The Ernst & Young ITEM Club report, published on 20th July, continues the gloomy economic tone. They forecast that the coming recovery is going to be slow, and painful. It seems we all have several more years of "porridge" ahead of us. What has been playing on my mind is what the legacy of this period will be? I am wondering whether any of the traumas we are going through will result in lasting changes in behaviour?
Consumers are tightening their belts in lots of ways: shopping more scrupulously, cooking more at home, taking up knitting, growing their own vegetables, being more careful of their energy usage, vacationing closer to home ... etc., etc. ... you fill in the gaps. All good eco-friendly stuff, some would say. Speaking personally, I have put off replacing my car for another year, and I'm planning a low-cost holiday in Barcelona this year by renting a small apartment and flying with a budget airline (NOT Ryanair)!
Employers, too, seem to be approaching this recession a bit differently. Many appear to have more of an eye to the impact their actions will have on employee morale than they have in previous recessions. We are seeing innovative ways to reduce employee costs without laying off as many workers as they might have in previous recessions, for example, by offering career breaks on reduced pay, or asking staff to work reduced hours to preserve jobs.
Many of these recession-driven strategies could be seen as positive ways to live our ongoing work and home lives. But, as anyone trying to lose weight or give up smoking will tell you, it's not the initial effort that matters, but whether you can make adaptations to your lifestyle so that you sustain a change for good—what engineers call "permanent set."
Is it too much to hope that some of the better new habits we are forming as consumers and employers will survive the recession? Which recession-driven habits do you hope will stay with us for good, and which will you be glad to leave behind?