By Ian Simpson
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a devastating impact on the lives of many Londoners, with thousands of deaths and jobs lost. But what is often overlooked is the positive impact it has had on many people’s lives – and possibly for society as a whole in future.
For many, working from home has changed their lives for the better. Free from the drudgery, expense and stress of the daily commute into Central London, it has given more people time to relax.
Chris Hallam, 43, from Bermondsey works as an occupational therapist for a London Council. “Before the pandemic, I was commuting to Kings Cross, squeezing myself onto a busy tube every morning and afternoon,” he said. “Now instead of that, I can go for a nice walk by the river or through the park. It’s great!”
Working from home has become so popular that last month, the government drafted new laws to make it “the new normal” once the pandemic is over. In future, the onus might be on employers to provide strong evidence why employees have to travel to the office.
Existing laws mean that employers cam demand their staff to come to the office. This could be the beginning of a hybrid model with lasting implications for the UK workforce.
For others, positive changes resulting from the pandemic have been more drastic. David Smith spent over 20 years working as cabin crew for a big airline before being put on furlough in April 2020.
“Initially it was scary; I loved my job and to suddenly have all this time to myself was unnerving, but after a while I began to realise the toll years of working long, unsociable hours had taken on my life,” he said.
“I’d forgotten many simple pleasures, like going to bed at a normal time every night and waking up without feeling jet lagged. Having the time to reflect helped me to make the decision that it was time to do something else.”
In October, Smith took redundancy from his airline and has now moved from London to Devon. He is using his redundancy money to buy a beachside café.
Beneficial to society
While there are countless other positive personal stories as a result of the pandemic, perhaps the most lasting beneficial legacy will be that on society as a whole.
The pandemic is essentially a natural disaster: we are very used to seeing natural disasters being played out in the media, mainly in far flung corners of the globe, but we never expect them to happen here. When the emergence of Covid-19 was initially being reported from China, we did not really expect it to affect us: when it did so drastically, it came as a shock.
Perhaps now our society realises that we are not immune to these events and just maybe we will engage more seriously with the fact that more huge natural disasters, like those caused by climate change, could easily reach our shores.
A new venture: beachside cafe. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Upsplash