Wednesday 25 March 2020 12:05 pm

Debate: Is it appropriate for businesses to invoke a ‘wartime spirit’ during the coronavirus outbreak?

Rob Nowell is marketing director at Edge by Ascential
Jeremy Hine
Jeremy Hine is chief executive of MullenLowe Group UK

As the coronavirus outbreak curtails practically every aspect of our daily lives, some have compared efforts to fight it to the fabled “wartime spirit” of World War II. Is this appropriate, asks City A.M.?

Read more: UK retailers most pessimistic since financial crisis amid coronavirus outbreak

Yes, says Rob Nowell, global marketing director at Edge by Ascential

Around 80 years ago, World War II caused entire sectors across the UK to grind to a halt, people’s everyday lives were disrupted, and everybody came together with a strong sense of community spirit. Sound familiar? 

Today, life as we know it has been put on hold too. Our biggest high street brands are making bold gestures, and this is exactly what we need to boost morale and encourage a sense of pride and togetherness that will ensure we are in the best possible position to take on the challenging times that lie ahead. 

This mindset should be embraced by all businesses. Grocery retailers are already leading the charge, with competition law barriers relaxed and shopping hours adapted to serve the vulnerable and our key workers on the front line. If a “wartime spirit” enables more business generosity and community initiatives during these uncertain times then I am all for it.

Read more: UK coronavirus lockdown: Michael Gove warns of tougher punishments

No, says Jeremy Hine, chief executive of MullenLowe Group UK

A “wartime spirit” rhetoric implies we are at war. Yes, we have an enemy in Covid-19. But as a society and global community, we can only protect ourselves, not ultimately fight it. It is here, and until there is a vaccine, it can’t be eliminated.  

The fight needs to be inwardly focused. During this time protection, connection and optimism are key. We all want to protect society, employees, our businesses and those of our clients. We need to find new ways of working and challenge the norms. 

While working from home, we must communicate fluently, frequently and transparently. This will build yet more cohesive and collaborative communities, inside our businesses and across the nation.

There is often little optimism in wartime — this must not be the case now. We must be hopeful for a cure, an economy that will bounce back, businesses that will bloom again, and a workforce that is more agile, efficient and strong. Resilience, kindness and courage beat adversity.

Read more: Hancock calls for 250,000 coronavirus volunteers as government readies London mega hospital

Rob Nowell, global marketing director at Edge by Ascential.

Jeremy Hine is chief executive of MullenLowe Group UK.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.