Last week, as the ban on social gatherings of more than six people came into legal effect, we got another reminder that coronavirus has not gone away.
It’s clear that we are going to be living with the virus for some time. We need to be able to get on with our lives while also keeping COVID-19 under control.
The big debate at the moment is about those who work in offices and about how quickly they should return to the office full time. Having spoken to a number of businesses of all types in the constituency over the summer and looked at survey evidence, I have made the argument that the workplace paradigm has shifted - an office-remote working hybrid is the new normal.
Why do I think that? During lockdown, businesses were forced to do things in new ways. They tested the limits of technology and remote working, and many of them found that large parts of people’s jobs can be done very effectively remotely and indeed, in many cases, productivity went up.
On top of this, employers have a duty to operate in a Covid-secure way and that equals big reductions in office capacity. Most office workers can’t go back to the office full time until we have an effective vaccine or treatments, which means at least until spring 2021.
As companies adapt accordingly, there is going to be a significant impact on cities where large numbers of office workers used to commute to work every day.
Although some parts of the country will find this change difficult, for an area like the Forest of Dean, more office staff working from home at least part of the week is a good thing. This means fewer people travelling on the roads each day to work – lowering traffic congestion and air pollution. It also prompts more people to go and spend their money at local shops and cafes for lunch.
We are really lucky to have some superb retail and hospitality businesses across the Forest of Dean and I am hopeful that this shift to greater remote working will be a further incentive for us all to shop and spend locally.