So its been just over 3 weeks since the official lockdown was announced here in the UK by our PM Boris Johnson, and the changes to our lifestyles have made society almost unrecognisable as a whole. With everyone being asked to stay at home and physically interact only with their household unless they are a key worker, our homes have now become the hub of our everyday routines. These changes were initially seen as temporary measures , however it is becoming more and more apparent that this could really be the new norm for the foreseeable future.
During this process we have been given no choice but to strip back everything and reconsider what we actually deem to be essential to our lives. Whether it be the material things we spent our money on, "important" tasks that took up our time, keeping us from friends and family, or distances traveled for work and education on a daily basis.
Below I've taken a look at 10 ways our society been altered in such a short space of time and questions it poses about how we were living our lives previously and how we may proceed post Covid-19.
1. Workplace Flexibility
Many people were previously commuting to and from work, spending hundreds of pounds a month on travel, possibly creating strained relationships with family as they leave at dawn and slump back home at dusk. This has been the work norm for society for so long that not many people have really questioned if working on location was necessary for their job role. It was accepted as a part of the rigmarole of everyday life.
This pandemic has essentially forced us to reevaluate what work can actually be carried out at home as companies have had to figure out how their businesses can continue to run off site. With these changes to workplace flexibility, we have been introduced to many different terms that we wouldn't usually associate with our job role. Redundancy, furlough, temporary leave, short-time working, all a variety of ways of saying your hours are being cut. Whether temporary or long term, with or without pay.
Thankfully there have been a selection of financial support life lines put in place for both business owners and employees. These come in the form of things such as; the Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme, Corona virus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Universal credit and various other options that can be found on the www.gov.uk website.
The sheer volume of businesses that have had to adjust or even completely close amid the Covid pandemic is unbelievable. The question is now how cost effective it will be for many businesses to maintain their business whilst in lockdown, and how they will cope reopening once it is over?
2. Home Schooling
Since my daughters have been off school & nursery I have received an abundance of links from school and through friends. Links to educational resources and free or reduced services to educate children at home. Celebrities such as Carol Vorderman(maths), David Walliams (creative writing) and Joe PT(PE) are even offering education for free online. All this free access to education just reminds us how accessible all this wealth of knowledge has always been. Parents have somehow been transformed into nanny teachers, many having to work from home themselves.
Whilst we have had an abundance of access to resources, I personally felt the pressure of performing as a qualified teacher (which I am not!) for two completely different school ages let alone one. I already held teachers in high regard but now definitely have a new found respect for them!
People have found their ways around the change, from timetabled days, to alternating school work days, and some reducing school work completely. This has also been an opportunity for some to enrich their children's curriculum with subjects such as black history, horticulture and cooking to name a few. In these uncertain times I don't think anyone can say there is a right way to do things, you know your children best and should do what you feel comfortable with. Don't beat yourself up about it, no-one is expecting you to be an expert in productivity and OFSTED are not coming to inspect you at your home!
We've been advised not to go anywhere! Planes are grounded, buses and trains are running on reduced service. According to government guidelines people should only be leaving their house if :
They are a key/critical worker doing work that cannot be completed at home,
For basic necessities only (as infrequently as possible)
Exercise once a day in your area with members of your household.
For that reason my car is feeling mighty abandoned and looking real dusty! During the week all I really used it for was the school run and work, and since both of those are eliminated it's a non essential commodity for most people!
With no gyms to go to and no need to frequently use cars or public transport for non key workers , many people have turned to long walks, runs and trips to local parks for their daily exercise. The way I see it, that can never be a bad thing! Not only are we getting more exercise in general and connecting with nature , a proven boost for good mental health, but we are also giving the environment a break from all the fumes and toxins emitted. I for one hope this can continue post Covid-19.
Now I don't know about you, but as I've hardly left my house, my clothing essentials have been reduced to a bare minimum. I basically choose between two go to styles. "Pyjama Chic" or "Vintage Bohemian Casual"! The latter involves layering up mismatched cozy items recovered from my wardrobe, snugly topped with my trusty hooded dressing gown!
With no particular place to go and no requirement to dress up and go "out out" I am embracing the realisation that no matter how much I think I have to buy reduced items for this and that ,
realistically I can get by just fine without. Now is as good a time as ever to exercise restraint on impulse buying and do a spring clean of the wardrobe as there is plenty of time to spare!
I currently seem to be an advert target for numerous online sales of lounge wear all of a sudden, but so far I've done extremely well avoiding the binge. Lets see how that pans out in the summer!
With many clothing companies having to close hundreds of stores, there have already been a lot that have been hit financially and many won't make it out of the other side. The social distancing measures put in place are no doubt going to accelerate retail bankruptcy.This no doubt will force us to reevaluate how important shopping at our favorite stores really is once we can leave our homes. Will retail shopping in person be a thing of the past by the time we reemerge?!
Since social distancing was put in place we have had to get creative with the way we socialise. Popular methods at the moment include video calls , live interaction on social media platforms, and group or conference call apps such as Zoom or House-party. Personally I'm not usually big on phone calls , I'd rather text, but since the lockdown it just adds a bit of comfort to actually see each others faces to bridge the gap.
