After weeks of lockdown, the question being asked by everyone is how we get out of this? When will the current lockdown end, and how? In the absence of clear answers at present, it’s perhaps useful to consider why we are asking these questions.
We ask them because we are in a state of flux. There is so much uncertainty at the moment and there’s a real desire to get back on top of things, to assert control over our lives. This is perfectly natural. When we encounter a difficult situation, two choices typically face us: we can hunker down and wait for normality to resume, or we can put our efforts into getting past the problem.
Facing the challenge
From a business perspective we are seeing many companies taking these approaches. Some are overwhelmed in the face of the pandemic and have effectively entered hibernation. The support from the Government’s furlough scheme, deferment of VAT payments and CBILs has made this possible for many.
I have every sympathy for these firms, especially those in hospitality, for whom life has gone on hold. Worse, life after lockdown is going to be very different for them, operating at much lower capacity to maintain social distancing. When sandwich firm Pret a Manger reopened a few shops recently, its CEO admitted that footfall would be much lower after lockdown and that it would be a “very different operator”.
But my respect goes out to those organisations that have thought around the problem and are reinventing their businesses in unique and innovative ways. Think of the pubs that are now doing takeaways, or the milk delivery firms that have added much-in-demand potting compost to the list of goods they offer. There are plenty of businesses who have embraced technology to continue to do their jobs. The challenge has forced many to be more innovative. They are rethinking processes and streamlining procedures due to necessity. The result is greater efficiency.
Inside out innovation
This innovation is happening at Reliance High-Tech, both internally and in our work with clients. The speed at which we were able to close our offices and set up teams working from home – without impacting on customer service – was remarkable and was made possible by our investment in IT systems and training.
That same problem-solving is reflected in the new and innovative ways we are working with customers. Our remote monitoring services are helping us manage client sites in the absence of anyone being onsite – keeping people, property and reputations safe ready for the reopening of offices. Our Reliance Protect solutions are keeping those on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus safe and free to do their vital work.
And at the very height of the pandemic in Italy, we even installed a new security system for a new customer in Milan, the centre of the country’s pandemic. All the hardware was preconfigured and tested here in the UK, before being rushed out to Italy. Working with a new service provider who was permitted access to the necessary parts of the city, we were then able to turn the system on and get it up and running remotely.
In the light of the current situation companies are looking for these types of innovative approach, and are now considering what they can do, and how they can change. We are helping them do this.
We’ll meet again
As I write this, the bunting is being laid out to celebrate VE day, a public holiday to mark the 75th anniversary of victory in Europe at the end of World war II. The conditions under which we are celebrating seem strange, given lockdown, but it’s a reminder that out of adversity comes positive change.
Think of the technologies that emerged from the war: computing, nuclear power, the jet engine, radar. Think of the cultural, emotional and psychological resilience of getting through such tough times has brought. As a national we still refer to the Blitz spirit 80 years after the first bombs dropped on London. Think of the institutions like the NHS, which has reinforced its place in the nation’s hearts over recent months. Never before have we relied so much on those at the frontline, including the emergency services who are working to keep us safe under incredible stress.
Our debt to these individuals cements our recent announcement of our charity partner for 2020/2021, the Blue Lamp Foundation. It helps those from the emergency services who have been injured, physically or emotionally, in the line of duty by providing funding and support towards, treatment, rehabilitation and out of pocket expenses. As the charity’s chairman, Peter Sweeney, told me: “In the current climate, we know that emergency services personnel, along with many more key workers, are being pushed to new levels of demand.” We are proud to support them.
Overcoming adversity isn’t easy. But I genuinely think this crisis will change way we operate and work, and the way that will happen is through innovation and changes in practice. While lockdown is maintained we need to think differently, in full knowledge that we’ll meet again on the other side in a much better place.