What will happen to the UK economy as it emerges tentatively from the various lockdowns imposed to fight the spread of Covid-19? Stephen Conmy spoke with Lord Mark Price about what the future holds for British boards, British business owners, and their employees.
It has been a surreal and, at times, very frightening time since the Covid-19 virus began sweeping the world. How would you describe the impact the pandemic has had on business life across the UK?
“It’s been severe. There have been winners and losers. For example, if you look at food and retail, retailers and the firms supplying retail did very well, but hospitality and its suppliers did very poorly.
“B2B businesses have had it tough. Managers and staff had to adjust to new ways of remote working. The other thing to reflect on is the increased focus Covid has given us. Something like Covid affects the mindset of business owners, and it becomes less about collaboration and more about survival mode.
“Younger people have missed the in-person work experience and all the life and development skills that working in face-to-face teams brings.”
“The last thing I can remember anything like it was the aftermath of the financial crash in 2008. What’s been so odd about Covid is not meeting people and doing business in person, which has affected everyone.”
And what about the social impact? “At WorkL (a business he founded), we survey many people in the workplace; 4,000 people a week complete our ‘happy at work’ test. It’s interesting to see how people have been thinking about their work over the last year. By and large, people have been happier working at home – six per cent more satisfied, according to our data. People feel the furlough scheme in the UK worked well; workers think their managers performed well. During the lockdowns, people were generally happier working from home than commuting to an office.
“There are a few areas, though, where we can see red flags. By and large, younger people have missed the in-person work experience and all the life and development skills that working in face-to-face teams brings.”
Below are a series of concise clips of the main topics of our conversation.
The new world order
Below, Lord Price suggests everything has changed in the past 18-months when it comes to work and the UK economy. He thinks there will be real challenges for employers and managers in the next year or so as they try to balance remote working and office work. He also believes that the pandemic has shone a light on the vast range of possibilities businesses should focus on.
How did boards cope during the lockdowns?
Lord Price sits on many high-profile boards; here, he discusses how board members missed the face-to-face interaction of meetings during the lockdowns.
Will we see the end of the nine-to-five job?
Lord Price believes that the lockdowns have shown everyone enormous opportunities for skilled professionals who want flexibility and more self-determination. It will transform work as we know it, and boards need to be aware of this from a cultural perspective.
What makes a great board?
Lord Price gives his view on what constitutes a good, effective board and why all boards must ensure that all members support the business, contribute to the organisation and ensure its success.
“ESG certainly isn’t a trend”
Issues like ESG and CSR are certainly not ‘trends’, they are very high on board agendas now, and corporations are keenly aware of the risks that having a bad ESG profile can bring.
“We are about to see a spending boom”
On a very optimistic note, Lord Price suggests that the UK economy will see a spending surge from consumers and businesses as they emerge with heavier pockets from the lockdowns and restrictions.