers, struggling with business models that are unsustainable moving forward. Other businesses will adapt and survive.  
  • The death of retail browsing? The old ‘retail therapy’ rule book will need to be ripped up. Conversion rates should increase as people make visits with a clear purpose, and average basket sizes will increase as shopper frequency will be down and customers will be unable to try before they buy (due to the changing rooms being unavailable). This will result in an increase in returns and in the challenge retailers face on getting this returned stock sold.  
  • Retail Property is broken, and it needs Landlords and tenants to fix it – Both parties need to share the pain out of the current crisis. There has to be a recognition that Landlords still have bills to pay and so withholding rent for an extended period of time may not be acceptable.  This crisis will drive a fundamental re-correction in retail rents in order to take account of the new function of retail and ongoing rental sustainability.  There also needs to be a drive for more flexible leases where both parties share in the upside but share the pain of depressed performance.
  • Staycation havoc – With businesses encouraging staff to take holiday, people wanting a change of scenery from their home, and continued uncertainty on the opening up of international borders (and who will be around to take us to foreign climes) this can only mean that everyone will be holidaying in this country in 2020.  My advice, particularly if you have children, is to get your October half term and Xmas trips booked as soon as possible as prices are likely to go through the roof. 
Have you planned your staycation?
  • We will be better prepared for next time – This may be a once in a lifetime event (or longer) but be sure that UK plc will need to become a little more self-sufficient in certain areas – particularly with regards necessary medical supplies.  Who is to say that some forms of manufacturing won’t come back to our shores?
  • It will be an employers’ market – to a certain degree.  With too many candidates chasing too few roles the big challenge will be efficiently filtering applications.  This is where, as a recruiter, we can do our big value add to hiring managers and HR teams.   This will also mean that candidates will have to be more on point throughout the process than they have ever been, from their CV and covering letter, to interview skills – again, something we are well placed to support.  

Give us a call on +44(0)7918 653 877 / +44(0)7979 756 257 or email info@redtigerconsulting.co.uk if you would like to talk about finding talented individuals wishing to consider a fresh challenge to join your team.

Image: Photo by Mark Arron Smith from Pexels