A year in lockdown

Jeff Bezos with parcels
During lockdown, we’ve ordered so much from Amazon that I sometimes expect Jeff Bezos to personally deliver a parcel to thank us

12 March 2020 was the last time I worked outside my home. Except for a couple of days in the Endava office in October/ November (more on that later), I’ve been working from home since.

Sometimes it’s been too easy to mentally distance ourselves from the reason why we’re in lockdown. Personally, it feels that each time I’ve got into the new rhythm of working from home, I’ve had a dreadful phone call that someone I know has been moved to a ventilator in hospital or passed away.

Here are some of the highs and lows of the last year.

  • Where does time go? I seem to have less time than pre-Covid! Workdays flash by, and weekends go in the blink of an eye. My theory is that work flies past because days are spent in back to back work calls. Perhaps it’s a lack of those short breaks we used to have in the office (a cheeky dash down to the shops to buy a drink or snack).
  • I have become the parcel room of our house. I work closer to the front door than the rest of the family, so I always answer the front door when the doorbell rings. One day I expect Jeff Bezos to personally deliver an Amazon parcel and thank our family for making him the richest man in the world.
  • I’ve started some new hobbies. I’ve done some virtual training courses, some work ones, including an AI course on Coursera run by Google, and some hobby related ones. I was never into gardening, but we now have part of a vegetable allotment and we’re growing vegetables in our garden at home.
  • Old habits die hard. I’m still waking up at 7am and wearing a shirt everyday at work, although I stopped ironing my shirts last April!
  • Everything in the house seems to be going wrong, much more than it used to. We’ve had roof leaks, several plumbing problems, appliances breaking – the list goes on and on.
  • Exercise has changed. I used to cycle into work most days (13 miles/ 20 km/ about 50 minutes each way) but now I go on a static bike only 3-4 hours a week (on Zwift). I also started a running challenge to run every street in my local London Borough which is a ridiculously tough challenge (after a year I’ve covered only 35% of the roads). I can’t work out when I used to have time to visit the gym three times a week.
  • Socially – damn it’s tough. Zoom is OK, but in person is much better. When the weather is OK it’s really nice to sit on neighbour’s front drive. We used to entertain lots of friends and family at home, and we’re missing this.
  • Food. We rarely used to have food takeaways or deliveries, but we now have one night every week when we order food. We have a rota between my wife and the four kids where each of us cooks for the rest of the family one night per week.
  • Last November I hit a bit of a mental wall. Last November, once my kids had all returned to school and my wife works in a school too, I was at home alone during the week. Each week the house felt lonelier, so I started going back into the office once a week to break the week up. (On a side note – my motorbike broke down on one of those office days, and on each of the other two office days, Boris Johnson announced an immediate lockdown the next day).
  • Personal stuff has been put aside. I don’t want to look at a screen after work! Over the winter holiday break, I had a long list of personal things to take care of and I only managed one of the items – I just didn’t want to spend more time on my laptop.
  • I have read a lot of books – Princess Diana (5 stars), Humankind (3 stars), Radical Uncertainty (4 stars), Pale Rider (4 stars) and Shoe Dog (5 stars).
  • At work we’ve recorded and released an entire first season of podcasts – 34 episodes. I’ve enjoyed recording them and being able to interview a variety of interesting guests.

What will the future will look like a year from now?

  • The most important priority is to sort out some normality for our kids. We need to get children back into school, for them to socialise ‘normally’, spend time in fresh air, and being kids. We need to help our university students – this is such a crucial time and transitional experience for them to grow into adults, experience ‘freedom’ (living away from parents) for the first time, and probably meeting people from different backgrounds. And we need to help graduates moving into work.
  • We need to find a balance between returning to offices and home working. Experienced workers might want to continue to work from home – but they are needed back in the office to mentor junior work colleagues. Informal mentoring and guidance are vital for the next generation. Think of all those conversations overheard in the office where someone else helped chip in their opinion. We need to find an equilibrium between our social interaction and the convenience of working from home.
  • It will be easy to forget that parts of the world won’t be vaccinated for some time. It might be several years before some countries are vaccinated. Many of us will do our best to put this episode behind us until we consider travelling to a place that still has Covid.
  • Local businesses and The High Street. People will crave a return to social experiences. People will want to walk around shops with friends. Online shopping is great, but it’s a poor social experience. I expect coffee shops to be packed as soon as we can return, and this will continue for some time. Some businesses will inevitably close, but humankind is resilient, entrepreneurial, and we have been through worse than Covid.

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