Even with being stuck indoors people have still managed to get inventive with how they let their hair down! We've had live sets from DJ's and even online brunches hosted where you sort the brunch and the drink and they provide the music! Instagram "live" has drawn a lot of interest from app users as some celebrities have been hosting their own talent competitions, where people join live and share with the world.
There are even apps such as Rave that allow you to connect and watch films together at the same time.
As a bit of an ambivert myself this has been the perfect kind of interaction for me as I don't have to leave the house or get a sitter and I'm sooo close to my bed! Equally though, I can definitely say I will appreciate at least one night out shaking a leg when all this is over!
Since witnessing the panic buy frenzies and major fast food restaurants closing their doors, my relationship with food has been so different! No longer can I just pop out for some milk or go food shopping after work once collecting the kids from school. Now a food shop feels like a full day out. Like a warrior excursion leaving the safety of my cave. Braving the extra long queues, navigating my way around people that haven't quite figured out what a six foot gap looks like. My mandatory mask and glove accessories add to that apocalyptic feel and definitely make a trip to get those cheerios seem way more duty bound than ever before!
On the up side I don't think I've ever rationed so much in my life or ever been this consistent with food prep , specifically to avoid those excursions! I even learnt how to make bread, taught over video call by my daughter's Nana, to limit my bread trips. Of course then came the problem of the flour shortage because apparently the whole world wants to bake now , not just me! Needless to say I'm actually enjoying watching everyone's cooking accomplishments on social media as they're helping me keep my own lockdown menus exciting!
I've had a significant amount of extra time on my hands, not having to do the school run or work trip and this has given me a lot of time to reflect. This extra time is something many of us could only have dreamed of and to a lot of us it is very alien. I personally began the lockdown trying to fill every spare moment being productive and creating timetables etc. However, as the days seem to have blurred into one I've realised my lack of chill has been due to the everyday fast pace I am used to. I've slowly learnt that embracing my free time by spending it with my girls or having a lie in is just as fulfilling and has taught me patience.
A lot of people are used to being in full control of their lives , having all the facts. But this pandemic is something that leaves a lot unknown as questions remain unanswered. In particular when our own government doesn't seem to know all the facts, it can be very nerve wrecking to think of our lives in their hands. However on the upside we have no choice but to exercise patience as we still know nothing about the length of time we will be in this situation or what normal will even look like in the long run.
Yesterday the extension on the UK lockdown was officially announced, adding another 3 weeks minimum. I can only hope that the faith and patience developed during the first few weeks will carry us through and forward once this all ends.
As with many tragic circumstances, Covid-19 has created a high sense of unity among us. It isn’t very often that everyone in the world is at risk of the same danger at the same time. The severity of this virus is being felt by everyone as it does not discriminate. The risk is there regardless of colour , creed , religion , region or country. The rarity of this world wide shared experience makes the situation almost that little bit more bearable as we all know everyone is in the same boat.
The little things such us Clap for the NHS on Thursdays at 8pm and Clap for the children on Sundays at 3pm, really add a nice sense of camaraderie to a situation where a lot of people can feel quite helpless in their homes and disconnected from others. It's really important that we take the time to appreciate everyones contribution to helping society run smoothly at the moment , from the people risking their lives by going out to work everyday, to the people staying indoors to prevent spreading the virus we are all invaluable right now!
9. Social Status
The same way Covid-19 does not discriminate against colour or creed, its affects also have no mercy on what position your job role is perceived to be on the hierarchy of social status. Ironically many low paid or minimum wage job roles have remained in place. These are viewed as key worker status and are some of the few jobs accessible to anyone who may be seeking an alternative income.
Again ironically the workers that have previously had to fight, strike and protest for higher wages for their invaluable contribution to society (NHS staff,emergency services, public transport workers and teachers) are now acknowledged for their importance and remain in place as Critical Workers. These are some of the people currently still risking their lives to help society run.
Now obviously our entertainers , salesmen and alternative job roles always brought value to society but I can only hope that once all this is over, we all have the same admiration for the people that have kept us going through this hard time! I would hope that their wages and treatment would also reflect this.
10. Goals & Values
Pre Corona, if you were asked what is important to you or what would be your perfect life, many of us would of said we desire financial security. Perhaps in order to spend more free time with family , friends, go on holidays or endless shopping trips. Now many of us have all the spare time in the world, and if we are lucky enough we can also communicate with family frequently, albeit via technology. Holidays and shopping trips have temporarily been taken out of the equation , so what will this space and time be filled with?
If this is a long term situation many of the material things we feel enhance our lives may not be accessible. I really hope for many of us this time can be used to re-evaluate what is truly important to them. Connect with yourselves, write down goals and dreams , appreciate the now, because although it makes sense to make plans for the future (if you fail to plan you plan to fail), situations like this are a first hand example of how unpredictable life can be. If you can't be content in yourself and don't have steadfast values and beliefs, it can be difficult to stay grounded among adversity. If you're not quite there yet just take each day as it comes, feel what you feel and do when you feel like doing!