The uncertain times the world is currently experiencing have shifted everyone’s focus and priorities. Much of the world is in lockdown, and people and businesses have had to modify their working lives and their social behaviour. Despite the challenges, there have been many positive changes, with people embracing new ways of learning or working.
Whether we’re in education, working from home, in a bricks and mortar outlet or acting as frontline staff, there are some great opportunities – and modern tools – that can assist us during these uncertain times.
While schools and colleges are closed, there are so many fantastic online learning tools for all ages and levels of education. It takes very little effort to access high quality online resources that assist with the continuation of studies or help build on existing skills. It’s easy to find tools such as videos, ebooks and online courses that will help you to learn a language, play a musical instrument, or develop your professional capabilities.
For many in formal education, lessons have continued. Schools, colleges and universities are able to advise on what they believe is best for your children and young adults. And with the help of
conferencing facilities, students can share learning with peers or teaching staff as required.
Working from Home
For those that are not used to it, this period is not so much a time of simply ‘working from home’ as it is ‘being at home while trying to work’. The distinction is plain for those with children or who share a home with other adults also trying to work from home.
So, there are limitations to working from home for many of us. But in the UK, we are generally in a great place for a large number of staff to be able to work using cloud services, or using virtual private network (VPN) access to platforms so that they can continue their core day jobs.
Alongside this, phone and mobile functionality, plus video and audio conferencing, and screen sharing, all add a degree of flexibility to how we can work in a collaborative way. It doesn’t work for everyone, of course. Some data remains confidential and needs to stay on secure servers within a ‘four-wall’ environment. Here, remote access is simply not feasible, and so working from home cannot be achieved all of the time.
It’s also inspiring to see the advances in robotics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) that will assist in limiting social touchpoints and will de-risk the spread of this terrible virus. Thanks to sophisticated computer technology, we have improved online shopping experiences with convenient delivery choices – such as home delivery, click and collect, and delivery to third-party outlets. And many warehouses employ robots and other automation that limits how much the products are touched by workers.
Bricks and Mortar
Traditional bricks and mortar outlets have been hit hard. But this sector has shown how the marketplace can adapt and overcome such immense challenges. We are seeing restaurants changing their focus to target delivery options and almost all have put in place no-contact delivery practices that maintain social distancing guidance and protect both customers and delivery staff. In transforming their models, they are protecting their businesses and supporting the public as much as possible at the same time.
Pharmacies and supermarkets are quickly beginning to set key rules for access and purchase limits that allow more people to be able to buy the essentials.
Those businesses that have already invested in apps, websites and mobile notifications are already ahead of the game in this instance. But with modern technology and social media, all businesses have the opportunity to divert their focus and create a new sales channel now and for the future.
Frontline Healthcare Staff
The healthcare workers at the frontline have far more challenging roles, as some physical contact may be unavoidable. But we’ve seen some evidence that this can be limited from both ends – protecting staff and patients.
Hospitals, care homes, dentists and other healthcare practices are limiting their services to essential visits only. This is helping to protect the staff, many of whom have limited personal protective equipment (PPE) at the moment. Phone consultations, the NHS 111 phone service and online and video resources are essential in limiting the impact on our NHS and healthcare services.
This could be enhanced further if some of the paperwork could be available through mobile and remote tools. This would prevent mobile care staff from having to call in to pick up paperwork, offering a digital field service support operation. One of the biggest challenges here will always be the security of patient data and records in order to maintain patient confidentiality. So, data controls are essential. But there are already apps in use within care homes, for example, that hold data on residents, like personalised care plans and medications records. The NHS, as with other public sector bodies, is often slow to take on new technology or to change from manual processes. But the private sector has shown that these sorts of paper-free opportunities are there.
The Future Impacts
The impacts of all this are being strongly felt in most areas of our lives – and this will continue to be the case for some time. But provided we all act sensibly, using the tools available to enable limited social touchpoints, and act accordingly when seeking medical or emergency support, then we will get through this and come out stronger for it. If we continue to think of others and not just ourselves, ensure those in vulnerable positions are protected and catered for, and maintain the deeply held respect for our essential frontline staff, then our united approach will benefit us all.
Here are some of our team’s favourite resources that we and our families have been using to learn more, work better, wind down, and to help our children:
For learning, health and working:
- PE with Joe Wicks, The Body Coach – get moving with the kids, weekdays at 9am on YouTube, or replay it later on
- Carol Vorderman’s The Maths Factor – maths for 4-12 year olds – usually around £2 a week, but currently free while schools are closed
- Future Learn – hundreds of free courses, on a huge variety of subjects, produced by universities, business schools and other specialists
- Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Docs and GoToMeeting for collaborative working and conference calls
And for winding down – which is just as important:
- The National Theatre’s At Home initiative means you get to watch some of the theatre’s best-loved productions, for free – one a week from 2nd April, with four screenings already lined up
- Shakespeare’s Globe has announced that it will be publishing some of its plays for free, starting on 6th April
- Audible is providing a selection of audiobooks that can be streamed for free, and without needing to sign up for an account