Here we are again at another shift in the pandemic, so what’s next and how do we keep negotiating an uncertain course?
And so we hobble towards Christmas in a race against time, hoping that Omicron is not going to engulf our schools before the end of the week and risk mass cancellation of festive get-togethers with older or vulnerable relatives. Amid escalating fuel bills, rising prices in the shops, a very low statutory sick pay rate, skill shortages across industry and no furlough-type scheme as yet, fears are rife about the knock-on impact of Omicron on working families and on work itself.
It’s little wonder that our mental health has taken a bashing over the last two years as the Covid crisis enters its next phase. As we focus on the short-term effects of Covid, it is hard to even begin to think about the longer term picture. Over the course of Covid we have seen the employment situation flip entirely. Early on, there were virtually no job vacancies advertised and there are still people struggling to get back to work who lost their jobs in the early stages, particularly older workers who tend to find it harder to get another job after redundancy. Yet now we face the problem of not enough applicants for jobs, especially in sectors such as hospitality and care.
It has become a jobseeker’s market, with employers looking at how to attract and retain the widest talent pool, with flexible working at the top of employee demands. Could that flip again if many businesses go under, given this current wave is happening at what is normally the busiest time of the year for employers and could therefore have a disproportionate economic impact? There is already some evidence that jobs vacancies have fallen slightly since Omicron came to light.
And, if that happens, will that only be a temporary blip because, at some point, we must surely emerge from this pandemic?
There is only one certainty – that we need to learn to ride with all of this constant shifting and the exhaustion, both physical and mental, that it brings in its wake. That means pacing ourselves, being kind to others, taking each day as it comes…Easy to say, but not so easy to do.
I’ve spoken to a fair few employers over the last year. The speed with which many have adapted, not just to homeworking, but also to completely changing their business model, has been impressive. Many have done everything they can to weather the storm and been very creative in the process. Talking to people who work in manufacturing or anything involving importing and exporting is quite something. You hear a catalogue of challenge after challenge, caused by not just Covid, but many other factors, including Brexit, the challenges of which are likely to ramp up in the new year as the extension on customs checks comes to an end. It’s like sailing through a storm where the waves are only getting higher.
Starting and running a business amid all of this requires almost superhuman capacities as does working in any of the caring or teaching professions, but none of us is superhuman and we all need periods of rest and recovery just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Yet all we can do at the moment is look at the news and ask how much longer?