Life beyond COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

Date 28.10.2020

Four academic experts from the University of Northampton have shared their views about what they think the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the next two to five years.

The Northampton academics, Dr Amin Hosseinian-Far, Dr Eunice Lumsden, Mr Ian Hall, and Professor Haithan Askar, shared their thoughts with the House of Lords COVID-19 Committee inquiry, Life beyond COVID.

Based on specialist input from around the UK, the Lords report covers areas of concern, which include work and employment, health and social care, research and development, society and community, the natural environment, education, arts, culture and sport, infrastructure and crime and justice.

Dr Amin Hosseinian-Far, Senior Lecturer in Business Systems & Operations, said: “There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has touched all areas of our lives – personal, professional, mental and physical.

“In terms of the potential impact to businesses, I have concerns about the stability of our supply chains, if global supply chains continue to be disrupted over the next few years, this could leave UK-based manufacturers struggling to operate. Which could have serious implications on the future of our economy.

“This uncertainty links closely to a recent research project, which exploreed the prevalence of stress, anxiety, depression among the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point in time, it is unclear what exactly the long-term effects of COVID-19 the uncertainty it has created may have.”

Dr Eunice Lumsden, Associate Professor and Head of Early Years at the University of Northampton said: “The first years of a child’s life are hugely significant and influential phases in development. I am concerned that the disruption caused by the closure of childcare settings and lockdown restrictions could potentially lead to children missing out on vital early development opportunities.

“Children thrive when they feel safe and secure, and are nurtured to explore the world around them.  There is no doubt many children have thrived during lockdown.  However, the challenges of managing parenting and work have impacted on family life.  The importance of keeping children safe through shielding them from the pandemic is key, but alongside this, the suspension of professional childcare, early years education, and the restrictions on children’s ability to spend time with family, friends and other young children has impacted on their wider developmental experiences.

“In fact, the pandemic has taught us about the vital importance of relationships for us all and for young children, learning through play and that they missed their friends. I am particularly concerned for children growing up in households where caregivers may have had less time or fewer resources to support their child’s development and education during lockdown.

“I believe Government must prioritise early learning and education opportunities for children and provide enhanced support for families in future policy decisions. We must ensure all children are safe, supported and visible in future policy decisions.  We need to be totally focused on ensuring our children have access to all the opportunities that will enhance their life chances.

Professor Haithan Askar, said: “I have been particularly interested in assessing the impact of distance and online learning as a quickly adopted academic education trend. While this is something we’re comfortable with at the University of Northampton, I’m interested in the impact of the widespread roll out and on the the quality of delivery, as well as the long term impacts for staff, students, job retention and future collaborative research opportunities between academia and industry.”

Ian Hall, Associate Lecturer in Accounting & Finance, at the University of Northampton, said: “I believe that for organisations to thrive post-COVID-19, there are three areas of focus that are required.

“Firstly, a need for a new operating model that allows a business to react faster to the changing need of their customers. Business must begin to demonstrate agility and leverage technology, for their customers. However, this must be balanced with the need to anticipate the pressures placed on staff because of the need to adapt to new ways of working.

“The culture of 9am-5pm will no longer prevail, our ideas of what a workplace looks like were tested, and rapidly business adapted to permit employees to work from home where they can.  Finally, there is a need to improve decision making processes to ensure they are efficient and demonstrate the new vision for business, to allow staff and customers to understand the new ways of working, providing support to facilitate behavioural change. We’ve seen how important public option of business practices has been during COVID-19, with moves to boycott brands and high-profile back tracking from large organisations after customers changed their behaviour in light of the way an organisation treats its staff.”

“If business can successfully develop and implement resilient ways of working, they have the real potential thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.”

You can read the details of the submission here.