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While the pandemic has been a crisis, an emergency and a dreadful time for most of the population, stories are emerging of how some of us – perhaps many of us – can see changes occurring, due to the pandemic, that are actually helpful and positive, and may well persist after the pandemic is over.
To address this, this article is in two parts. The first is a set of responses from a mini-survey I carried out – via WhatsApp – with friends and colleagues. A collection of their responses is given below, grouped under what I think are relevant headings.
The second part of this article draws some conclusions, and predicts how the positive impacts of this period might impact on future work and domestic ‘mindshifts’, resulting in either new ways of working or living, and/or frustrations with ‘the return to the same old ways…”
“I sit around reading and my children join me. A great example to my super-dyslexic daughter…”
“Weekly chats with family and friends that were previously months apart!”
“More patient with my partner!”
“Speaking to and catching up with friends and family”
“I’m homeschooling my boys aged 5 and 9. I’ve decided to do the school work in the morning, and my own ‘fun learning’ in the afternoon. I’ve been able to do things with them that they sometimes miss out on at school, and I’ve learned more about my sons as I see they both learn in different ways”
“I feel closer with the people that matter the most, and I’m valuing quality time together”
“I have discovered so many local walks and beautiful places that I would not have found had it not been for the pandemic. I’ve also discovered the benefits of a daily walk…”
“Morning walks, listening to the birds, and watching the blossom and leaves arrive”
“I’ve loved going out for a walk/run every day, before I start my work. As someone who was usually in the office for 7am this is a real shift for me, and one I intend to continue”
Is there one thing that for you has changed for the better as a result of COVID19, and that you are likely to sustain when life returns to (so called) ‘normal’?
“I’ve discovered I can be quite creative with very little food, so I think I’ll do much less food shopping in future”
“An upside is spending more time creatively than in fire fighting”
“I’ve begun to experiment with new vegan and vegetarian recipes, and I’m generally eating healthier, more wholesome foods, due to having more time”
“I’ve been more careful with food, due to it being in short supply, and so I’ve had less waste – something I want to sustain when this is all over”
“Not wasting anything”
“I will always remember to be grateful for the little things I took for granted before”
“Appreciating the moment and keeping it simple.”
“Seeing and being impressed with so much care and kindness”
“an upside is the incredible sharing and collaboration taking place among my colleagues and our wide networks”
New – and better? – ways of working, at an organisational level:
“Upside is realising that change can happen, quickly. At policy level and at practice level”. “I’m impressed with how adaptable everyone is. Everyone’s lives have changed dramatically, but we’re all finding solutions”.
The one thing that’s certain about the future is….it’s uncertain, and perhaps never more so than now. We don’t know if, or when, we will come out of the pandemic. It’s possible we will live a rollercoaster existence of being in and out of varying restrictions. And it’s almost certain that mask wearing might become part of our culture…but we just don’t know.
Although my sample is really small, it echoes with many of the stories we hear in the media, and most of the actual benefits can be summarised as:
Inevitably, it will be a mixture of responses; and not everything pre-pandemic was bad, nor everything during the pandemic, good. But despite the suffering and loss created by the pandemic, there is clear evidence that some of the consequences have been positive, life affirming, and potentially transformational.
Many people are on furlough, with every intention of returning to work. But how much will people’s perceptions of ‘work’ have changed in the meantime?
Here are some thoughts:
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions”
The pandemic, for all its misery, has created new ideas, new ways of working, and new emotional resonance for many, with what’s important in work and life. Those minded for sustaining such changes may not easily ‘return’ to how it was. If the old guard persists in reverting to how it was, they could easily expect to see stormtroopers at their gates…
(My thanks to all those who contributed their views to help in the writing of this article)
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