The “New Normal”
Once again small independents can thrive at the centre of our communities
New trading conditions presents huge opportunity
As always with enforced change, we will need courage and vision to embrace it
The Importance of Local
Local is going to be crucial within the new normal.
Reliance on air travel, whether for holidays, trade or business will be difficult to justify when we can see all around us the immediate beneficial effects that lock-down has had on our environment.
How Valuable Is Our Time?
I am also questioning why I thought it OK to jump in a car to have a business meeting 50 miles away. Not just from an emissions point of view, but what about the travel time! I have remote meetings every day at the moment. Am I missing the nuances of body language? Or other visual cues from immersing myself in somebody else’s environment?
I’ll tell you what I’m definitely not missing. The amount of my time that I will never get back when driving my car. Some of my colleagues have been expounding the virtues of rail travel for many years because of this reason only. And boy do I get it when I now know how much more productive I am not bombing around from A to B.
So staying within, and engaging with our local communities, needs to be at the centre of everything we do. Will “going to work” even be a thing? What about weekends? Wouldn’t it be better if we communicated with everybody more from our own homes and look to our local communities for sociability. Why do we need to drive so many miles or so every day to go to an office? And why are we restricted to weekdays for work and weekends for leisure?
A Pub? A Restaurant? Village Hall? Or A Community Hub?
Restaurants, pubs, village halls, even Working Men’s Social Clubs (yes they still exist!!) can once again be at the centre of this. Snug areas offering quiet places to work, communicate and collaborate with colleagues using great connectivity will enable us to have that all important break from our domestic environment. Space will be important as social distancing might forever more be a thing, now human beings have been reminded so starkly of our own fragility. I always wondered why they had been wearing masks in Asia for years, now I know.
Food is Fun!
When we have done our “work” we can break away into more sociable areas allowing us to relax, eat, socialise and pursue other interests. I read with interest how many ethnic food shops and eateries in London are already providing a hybrid service where not just the finished article, but partially prepared dough, pastries, sauces and pastes can be bought and expertise imparted on what to do with them when we get home.
We will need fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce to go with it, but why should we have to drive 10 miles to a supermarket that has probably emitted our own body-weight in carbon to get it. We have to learn to rely on local produce, local providers, local people and local expertise to feed and entertain ourselves. This will ensure that all of our precious produce is used and not wasted, all over the world. It also means that it won’t pass through so many hands.
Technology Will Be the Enabler
Cash usage in Britain halved in the first few days of lock-down, according to Link. Link operates the UK’s biggest network of cash machines, so they should know. This coincided with the card payment industry increasing the limit for contactless transactions from £30 to £45 in the UK. At the same time the World Health Organisation made it clear that using cash can spread Coronovirus.
Who had heard of Zoom a year ago. Now even your Granny is using it. People are taking part in community online quizzes every day, with hundreds or even thousands of people taking part without needing to leave our homes.
Technology is at the heart of everything we need and do to get by at the moment.
The Economic Bit
We are reminded every day of the need to keep the economy going. If nothing else this is true just in order to keep people busy and occupied, but it should never be at the expense of people’s lives.
But whatever happens and however we spend our time, money will need to change hands, albeit with increasingly minimal contact. Flexible payment systems and solutions will allow us to embrace changing menus, activities and produce according to weather and seasons. As they will also allow us take them outside or to remote, pop-up events and festivals to service our rejuvenated communities. Or to supply and entertain people in their own home, if they do not want to go out.
As people may increasingly want to do, with and less regularity.