Ever since lockdown restrictions were introduced in March 2020, COVID-19 has forced many people to change their ways of living and adapt.
However, on a positive note, lockdown measures are being eased with pubs, restaurants and cafes now open.
How has our way of life evolved in response to the pandemic?
Attitudes towards visiting stores have changed. A survey from Shopmium has found six in 10 people feel different about shopping now, and almost three-quarters (74%) saying they feel more nervous1.
The pandemic has also had an impact on retail stores falling into administration including Debenhams, Oasis and Warehouse group. Following the closure of Oasis and Warehouse stores, over 1,800 people were made redundant after being put on furlough.
However, it seems online retail sales are booming. Data from IMRG Capgemini Sales Indexes found UK online retail sales rose by 22% in the first week of April, compared to the same time last year2.
In a survey carried out by ClearScore, just under half of people said their finances have got worse as a result of COVID-19, whereas back in January and February 2020, 89% of ClearScore’s users felt that their finances were stable or improving3.
Lucy Hebron, finance business partner at BHSF, believes it’s no surprise the pandemic has resulted in personal finances taking a hit.
“Lockdown may well have got people thinking about where and how they spend their money. A survey conducted for Barclaycard found almost nine in ten people have saved money on everyday expenses since lockdown began4.
“Some people could be feeling financially distressed, out of pocket, struggling to make ends meet, or in serious financial difficulty.
“I would encourage banks, lenders and financial institutions to support their customers during these difficult times with tailored products, payment freezes and advice.”
Employment and homeworking
Early estimates from the Office of National Statistics suggests 449,000 people lost their jobs in the UK in April, with a further 163,000 job losses in May5.
As of 28 June 2020, around 9.3m jobs were furloughed in the UK as part of the government’s job retention scheme6.
However, there are indications the number of job vacancies being advertised is picking up. There were 990,000 job adverts in the last week of June – 27,000 more than in the first week of the month, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.
Hebron is pleased to see signs of recovery for the job market after a desperately challenging few months.
“As sectors are carefully being re-opened, including hospitality, seeing an increase in job vacancies advertised is welcome news and a vital green shoot. Opportunities are out there for jobseekers.”
Statistics from the Office for National Statistics found only 5% of the UK’s total workforce in 2019 worked mainly from home7. However, roll onto 23 April 2020 and just under half of British adults in employment said they’re working from home as a result of the pandemic8.
Stuart Nottingham, director at Sun Rehabilitation, a partner of BHSF, feels homeworking could be here to stay.
“I believe working from home could be the new normal in the next few years as technology is now sophisticated enough to cope with homeworking.
“What the coronavirus situation may have done is accelerate the inevitable for businesses by demolishing the cultural barrier of ‘we do not do business this way’.”
Research from Mind also found that just under two-thirds of adults (65%) over 25 with an existing mental health problem have reported a decline in their mental health during the pandemic9.
Tracey Paxton, managing director responsible for BHSF RISE, believes there are many reasons why people may have struggled mentally during the pandemic.
“Not being able to see family and friends, feeling anxious about loved ones getting coronavirus and employment status, particularly those who’ve been made redundant or furloughed, could be reasons why we’ve seen people struggle with their mental health.
“As the situation continues to change day by day, we’re dealing with much more uncertainty which could lead to people being anxious. Whether it be due to information overload, life-changing events happening or disruptions to work and personal life.”
Hospitality and pubs
Some pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Northern Ireland and England reopened on 4 July, the first time since lockdown began in March.
However, physical distancing guidelines remain in place and people planning on going to the pub or restaurants are encouraged to book tables in advance.
It may be seen as a milestone event, but Dr David Poots, senior occupational health physician at BHSF, hopes it will be a tentative return to the bar stool.
“With one in four Brits nervous about a second wave of COVID-1910, maybe we might not see an initial surge from people wanting to go to bars, pubs or restaurants.
“People want to come out of lockdown but if we’re to be successful, people will have to be sensible.
“I’m sure there are punters who’ve been waiting a long time to go to their local pub. For some, going to the pub is part of their normal life. Walking back through those doors could be a big boost.”