By Sophie Morello, Associate Partner
As the pandemic has put the brakes on economic activity, it has given us pause for thought on how we can #buildbackbetter and embrace a green recovery, but what about building back happier too?
We know that for many, Covid-19 has had a punishing effect on well-being, be that directly or indirectly through the upheaval of lockdown and the far-reaching economic setbacks. McKinsey reported this week that in Europe (a consistent leader for well-being), in April average life satisfaction fell to its lowest level since 1980. In March, the ONS revealed that almost half (49.6%) of people in Great Britain reported “high” anxiety – a stark contrast to the findings from the end of 2019 (21%). Also, the proportion of people reporting “low” happiness was 20.7% between 20 and 30 March, when it was only 8.4% in the last three months of 2019. But even before the pandemic, life satisfaction or happiness had a way to go, as for the first time since 2011, 2019 saw a ‘significant’ fall in measures of contentment (ONS).
The statistics paint a depressing picture of our national mood, and point to the need for any recovery plan to factor in wellbeing too, not least because it will help improve productivity; an absolutely essential element to sustainable economic growth. There is an inextricable link between happiness and output, one of the reasons why our government (and others) have tracked it since the financial crisis.
But while most people will have experienced new stresses and strains during the pandemic and overall happiness may have suffered, there are many things that people are now more grateful for and our newfound appreciation for the simpler things in life could permanently reshape our economy and make us happier in the longer term.
Many of us have been forced to work from home, which has unburdened people from the daily commute, freeing up more time for exercise, creativity and time with family. As working from home has proven so successful for many businesses, the freedom to spend more time at home looks set to stay. While for the low paid key workers that have soldiered on, the central role they play in society has finally been recognised, and hopefully that appreciation will continue and lead to better pay and working conditions.
Having been denied access to gyms, cafes, shops etc., we are more connected to our green spaces and have discovered new things in our local areas. And the pause on our fervent materialism has slowed down the pace of life and complexities of modern living. With the coming together of communities, workforces and friends and family to support each other through this extraordinary time, perhaps we have laid the foundations for a more connected society too.
After all this, I hope that we have sown the seeds for not only a more sustainable economy but also a happier, more balanced life. #buildbackhappier