With lockdown receding into the middle distance, at least for now, I’m determined that the new lifestyle I’ve embraced won’t be a flash in the pan.
Too many late-night TV dinners and half bottles of Sauvignon, prepandemic, had left their mark. As our confinement began, I resolved to eat healthily and abstained from alcohol too. Though I’m now partial to a drop on a special occasion, my eating habits are a world away from where I was. It means I can still have a kickaround with my sons in the park without running out of breath.
But in many respects I can’t return to the past. Over the last year I become a co-founder of two startups – one to help fellow freelancers in the media profession in which I work; and the other to deliver training on mental wellbeing to colleagues.
That ‘Do-it moment’ we all felt as we huddled inside our homes has stayed with many, including me. Side hustles aren’t new, but 14 million people have them. What is different is that 40% of 55+ people set up an enterprise on their own in the 18 months to March 2021, according to YouGov.
I had been motivated for years to improve my lifestyle and broaden my career. Lockdown wasn’t a personal epiphany. It just gave me the nudge to activate long-held resolutions.
Further eye-catching research undertaken by Porter Novelli has found that across all demographic groups a staggering 75% of Britons have set new goals coming out of lockdown, with 57% wanting to stick with positive changes they have made to their lives.
I get that many aren’t privileged or lucky enough to pivot into something new. But the pandemic has shifted our horizons, not only in what we expect of ourselves, but also regarding the companies we interact with.
Linked to the Do-it moment is the ‘say-do’ gap. This is the distance between what businesses say – as brands and through their goods – and what they deliver on. Enlightened consumers are demanding more of the firms they buy from or use. In response, companies are having to take a hard look at not just the services they provide, but where they stand on matters of global significance.
Some 63% in Porter Novelli’s survey believe that firms forget about social issues once they are out of the news headlines. When asked how they expect companies to take action, the most popular answer was to “recognise previous mistakes and say how they will improve” (51%), followed by 41% who said selected “look at their supply chain and where they spend their money”.
These were seen to matter more than making public pledges of support (33%) or donating money (39%).
With the media ready to come down hard on firms that don’t model good behaviour and with public expectations sky high, the walk clearly counts far more than the talk. As a business, succinctly explaining to employees, customers and investors how you plan to close that gap is critical. This can range from your position on Black Lives Matter and the global climate emergency right down to the hyperlocal.
Knowing what issues matter at a community level is an insight that companies could well benefit from.
The WhatsApp group our road established to assist vulnerable neighbours at the start of lockdown has morphed into an altogether different forum. Now the discussions centre around petty crime, sharing and repurposing goods, street flooding and forthcoming events.
Whether it’s rallying for policy change, setting up your own business from your bedroom, becoming a micro influencer, or writing a book, people have discovered they can really ‘do it’ for themselves.
This trend has no age and crosses national boundaries. With the cost of education creeping up, many are turning to setting up their own ventures. Mums are becoming influencers, grandparents are starting side ventures and teens are inventing new web products.
What does this mean for companies? People will simply take the shortcut with someone else if you are not giving them what they need. Or, failing that, they will simply just go build it for themselves.