Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown ordered by the government terms like self-isolation and social distancing held a whole different meaning for most of us. As of February 2020, for most of us social distancing wasn’t a term that was commonly used and self-isolation meant simply wanting to be alone and avoid interacting with others – i.e. avoiding social connections with other people – is that the same as being socially distant? One can only wonder.
It’s the sixth month of the year 2020, the lockdown has been eased and new measures announced. Now, having experienced a lockdown, there are a number of things we wish we had known about isolation/social distancing/working from home before the start of the lockdown. Here’s our list of what we’ve learnt.
Social distancing: When social distancing measures were initially announced most of us probably thought to ourselves “this is going to be easy, how hard could it possibly be?” how wrong we were! Between having to constantly remember to maintain a 2 metre distance away from people outside your household, the endless queues at the supermarkets and remembering you can’t shake hands with friends or even hug family members who don’t live in the same household – social distancing is a lot trickier than we thought. Even going for a walk can be tricky – pick the wrong time of the day and you could easily find yourself having to weave off and on the sidewalk, walk in a zigzag pattern or do the two-step every few minutes, all in an effort to maintain social distancing.
That said, a key learning point is that while maintaining social distancing in very important, what’s even more important is remembering to remain socially close to friends and family, but from a distance. Picking up the phone and calling loved ones, arranging video calls, attending birthday parties via zoom and even meeting colleagues for drinks using Teams – those are the important things.
Working from home: The new normal that is working from home definitely has its perks, it affords you flexibility – you can wear whatever you want and work from literally anywhere in the house; saves you lots of time as you don’t have worry about the long commute in to the office. The list of the positive things we’ve discovered since the lockdown started is endless.
However, while working from home can seem like a dream, it definitely has its challenges that I had to learn the hard way. Prior to the lockdown, working from home was an occasional event that one could easily manage and actually look forward to. When it becomes an everyday occurrence it’s easy to underestimate the number of distractions around the house especially when you have to home school the kids as well. Don’t forget the struggle it is to actually find time to exercise more or how hard it is to fight the constant urge to snack uncontrollably every time you go grab a cup of tea from the kitchen. One of the hardest things about working from home that I wish I had known prior to the lockdown, was being able to socialise with colleagues.
Even though colleagues are just a phone call away and the use of our collaborative tools makes it easier to get things done, nothing beats having face-to-face interactions and being able bounce ideas off co-workers when you meet by the coffee machine.
When will it end: Something that we all wish we knew at the start of lockdown was exactly how long it was going to last. The lockdown period kept being extended every three weeks till it all just became a blur. While the start of the lockdown was understandably an uncertain time for everyone, it seemed like other countries had better control over the situation, acted sooner, and were able to give more solid advice to the public about what to expect and about how long this would last for. Thankfully a number of businesses have been able to adapt and transition to remote working – albeit somewhat painfully – which is something that we believe many people would have liked to have known sooner. On a positive note, for most employees, being able to work from home means less money and time spent on travelling to work every day – especially if the majority of their work can be done from home.
The end of the lockdown is in sight and things may soon return to “normal” or something resembling “normal”. Most of us are waiting with bated breath ready to be unleashed at some point in the coming days and weeks. As much as we enjoyed working from home, after 3 months of lockdown most of us can’t wait to leave the house and get back to the workplace and finally physically interact with our colleagues – even if it’s for a few days a week.