So, the Prime Minister addressed the nation last night and in real terms, other than pubs shutting earlier and a few other tighter regulations we were left with what we really knew all along.
We need to be sensible and apply huge dollops of common sense if we are to avert another national lockdown which could decimate an already fragile economy.
Meanwhile, the property market ticks along apace, with HMRC reporting a 15.6% monthly jump in sales in August, the pandemic has reared its head again and shown us who’s in charge – at least for now.
Although Boris urged us all back to the office in July, that advice has been dropped on the back of a surge in Covid-19 cases, with government ministers now asking that we work from home if we can. Of course, many people never even made it back into the office post-lockdown. A number of the law firms we deal with have either given up on their offices completely or reduced the offices they occupy, with many not proposing any sort of return until 2021 at the earliest.
For every lawyer we deal with that had been proposing some sort of return at least before the latest government advice was issued – there were 10 that definitely weren’t. The new advice is likely to make those who were thinking about going back to the office in some capacity think again.
Why London and other centres need to be buzzing
I made my first post-lockdown trip into London a couple of weeks ago, catching the 8.46 train from Market Harborough. Normally, it is pretty full and you can just about get a seat, if you are lucky. This time, it was as much the opposite of that norm as it could be with the train manager confirming my worst fears when he said head counted a total of 22 passengers on the entire train.
The normally bustling St Pancras station was also deserted; I’d seen it all on the news but to witness it first-hand was truly astonishing. My thought then was that until we can get people back into the capital and other major centres, we are going to see damage done to our economy that will last generations. This latest setback, and it really is a setback, will not help at all.
The PLG experience As we’ve covered in previous blogs (https://www.plg.uk/back-to-work/), the PLG team has been back in the office observing all the required social distance measures from May, with the option to work from home remaining throughout, of course.
Yet we have also reported how the team preferred to be back in the office with the banter and everything else that comes with it, rather than work from home, which, depending on your situation, can be a lonely place. Much has been said about mental health suffering during lockdown and it is true that particularly those who live on their own welcome the socialising and companionship the office provides.
When office manager Leah and I accidentally brushed hands against each other when we reached for a stapler at the same time after lockdown, she remarked that it was the first time she had had any physical contact in 12 weeks. That’s the reality of a lockdown for someone living on their own, and it can be a lonely one. And what about supporting people professionally, whether in the form of training or advice, particularly for new joiners? Professionals living in house shares can also find it’s not so easy to work from home in such environments. As we’ve said before, the importance of supporting the next generation in the workplace cannot be underestimated.
Lockdown Mark 2?
There is no getting away from the fact that as Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said yesterday, the seasons are against us. As we move into autumn and winter, we have a six-month problem on our hands that we have to deal with and collectively take very seriously.
The housing market rests on confidence and the prospect of tighter rules could undermine that. It was not surprising that stocks in housebuilders such as Persimmon and Berkeley fell ahead of the prime minister’s speech on tougher coronavirus restrictions.
Only time will tell whether these latest restrictions will dampen buyer appetite or spur people on to move before things become even more restrictive. If there is anything positive to come out of this, it is that this time around we should all be better prepared and know what to expect in case further lockdown restrictions are introduced.
Whatever challenges are thrown at us in the next few weeks, the PLG team have done an amazing job of adjusting and excelling in what have already been challenging times and there is nothing to suggest that this won’t continue to be the case.