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Business community plays its part

Patrick-Large

AMIDST the many harrowing things happening during the pandemic, there have been some inspiring stories. The dedication of health and other frontline workers and the public's appreciation of their commitment has been uplifting to say the least.

And despite the dire situation facing the economy, we've seen companies and businesspeople rise to the challenge too. The story of the production line that has been operating in Mid Ulster District Council's Meadowbank Sports Arena through an initiative by Bloc Blinds to create protective visors for health workers has been well covered in the media, but is very much worth reiterating.

So too the efforts of O'Neill's Sportswear in Strabane to make hospital scrubs for the NHS to protect frontline staff treating patients with COVID-19.

There's also the Hero Shield initiative – a not-for-profit venture set up by a group of local firms who wanted to help key workers in this time of crisis – and a wide range of other companies that have put their shoulders to the wheel to manufacture hand sanitiser, face masks and more.

Yes, some of this is born out of a need to diversify and adapt as demand for their usual products and services disappeared. But I know that there is also an underlying sense of duty there too; a desire to do something positive to help during this time of crisis. There is no doubt also a sense of duty in wanting to find work to keep valued employees in jobs.

And I know there is real passion amongst employees of companies playing a key role in the fight against COVID-19 too. From manufacturers of essential items to food firms and more we've seen dedication and diligence when society needs it most.

At Novosco, I know that our teams working for NHS clients have always taken enormous care and pride in their work but this is even more the case now than ever before given the importance of the health service in dealing with the virus.

I think the way the business community has responded to COVID-19 says something about the way our economy has been developing and adapting over recent years. We've seen perhaps a new more caring approach to doing business emerging.

Climate change was one area in which this was happening as companies became more environmentally conscious. We also increasingly saw it in relation to efforts to safeguard the mental wellbeing of employees, and more broadly as more and more companies were seeking to do the right thing by their staff, their customers and local communities. This has really come to the fore in recent months.

I've also been inspired by the way so many companies have adapted to keep the show on the road. Many implemented in a matter of days and weeks the kind of digital and operational transformation that might have taken years in more normal times. Employers and employees worked in partnership to make this happen for the long term benefit of businesses. I know that many of our clients have brought in new systems, new processes and new technologies at a very rapid rate that would barely have seemed possible in the past.

There will be many legacies of this pandemic. The legacy of digital transformation will be one, and could be viewed as a positive. But I certainly hope one of the main legacies of the pandemic is that the more caring approach to doing business that we have seen during this crisis endures and indeed is expedited. Businesses play a crucial role in the economy, and in society they can and should be an incredible force for good.

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