These days and in this climate we are bombarded with news and information. There’s never any shortage of sources out there, be that from the authorities, commentators, journalists or the general public. In this environment, many of us prefer to follow the data before coming to conclusions.
The Office for National Statistics puts out a useful set of numbers on a weekly basis comprised of real-time indicators of economic activity and social change in the UK. They are driven by a range of innovative metrics with the aim of providing almost instantaneous feedback on the pulse of the nation, compiled using rapid response surveys, novel data sources and experimental methods.
Data doesn’t lie
So, for example, in the week to Monday 17 May 2021, the report shows that the average numbers of UK seated diners was back up to 73% of its level in the equivalent week of 2019. This, no doubt, reflects the reopening of indoor dining across the UK last week.
What’s more, in the week to 13 May 2021, credit and debit card purchases were back up to 97% of their February 2020 average level. The volume of online job adverts on 14 May 2021 had increased across all categories and was at 114% of its February 2020 average level. The volume of motor vehicle traffic on Monday 17 May 2021 was at 96% of the level seen in the first week of February 2020.
The report provides further insight on business trends. The data shows that the proportion of businesses currently trading has remained stable, at 83% from mid-April to mid-May 2021, with a further 5% of businesses reporting they intend to restart trading in the next two weeks. There were 17,316 company incorporations in the week to 14 May 2021, a 26% increase from the previous week (13,768), and 25% higher than the equivalent week in 2019.
By much of this data, and many similar measures in this weekly ONS report, we can see that the country is opening up again. We’ve all learnt not to get ahead of ourselves at the sight of some promising signs and we will continue to follow the guidelines to the letter. We want to take constructive steps towards the national recovery, making sure we don’t slide back to where we were.
Along with a hard-headed focus on the economic and financial data and continued full observance of the government guidelines, we need to be just as precise in our people-focused preparations. In fact, the ONS also collect data on the impact of the pandemic on our wellbeing as a nation. The most recent results show that personal well-being levels remain relatively stable with happiness and anxiety levels unchanged from last week, while levels of life satisfaction and feeling that things done in life are worthwhile had decreased very slightly.
We all naturally hope to see a return to pre-pandemic wellbeing levels as soon as possible. As a people-centric business, understanding where people are in terms of their wellbeing and attitudes is as important as any other metric out there at the moment. The more we understand about our clients’ mindset at the moment, the better we can support and service them in the months ahead.
Meeting in person
From now on, the provision of financial and legal advice is likely to be a blend of the new capabilities of digital with the strengths of the traditional advice model. These traditional strengths are all about the personal touch, the face-to-face and that indefinable difference that comes with being in the presence of people.
Just as we helped many of our clients to make the transition to online meetings and digital servicing at the beginning of the pandemic, we now need to be on hand to help those who want to, to make the transition back to meeting up in person again. We can’t assume anything. Even those who can’t wait for normal human contact to return will most likely have some degree of anxiety over what face-to-face meetings might look like and how we gradually make them a daily reality again.
We’re not there yet. In the meantime, it’s our responsibility to keep following the data and the guidelines and to show the sort of leadership that reassures our clients that we have comprehensively thought this transition through and always with their best interests uppermost in our minds. So that, when the time comes, the move back to human contact is a natural step they feel ready and confident to take.