What will we have learned? What can I do?
The first few weeks of my new working life have taken place in fairly unusual circumstances, I think I could fairly say!
However, unlike many business sectors which are struggling with the economic effects of the lockdown, I'm extremely lucky, professionally and personally: all my family and friends are safe and well, touching wood; I've plenty of work to do that can be done from home; and the improving weather means that, when I'm not working, there's a decent-sized back garden to get some fresh air in (and, my wife assures me, plenty of manual work to do in too!)
Like many of you, I have a lot of unanswered questions about the outbreak and the world's response to it. I'll trouble you with my thoughts on only two of them.
Firstly, when the current situation ends (and it will end) what will we have learned? I'm thinking not just of the obvious things related to the pandemic itself, like which responses worked and which didn't. Coming from my days working in the regional transport planning sector, what, if anything, will we have learned about the enforced changes to our travel to work patterns, as we all adapt to more working from home?
This is a question that occurred to me a few years ago, when the Forth Road Bridge - then the main commuter connector between Edinburgh and many of its workers - had an enforced shut down. Then as now, but for different reasons, organisations and individuals had to adapt to enforced periods of working from home. How did it affect business efficiency - positively or negatively? What unforseen consequences did it have? What opportunities and threats?
Most of all, given the huge drop in single-use car journeys, then and now, what can we learn that will make working from home - with all the positive environmental effects that can bring in transportation terms - an attractive 'new normal'?
The other question that others will share is, what can I do to help? As others have done, my wife and I have volunteered to help in any way we can. As yet that's not led to anything concrete: and it's difficult to avoid the feeling of helplessness that engenders. Clapping for the NHS and boosting positive Twitter and Facebook posts only goes so far!
So here's one positive thing I can do. If any of you feel that your organisation could use my help, whether by way of a short talk over Zoom, or an informal piece of advice by email, I'll be happy to look at doing that pro bono for now. Just contact me via the form on this site and let's talk.
Oh, and one final bit of help I can offer: Edinburgh University Press is currently offering 30% off my Common Good Law book. Just use the code below!