What will normal look like?

This is a question we’ve all been asking ourselves a lot lately and somehow it feels like a different question to the one we all asked earlier in the pandemic, sometime around August, when we were getting used to the altered circumstances we found ourselves in……..

…………A year ago we were watching the news from Wuhan with caution but without a true notion of the impending impact, planning work trips, booking holidays and tables at restaurants. Life was busy, fulfilling, enjoyable and by usual measures, quite normal. Then trips were cancelled, solutions sought for new ways to fulfil our working needs and a ripple of anxiety certainly flowed through the place I worked! Then working from home began, for me in mid March, amid a flurry of practice video meetings and temporary re-arrangements of furniture to create socially acceptable backdrops. This was going to be a short term measure after all! I was so relieved that I wasn’t having to manage home schooling for young children too as one of my colleagues did. It was enough of a struggle trying to learn new computer skills and presentation techniques to be able to do the job I usually did from the office. I am in awe of the parents who have juggled that task too.

Then weeks became months and we started to feel that working from home would become common place for many of us, with companies downsizing their office spaces in favour of flexible hot-desk facilities, shops shifting much of their stocks to on-line shopping hubs to maximise their ability to reach the on-line consumer, and restaurants adapting to take away or home delivery services. It was a sort of “survival of the fittest” as far as business was concerned and there were all manner of grants and financial assistance out there to help in the short term – though by no means were all offered the same help, leaving whole sectors unable to sustain themselves. I fear it will be many years before some are restored to their former glory and some will be lost forever.

But from all the articles I was seeing at that time, there was a sense that working from home was proving rather successful, productivity was good, sometimes even better, the work/life balance for many was hugely improved by removing the commuting time and the associated costs, but once the novelty wears off for being able to have an extra hour in bed or dress in sloppies everyday, we are suddenly reminded how empty our lives have become and how much we need the world around us to inspire our “every day”. For some people living alone, food shopping became the only face to face interaction, for others it either cemented or ruined relationships and more worryingly, it is now well recognised that for many people, the extended periods of secluded isolation have had a detrimental effect on their mental health. We are all learning that this new way of life is not the normal we want or need, in order to live fulfilling lives. We need social interaction, for our enjoyment, for our development, for learning, for love and for both our physical and mental well-being.

Personally, I look at life somewhat differently than I perhaps did before. At the start of the pandemic, I had a full-time job that I loved and was extremely grateful that, while it was a product led role, as a business we were adapting the way we worked to be able to offer our customers continued product development. As a family we were also lucky to have outside space where we could escape the computer, enjoy the wonderful weather we were blessed with and not all be under each others feet, plus I had finally allowed myself more time to sort out lots of jobs I’d been pushing aside for ages. Our son started working from our home (with better Wifi than his place!) which meant that he could still “go out to work” each day, a real boost to his well-being, and we worked side by side in our hallway, which I found so much better than working alone. But one of our daughters had returned from University amidst a lot of uncertainty about the way her Sculpture and Environmental art course could be maintained, which brought with it much anxiety, mixed with a lack of inspiration and ultimately, apathy. Lock-down was starting to have an effect on us.

Then after 8 months of working from home I was made redundant. I think that’s when it all became incredibly real. Not only was this affecting our day to day lives in where we could go, who we could see, and I knew that thousands of people had already been dealt this blow but somehow, at 55, losing my job was devastating! I had held this stupid notion that I would be there for another 3-4 years and then think about scaling down, not travelling to far flung places as much, perhaps. But that rug was swiftly pulled from under me and I am now faced with the mammoth task of finding a new job. I can’t think about spending money on anything other than essentials, and I am devoting a great deal of time on job searches, courses on the best way to do that , networking and endeavouring to keep my self firm in my belief that I will find something. My new normal is anything but clear, other than knowing we’ll probably need to wear masks in public places and probably work spaces too, unsure if we will be able to take any of the postponed trips from 2020 or simply have friends over. It’s an evolving process and we all need to understand and appreciate the enormity of the task faced by the scientific advisors, government ministers and above all, the NHS who are living with the impact of Corona Virus 24hrs a day, putting themselves at risk for us all.

So, normal will certainly look different for us all. Who knows where we will be in 6 months time, but for now, I hope you enjoy my musings while I try to think of new ways to earn a living.

Bye for now and keep well!

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