Guest blog: A vision of the future - By Michael Hardware, Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Development

The restrictions introduced to counter the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been dramatic. They have completely changed our way of life with many people having to work from home, some experiencing this for the first time. Many have been surprised and feel this could be a vision of the future; an opportunity to promote change and modernise the way we work. Perhaps you'd even call it a second industrial revolution.

Writing this blog on National Work From Home Day, it is now clear that a large proportion of the working population can work from home, and many are finding it more productive. For those who normally commute to work, the travel time is an immediate saving – even a couple of days a week at home could typically free up the equivalent of an entire working day.

Then we have business meetings. Although we have embraced email in recent years, we still insist on travelling miles to meet people face-to-face as that is seen as the traditional way of doing business – seeing the ’whites of their eyes’ and all. But the likes of Microsoft Teams and Zoom have changed all that: you can talk face-to-face without moving from your sofa.

So, yes, it is likely that after this pandemic, we will be working more from home and having less physical meetings. But what impact is that going to have?

Less travelling for one. Even working from home one or two days a week and holding some virtual meetings will have a significant impact on our roads and public transport. It will also potentially make us all more productive, which is an issue this country urgently needs to address as it has been falling for years despite great steps in technology.

The other growth area during the pandemic has been home delivery, again through necessity rather than choice. We have been getting everything delivered, and the systems for this have coped very well with the massive growth in demand. Again, if this continues, we are looking at less trips to the shops, further reducing local traffic congestion.

The other two benefits these enforced changes have led to have been environmental and in our own wellbeing, and these are potentially massive. Less travel means less carbon emissions and less pollution. Less time spent travelling, whether on public transport or on roads, means reduced stress levels and improved wellbeing. Working from home itself is also less stressful, although currently that may not be the case with worries about the pandemic and home-schooling children.

As we come out of this pandemic, there is a huge opportunity to make fundamental changes to the way we work and the way we live. It is an opportunity that needs to be propagated by government and local councils, encouraging companies and individuals to continue these different ways of working, and planning for them to become the norm in future.