Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Five things I hope we keep as we come out of lockdown
After a year and a half lockdown in the UK is finally over. I don’t intend to address whether this is a prudent measure or not, but it’s happening. What we’re going back to is not normal as we knew it, it’s going to be a new kind of normal. In addition to changes that might feel strange, we have a real opportunity to take some of the things we’ve learned in lockdown and use them to make life a little better. In this post, I decided to list 5 things that I hope hang around.
1. Hearing kids in the background of conference calls
Before lockdown, it was rare to hear any background noise in any conference call. The mission of attendees was to present the image that they existed solely for the purpose of work. As we had to move into our homes we had to make do with workspaces in shared areas and that brought with it attendant noise and disruption. Personally, I love hearing the noise of children playing in the background of conference calls. It keeps me reminded that however tense the call might be, the other attendees are people too. It’s humanised the workplace and in doing so has taken some of the stress out of the day-to-day. I really hope that as the world opens up we retain that sense of humanity. There’s nothing wrong with hearing kids playing in the background, at times it injects a bit of levity and I think we could all do with that.
2. Remembering that offices don’t need to be 9-5 or Monday to Friday
Another point in the same vein is about offices and how much we really need them. Yes, for sure, it’s good to collaborate in person, but do we need to be there between 9 and 5 Monday through Friday? No, we don’t. In some job roles, it’s necessary to be in situ, but in an office-based role, it’s just not. If we can let go of the notion that people work best when we put them in an office (and separate them by cubicle partitions) not only can we create a more flexible and lower-cost organisation, we can have a more diverse workforce. I’m now in my mid-40s and know tons of women who have had to leave the workforce due to childcare commitments. Many businesses now run on a 24/7 basis, so the notion of having people work fixed hours in a fixed place just doesn’t apply. So what if someone wants to start later so they can do the school run? Does it matter if they do their hours? In a lot of situations, it matters not at all and we stick to these rules simply from the convention. So why not let people have a life that sits alongside work?
3. Not taking the family for granted
Living a reasonable distance from both my parents and my in-laws I would pop over a couple of times a year and I took that for granted. When lockdown hit we were too far away to be part of any ‘bubble’ and as a consequence, my children did not see their grandparents for months. That was horrible but, the good side was that whenever we had the opportunity we made sure that we saw our parents and in-laws. In the melee of life, it’s all too easy to take things like the ability to pop up to Staffordshire for granted. It’s no bad thing that we now cherish the time that we spend together as a family. I am sure that won’t persist forever, but I do hope that we keep in mind how important our time with family is.
4. Thinking about our key workers
Throughout lockdown, we’ve become aware of how reliant we are on people to help us live our lives. We all knew before that our doctors and nurses were very special people but where would we have been in lockdown without the delivery people, the postmen, and the people who braved the danger to go and work in our supermarkets? It might be tempting to go back to a world where we forget the contribution our key workers make, but let’s always keep in mind that unless we can grow all our own food and dispose of the attendant waste, there’s a quiet army of people that keep our world running.
5. Keeping in mind that people succeed as a group
During the lockdown, we had to act as a cohesive unit. We all had to obey the rules and do our part, whether that was working in a test centre, wearing a mask when we were told to or simply asking ourselves whether we really needed to go out. I don’t think that was such a bad thing. Humans are powerful as a group but not so useful on an individual basis. It’s unlikely the pyramids were built by one particularly motivated builder or the railways by a single steam enthusiast, even flight was invented by two brothers. The lockdown reminded us that when we are challenged the most effective way to meet that challenge is as a coherent whole, not a group of individuals. Of course, we are individuals but when we work together we become more than the sum of our parts. I hope we can apply this knowledge to some of the other big challenges we face in the world.