If the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated one positive thing in the UK, it’s the extraordinary courage, dedication and commitment of our key workers across the country. The virus has shone a light on the vital work they do every single day, providing essential services that simply must keep running, no matter the circumstances.
It’s not just the doctors, nurses and care home workers that have been on the front line either. It’s the bus drivers, the police, the school teachers, the supermarket workers and the prison officers that have continued to put their lives at risk to keep the country running. Global pandemic or not, most of these workers must show up for work at all costs.
At the same time, the COVID-19 virus has also demonstrated that many industries don’t require all their employees on site. Companies are facing up to the fact that remote working in 2020 really does work and employees can remain connected from home. It is yet to be seen how COVID-19 will fundamentally shift our everyday lives in the long term, but increased remote working (for many of us) is a strong possibility.
With key workers required on site, while others can work from home while maintaining productivity, shouldn’t we be doing more to prioritise where our key workers live and their proximity to work?
If you take London in particular, it doesn’t seem right that a nurse has a 60 minute commute from out of town, while a private sector worker on a higher wage can live more centrally AND work remotely anyway.
Something has to give. We carried out some research back in 2017 that found that 54% of ‘blue light’ emergency service workers that serve London do not live in the city. That percentage is likely to be even higher now. Spiralling rents which have increased by over 20% since 2011 are exacerbating the problem.
As we look to the future, we must prioritise and protect the wellbeing of our key workers that will never have the luxury of working remotely.
Currently in London, key workers including the police, health, education and those working in non-profit sectors are being priced out of the areas they work in by high rental costs, despite giving so much back to the local community. This is fundamentally wrong.
One of our initiatives, LOWE Key, prioritises key workers in select property (over anyone else) with an affordable rental solution close to their place of work. Currently 40% of our guardians are keyworkers. However, we can (and we will) do so much more.
Our key workers are rightly being celebrated right now. But praise on its own is not enough. We hope that once this pandemic is over, there will not only be a new found respect for all of our key workers, but concrete changes will be made by the Government to support them. Here at LOWE, we will be playing our part too.