2021 has begun with a swing back to extremely high levels of COVID-19 transmissions and tragically more deaths. With daily news about the terrible strain the NHS is under, we are back in a full National Lockdown.

This upsurge in cases is likely to continue for another few weeks before peaking. Things will become even harder before they get better. And yet there is cause for hope.

The NHS vaccine rollout is promised to every adult in the UK by autumn, offering the hope of returning to a more normal and being virus free by early 2022. This will be the position in the UK, but we will probably have to continue dealing with COVID-19 outside our borders when we travel, as the WHO states that they do not believe global herd immunity will be achieved in 2021.

Now that we are used to living with the pandemic restrictions and protocols, and ensuring our workplaces are COVID-19 secure, we must plan to transition to the emerging post COVID-19 world in early 2022. During this time, we must retain and enhance the COVID-19 secure protocols currently in place as the population is vaccinated, and while new emerging virus variants are managed.

Learning from a crisis

Winston Churchill famously said, “Never waste a good crisis.” Times of crisis can be a watershed opportunity for growth. Reflecting on the lessons learnt from COVID-19, we must build on them and emerge smarter and stronger from this crisis.

Over the Christmas break, I reflected on my lessons learnt from the crisis and what I think will be done differently in our workplaces, buildings, and estates as a consequence.

How to manage abstract risks

The first lesson is on managing abstract risks. Most governments and organisations had a global pandemic on their risk registers and contingency plans in place. But because the last viruses that had the potential to be global pandemics petered out (SARS-2 and Swine Flu), everyone had a false sense of security.

We should have seen these as warning signs of what could come. Those South East Asian states who dealt with earlier crises were in a much better position to manage COVID-19 when it emerged. Very few contingency plans for those without previous experience survived contact with the virus.

I will relook at LCMB’s business contingency plans and think more deeply about our abstract risks, learning from those with experience to reimagine how we will manage them if they occur.

Keep things simple

The second lesson is to remember to keep it simple and not over complicate things.

At the beginning of the first lockdown, when we were supporting our NHS and other clients with their estates’ responses, there was no official or published guidance available to explain how to make workplaces and buildings COVID-19 secure.

Our approach was to go back to first principles and develop simple interventions that allowed people to social distance and maintain hygiene. It reinforced that the simplest solutions are always the best.

How the future looks

Looking ahead, I envisage two dominant pandemic themes that will stay with us long after it is gone:

Because we have become an indoor species, spending 90% of our lives inside, the bulk of that time is spent in our workplaces. So, the quality of these environments matters as they impact our health, wellbeing, and performance.

Research undertaken by Harvard University and others has consistently shown that the indoor environment we work in (air quality, noise, light, chemical contaminants etc.), impacts our health and performance at a very significant and measurable level. Leading organisations are designing and retrofitting healthier buildings because of the measurable health, economic and social benefit.

Advances in wearable technology and sensors means that those who occupy and manage workplaces now have the tools to measure and quantify their impact on our health and performance. I think that the pandemic will accelerate this trend. Therefore, LCMB intends to continue to make significant investments in building tools and services for our clients that allow you to easily make your buildings healthier and higher performing.

Over Christmas, I read “Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Can Drive Performance and Productivity” by Joseph Macomber and John Allen of Harvard University. It’s a great book that I highly recommend which provides an overview of the healthy building opportunities available to us all.

I hope you manage to stay safe during this current lockdown, and I’d love to hear what lessons learnt you will take from the pandemic.

If you would like any guidance on how to improve the health, wellbeing and performance of your workplaces, buildings, or estates for a safer, smarter future, give me a call on 01295 7229823 or 07711 032137, or email [email protected].

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