A very different world

This may be a little rambling, so I apologise. I have literally brain dumped things that have been going around in my brain for the past few days.

I guess when we look back at the Spring of 2020, those of us who are living through it might find it hard to explain to others exactly just what has happened to our global society in such a relatively short period of time.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has literally swept away everything that we knew about how society worked. Workplaces and shops are closed, severe restrictions are in place and around 25% of the world’s population are in lock-down. If anyone had said this could happen, we would have thought they were mad.

Yet it has happened, and already I have had 9 days working from home, and have got used to it quite quickly. We are using tools to keep in touch and there are some really inventive ways of doing virtual team activities, so it doesnt feel too bad for me. I am introverted so am quite happy to be on my own, but I imagine extroverts are straining at the leash to see people! On the plus side, saving nearly £400 in train fares is a win 🙂

We are now 3 days into a initial 3 week lockdown here in the UK (we can only go out for limited purposes), and our usual working pattern has gone – getting up, commuting to work, spending time in the office, walking up to people, meeting with them, grabbing lunch, travelling home at the end of the day, having dinner, watching TV or going out, then going to bed and doing it all again. Now we get up, maybe dress, have some breakfast, work somewhere at home – jump on various Zoom calls, stop for lunch, have a walk/run, work some more – with more Zoom calls, finish and then have dinner and watch TV as there isnt much else to do. Then we do it all again.

I will add at this point that it feels weird not to just pop out to the shops or the pub or to get a coffee, go to work, the cinema, to be able to see friends and family, go to Church etc, but we do seem to adapt to changes pretty quickly – and if this goes on for a while, it wont feel so weird, it will feel almost ‘normal’. That will be odd!!

The lack of travelling somewhere else means I need to find a way to separate work from home, and that is to work in a bedroom at a desk. I have a morning routine and start working around 8.30 – it grounds me and gets my brain into thinking that I need to focus on work tasks. The struggle is that we now spend virtually all day looking at a screen, whereas before we would get up and wander away to speak to someone or sit in a meeting. It means a lot less walking and exercise. I hadnt realised this until someone said it to me today, so we have to take care of out physical well-being. Doing exercises in the house every now and then (or garden if you are lucky) will help with that. I have an exercise bike thankfully.

We also have to look after our mental health. Keeping in touch with others is fundamental to our humanness. People genuinely struggle without human interaction, and in my organisation we are deliberately over-communicating to ensure that no-one is isolated. I check-in with my team members each day and many teams are doing ad-hoc get-togethers. Outside of the workplace people are doing virtual parties, pub quizzes, dinners etc just to keep sociable.

I find that taking breaks is important for both mental and physical health, and I am making sure to walk each day at lunchtime. I’ve noticed how quiet things are outside. I can hear birds singing, there is hardly any traffic and therefore 90% less background noise – and it struck me that it must have been like this 150 years ago, and tells me just how noisy we humans are. The impact we have on our environment is immense – yet look after a few weeks in other places just how much cleaner the air is. I feel much more relaxed and then more willing and ready to get back to work again.

Around all this, it’s been interesting to see how people are coming together in ways that we couldnt have imagined before. And within just a few days. We cannot visit people or have visitors, and we must remain 2 metres away from others, but people are really looking out for each other and doing what they can to help. We just stood at our front door and clapped to say thank you to our NHS workers, and saw people down the road who I’ve never spoken to (we have lived here for 13 years) doing the same. Community spirit is an amazing thing – when we give it time to surface. Sadly there are those who seek to turn things like this to their own advantage, but thankfully these are a small minority, a stain on society, but inconsequential when you look at how seriously people are taking the warnings and wanting to stay safe but also help the vulnerable. Over half a million volunteers signed up to help the NHS within just a few days (and the tester in me did wonder how they found time to stress test the site!).

Events like this which have such a far reaching impact into our whole existence must make us take a step back, stop, think and reflect whether we really want to go back to the frenetic pace again once this has finished.

It would be incredibly sad if all we did was revert to how we behaved up until 2 weeks ago, in our own world, rushing here and there, not having time to think of others, missing the world around us, and for many people, missing valuable family time once they are no longer working from home again.

I’m sure there are those who cant wait to get back to normal, for a variety of reasons, but I really hope that as human beings, we can take the time to think how we can change the way we live for the better. Imagine if 10% of us said ‘no’ – not going to do a long commute any more. Imagine the impact on traffic, noise and pollution. Now imagine if it was 20% who said that and the global impact.

We dont know how long this will go on for, but it gives me hope to think that some good may yet come out of this awful virus for us and our planet.

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