There is every likelihood that we will emerge from the Covid-19 crisis as a less selfish, more caring, more thoughtful nation. Businesses will rethink their working model, one which has existed for centuries but is, in reality, based on manufacturing; one in which the only way to operate is to have employees congregate at the same place every working day.
Even some forward thinking manufacturers realised that employees working from home could be productive. The Ipswich firm of Footman's had a methodology for making undergarments, which in Victorian times were complex assemblies of fabric, elastic and whale bones. Components were dispatched to the homes of individuals who carried out a series of tasks. Rather than making the complete garment each home worker would repetitively stitch the same seam passing the partially completed item, usually to a neighbour for their contribution.
Payment by results, or piecework ensured production costs were under control. Today we don't manufacture many corsets in Ipswich, nor sluice gates, cigarettes or lawn mowers but we do insure them, and the computer screen required can be as equally productive in the spare bedroom as it can be in Civic Drive.
So the homeworkers can be closer to loved ones – and they don't contribute to rush-hour congestion, nor to the peak demand for public transport. Working from home goes some way to solving both childcare, and the care of elderly relatives, and you might be surprised to learn that working at home involves less down-time than colleagues at the office (typically 6.7 hours spent working compared with 6.2 hours in the office).
Who, for example, will want to send Mum to a care home where the risk of infection is many times higher than simply staying at home? The decision of venturing out into the exposure zone goes much further; for example, are you willing to sit in a cinema or theatre alongside a sneezing, coughing carrier of something, possibly deadly?
There will be winners, of course, the weekly shop will be delivered to your door, paid for electronically (none of that nasty virus infected cash), newspapers will all but disappear and, I suspect, very few of us will willingly sit on an aeroplane. As well as avoiding Benidorm we'll probably avoid Blackpool choosing instead to find somewhere with the space to avoid close contact with strangers.
The downside? If you thought the town centre was dying you were probably right, if you thought the pub had had its day you'll understand why it has now closed and if you thought Netflix was about to replace Cineworld as the go-to choice for the latest film release simply stay home. It is much safer than venturing out into the cruel virus-ridden world.
Not quite; the children still have to go to school, and their teachers still have to go to work. Some of us will still get ill, even if it's not the virus, and we'd like a nurse at our bedside and the other emergency services will still be called on to attend at a moment’s notice. Bricklayers cannot work from home, nor can bus drivers, nor the pizza delivery boy. It might be a brave new world but it won't be unrecognisably different.
The care we have shown to each other must continue. If older people needed help with their shopping last week, they will probably welcome a neighbourly knock on the door next. If Gran is bed-ridden, perhaps she should be upstairs rather than bed-blocking in the distant hospital. If you can spend Saturday afternoon doing something useful around the home rather than watch Town lose yet another game you'll win; win the game of life.