Some companies are already seeing the enforced changes in working practices they have had to adopt having beneficial long-term impacts.
“Social distancing and flexible working have actually had a positive impact on our labs and employees who have risen to the challenge brilliantly,” David Hallett told me. “Coming to work outside the core 9-5 is suiting many more of them and is something we’ll almost certainly continue with. We’re also seeing better utilisation of capital- intensive hardware thanks to this. A company is not more than its people and [thepandemic] has shown this.”
Virtual companies and small start-ups are looking at holding on to their more agile structures for longer than planned, and larger companies are holding expansion plans. In the short term, this may have an impact on recruitment in the life sciences sector.
There was some concern about the longer-term financial impact of the pandemic. I heard concerns that the economic impact of COVID-19 may turn out to be more damaging than the disease itself, and particularly its effect on the health care programmes of poorer nations.
One person put it rather bluntly: “We had a global recession in 2008, but this situation will damage every major economy more deeply – and it has to be paid for at some point. It might take 5 or 10 years before we’re making enough money again to do that.”