With the country facing its biggest challenge since World War Two, health services struggling to contain demand for ICU beds and no easy answers when it comes to an exit strategy from the lockdown, it would be understandable for the country to be in a state of collective depression. But it’s at times like this that our national resilience really comes to the fore.
There has been a lot of talk about the need to invoke the Blitz spirit, and we’ve certainly had to find our own coping mechanisms. For me, it’s early morning runs and a (not quite total) media blackout.
But I’ve been struck by the courage and positivity the country has displayed. So, in the spirit of positivity, and recognising that this is the last thing anyone would have wanted for 2020, I’ve been thinking about reasons to be cheerful or, the positives that we can take from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting with working life, there are two standouts for me. The first is how quickly we’ve adapted to remote working, making use of an array of video conferencing platforms to connect with colleagues, host external meetings and carry on business as usual. Lockdown has also had a catalytic effect on a remote working pilot we’ve been looking to implement.
Beyond the world of work, I’ve found the expectation that I can simultaneously home work while home school my children, impossible. On the plus side, my children have honed formidable Minecraft skills and a career in town planning surely beckons.
More seriously, as a family our usual non-stop weekly calendar of appointments and activities has been suspended, replaced by a slower pace of life – taking pleasure from being in the garden, baking and eating together, watching a movie, playing a game.
And for the local government sector? I’ve been struck by the change in public perception of what constitutes an essential worker. It’s taken a crisis for people to recognise the vital roles performed by street cleaners and social care staff, as well as supermarket workers and delivery drivers, but the recognition is now there.
On Thursday evenings, people aren’t only clapping for the NHS but all of those workers risking themselves to perform essential roles – and so many are local government workers. Down the line it must lead to a reappraisal of the value and reward that we as a society attach to them.
Claire Kober is managing director, homes, at Pinnacle Group and former chair of London Councils