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London calling

London calling

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The BBC records that the number of people killed in London by COVID-19 in the four weeks up to 17 April 2020 exceeded the number of civilians killed during the four weeks to 4 October 1940, the worst four-week period of aerial bombing during the Blitz.

It could have been a lot worse had London not effectively shut down at the start of this period. As a major international financial centre, the City couldn’t just stop – but instead had to evolve.  In an unprecedented test of flexibility and tech capabilities, all businesses have had to accommodate remote working with very little advance warning.  Here are some of the thoughts and potential lessons that I and so many of us have personally taken from this experience so far.

What was quite remarkable from the outset was how well our business continuity plan worked. With staff in all of our UK offices already provided with laptops, we were able to fully implement a home-based working model from Monday 23 March. Thereafter our technology really has stood up to the test, and has enabled us to continue to deliver our consulting, technology and administrative support from our own homes.  Any disruption has been minimised, with entire teams working long hours and committed to mitigating disruption to clients.

This crash course in using technology from home, which we are all going through, has the potential to transform our working arrangements going forward.  Now that we are all getting used to video-based technology, will we automatically revert to the same number of face to face meetings at the end of the crisis?  Having proved that many employees can work effectively from home, will both employers and employees see this as a better way of working (at least partially) and a method  of reducing future costs? Will London, and other cities, ever be quite the same again?

Meanwhile we all continue to contend with the stark reality of this pandemic.  Behind each death is a tragedy. What is particularly tragic is the number of NHS staff who have died treating UK victims of COVID-19, who themselves have fallen victim to this dreadful disease. At 11am on 28 April we held a minute’s silence for the 82 NHS staff and 16 care workers who have so far lost their lives to COVID-19 in the line of their duty. Once again in the UK, especially in London but also elsewhere, so many owe so much to so few.

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