The hidden costs of Covid

Just when you start to feel we are really coming out of the pandemic you start to notice a few more cases where friends and colleagues report testing positive. And it seems that across the whole region numbers are slowly rising. That’s quite unusual because the South West has normally lagged behind the rest of the country.


But it’s not just the illness itself that we don’t seem to be able to completely shake off. There could be a hidden cost for the economy because of what has happened over the last couple of years when working from home became the norm.


Many of our members moved quickly to make arrangements for people to work remotely, providing IT equipment, chairs and desks when necessary. For senior members of staff this actually suited them very well. They could manage their days, enjoy the flexibility and get on with their jobs, often being more productive into the bargain.


It was a completely different story for younger and less experienced members of staff. For them their working environment could often be awkward, especially if living in a shared house. Operating with a lap top on your knee for hours and weeks on end was no joke.


However, that was by no means the end of the story. Those young people were not only disadvantaged by how they were working, they were crucially also missing out on a range of things that would normally have helped their development. No longer could they sit in on meetings and watch and learn how more senior people conducted themselves, negotiating and concluding deals. They couldn’t just pop into an office to ask a question or pick up tips during a coffee break.


None of that might sound very important, but it is a vital part of development and it’s something that hundreds of young people in our businesses have lost. It will be interesting to see what impact that has on our businesses in the next couple of years.


The fear of the consequences of that lost contact is one of the reasons that businesses are now doing all they can to get people back into the office for at least some of the week, and there is talk about helping staff to remember what it’s like to experience the sense of camaraderie you get from working in a successful team.


The five day working week in the office may have gone forever and greater flexibility is probably here to stay, but humans are social beings and they have a natural desire to work together. The challenge for businesses is to find the right balance for the future.


If you’d like to find out more about the Bath Chamber of Commerce or the Initiative in B&NES please contact us on 01225 460 655 or info@bathchamber.co.uk.

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