Heads above the parapet!
As countries gingerly probe the possibility of ending their particular brand of lockdown, the focus has been thrown on the types of business that need to get back to work, and whether particular segments of the populations should be asked to remain in isolation. Difficult decisions are being made, with some rebounding on individual Governments – Germany, for instance, relatively successful in the way it has handled the pandemic, started to open up some shops and other smaller businesses – but with infected cases rising quickly again, is considering going back into lockdown. China, having declared Wuhan to be more or less clear of Covid 19, has had to lockdown cities on the Russian border.
In the UK, the talk is of schools and the construction industry being given the green light to go back to work – Hinckley Point is still working, but work on Crossrail was suspended by tfl on 24th March. – and getting to work in London remains problematical if you are not a key worker.At Travis Perkins deliveries consist of small scale materials for local and private builders. TP, through Wickes, also runs a 'click and collect service like other suppliers. Larger local sites, though, remain dormant.
Getting large scale construction projects up and running, though,should be feasible if delivery of building materials can be guaranteed and adequate human resources are available (In 2018, though,according to NIG, 27% of construction works came from the rest of the EU and there is a plus 50% shortage of builders and carpenters!). The industry is under threat in other areas, though. The whole ethos of 'The City' has changed as companies have learned that much of the work their employees are engaged in can be done from home – without the burden of long commute times, expensive offices, and the rest of the paraphernalia of the City Culture.
Commuting will take a hit, Rents and occupancy will plummet, house prices will follow suit and compare more with property prices in the Home Counties. The value of commercial property portfolios will drop sharply, and many investors will be forced to reconsider their holdings.
I suppose, therefore, that those delighted to be working from home will be crunching numbers through spreadsheets to re-align their company's response to an evolutionary shift in the way we handle work within our re-invigorated lives.
Much has been left out here, but the main point remains – the virus is causing us all to re-focus – the trick is to treat it as an opportunity, and not a problem.
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