The COVID Diaries: service provider 4

The following interview is with an Australian-based service provider to the debt capital markets. It was conducted on 13 May 2020.

Does your business have a timeline for returning to office working – and are you looking forward to it?

We have a central management team that reviews information including government advice on flexible and safe working arrangements. Working from home has operated very smoothly for our organisation so we won’t make any hasty decisions. That said, returning to the office does offer certain advantages for me as I prefer to be in a more structured work environment. I am looking forward to it, but going forward I will work from home more than I have in the past.

Has your view of the crisis and the nature of the challenges it presents changed? It seems Australia has prioritised public health over the economy, at least in the medium term. How are you thinking about that trade off?

My views have evolved as the picture becomes clearer. In the early stages of the pandemic, uncertainty caused a high level of anxiety particularly in relation to the health and safety of staff.

This anxiety has eased as restrictions have brought the COVID-19 infection rate under better control. However, the economic consequences are still taking shape. As it presently stands, Australia – compared with a number of other countries – has avoided a more serious health crisis.

Australia’s choices will undoubtedly be judged in hindsight and, as Warren Buffet says, “the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield”.

Are you more or less optimistic about the crisis than you were during the early acceleration period of moving to home working and adding social distancing measures?

I am more optimistic about Australia’s ability to manage the pandemic and my business’s ability to handle disruption, but I am less optimistic about the economic outlook. Factored into my economic view is the potential for a second wave of infections and the prospect of an escalation in trade wars.

Some sectors of the economy will rebound more quickly than others – the important question is: which ones?

“Personally, I am happy to follow recommendations put forward by health experts. A second wave would be far more economically damaging and should be avoided as much as possible.”

Do you think Australia should accelerate the easing of restrictions?

Personally, I am happy to follow recommendations put forward by health experts. A second wave would be far more economically damaging and should be avoided as much as possible.

How do you think things will be different when we get back to normal? What changes can you see to work practices, social changes and the economy?

I expect a slow return with social distancing and travel restrictions having a significant impact on work practices, particularly meetings and events. People are also more likely to pay closer attention to personal hygiene.

However, I also believe people and society have short memories. I am from Brisbane, and I noticed – and was surprised by – how quickly house prices in low-lying areas bounced back after both the 1974 and 2010-11 floods.

A key trigger for post-COVID-19 confidence is an effective vaccine, which I am sure would restore normality quickly.

We have been asking people what they have been reading relating to the crisis but we think everyone has seen enough by this stage. What are your entertainment recommendations for lockdown: books?

Number one is spending more time with the family. We have enjoyed a lot of good laughs over the last few weeks, unfortunately most of them at my expense. Overall, I believe it is a return to the simple things like pottering around the house and garden, playing with the dog and saying hello to the neighbours. It’s also been nice to hear kids around the neighbourhood playing with their parents.

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