Dealing with a situation like Covid19 on a local, national and global scale is unprecedented and uncharted and it touches every single one of us on a macro and micro scale. Never before have we felt so vulnerable, fighting an invisible enemy, afraid for our health, our friends’ and families’ health, our future jobs and the damage to us financially and emotionally, as we lock down to flatten the curve and take pressure off essential services.
We all wonder what our world will look like when we emerge to face “normality”? How many jobs will have been lost despite the government’s interventions? What will be the state or our economy with a massive debt to repay for generations? What will be the impact on our personal financial situations? And worst of all, will we have lost loved ones through this ugly non-discriminating virus? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night and I am sure you too.
A catastrophe of this nature shows many sides of humankind, the downright ugly, where companies try to cash in on the crisis, where thieves target closed pubs for alcohol and cash, where delivery vans are set alight and where frontline NHS staff are assaulted whilst trying to help. Not to mention the panic buyers emptying shelves so key workers have nothing to choose from at the end of a tiring shift – truly ugly behaviour all of it.
Then there’s the bad, where large corporations ask small suppliers to bear the financial brunt and request a payment break. Where many of our best loved high street restaurant and retail brands are forced to close their doors for good. A world where SME and challenger food brands are fighting for their lives, as supermarkets stock up with mainstream brands to satisfy consumer demand. And as a leading agency specialising in foodservice and hospitality our industry has literally turned the lights off for the foreseeable future and we all wonder when they turn back on again, what the future will look like.
But in all this uncertainty and doom and gloom there has been so much uplifting and heartening good which on balance has far outweighed the bad and the ugly. Millions of us came out last Thursday evening to applaud our NHS staff and over 750,000 volunteers have stepped forward to help our essential services in their hour of need. Brands have pivoted their businesses to respond to national demand by producing respirators. The consumer demand for hand sanitiser has led to booze manufacturers switching their production and foodservice distributors delivering directly to consumer households. We’ve seen top end restaurants, pubs and takeaways offering free or discounted meals to NHS staff and providing a delivery service to their local communities, and Uber offering free rides. Pubs and hotels have offered accommodation to front line staff and dozens of chefs and kitchens have stepped up to feed school children and those in need across the country.
Pubs and brands have created virtual bar evenings and quiz nights to bring their communities together and drink brands have supported out of work bar tenders.
We’ve seen innovation too, whether its home delivery companies offering a rapid payment system to help restaurants’ cash flow, or a contactless delivery system to minimise human interaction and limit the spread.
In our own industry we have seen a phenomenal response to the Hospitality Action appeal for a volunteer programme to keep in touch with their “golden friends”, as well as donations to their crisis fund raising thousands to help support those in hospitality worst hit by the crisis.
The kindness and generosity of people in this country has been extraordinary and that is why we will not only survive this crisis but will hopefully bring the good stuff with us to the other side. Whether consciously or not, we are all being resilient as a nation and individually, we are taking the time to re-charge ourselves, our purpose and our energy; we are reframing our thinking and our approach, we are reviewing our situation and trying to make the best decisions we can to preserve our businesses and teams and we are reflecting on why and how the future is not what it used to be and preparing ourselves for the brave new world ahead.
My reflections have led me to the following conclusions and only time will tell if they come to fruition. Firstly, I think that we will all feel more vulnerable for many years to come in terms of our health, social and professional interaction and financially – we have had a scare and that will have made its mark on us all psychologically. We have been forced to live a different life in isolation and being naturally social animals with an intrinsic need to belong we have discovered new ways to virtually socialise that we will continue to use. Working from home has shown us that we can all perform very effectively using all the wonderful technology available to us, but that it is emotionally no replacement for the dynamic working environment that provides support, rapport and validation for our role in and contribution to an organisation.
We will appreciate our relationships more with our family and friends and will make personal pledges to keep in touch more frequently, both face to face and by phone. We will truly value social gatherings and events more than ever before.
We will respect our health more and not take it for granted and that may mean we are more aware of our diet and how we might supplement it to boost our immune systems and reduce our vulnerability in order to combat preventable disease.
We have all been highly active on social media during this time and have learnt which information sources to trust and exposed those that are motivated by political gain or disseminating fake news. We have seen amazing acts of bravery and pleas from those on the front line, we have shared humorous videos and cartoons to keep our sense of humour and perspective intact. Overall social media has been an invaluable tool to get the messages out there into our communities and it has galvanised our society behind a common goal and as such it has played its part generally responsibly and will continue to do so.
On a personal level whilst working from home and trying to make the best decisions for Jellybean’s future and my fantastic team, I have discovered my local community. Before this episode I had never met or engaged with my neighbours, leaving early for work and returning late and generally just “out out”. But for the past two weeks, as many of you will have as well, I have engaged with them on a whole new level and we have a tremendous community spirit, including looking out for one another now (especially the vulnerable) during the crisis and I am confident this will continue afterwards. This new found community spirit exists up and down the country and I am sure is here to stay, not only to fulfil our inherent need to socially belong and feel safe at home, but also perhaps to help heal some of the scars of Brexit. Who knows?
Whatever we face we will handle the future with fortitude, determination and generosity of spirit and whilst we learn to re-appreciate our freedom of movement and rediscover our values in life I wish that we all make sure the good stuff conquers the bad and the ugly – in a nut shell let’s just be kinder to one another.