Lockdown Life: Musings From the One-Month Mark
It’s Monday! And that means another blog from PR and content expert, Anthony Peacock. This week Anthony writes about linguistic development, workplace shifts, ‘forced team spirit’ and our newfound dependancy in the face of the one-month anniversary of the coronavirus lockdown.
People all across the country are having to learn an entirely new language right now: and that’s nothing to do with lockdown resolutions to become fluent in Russian within two months.
No, the vocabulary that people are having to learn consists of words such as ‘Zoom’, ‘Microsoft Teams’, and ‘House Party’, together with useful phrases such as ‘your call is being held in a queue’ and ‘how do I unmute myself?’
There’s also scientific terminology such as R value, morbidity and – this for the advanced class – zoonotic. Not to mention everyday conundrums such as the difference between isolation, self-isolation, and social distancing.
The way that many of us work has been radically changed, and it’s actually quite hard to gauge how people feel about it. The corporate message people are expected to send to their colleagues – especially at a time when many are losing their jobs – is that they can’t wait to get back to the office, and time spent working from home is a period of immense professional and personal frustration.
Privately, many of my friends – or those whose income is secure, at least – tell me that they’re absolutely loving it. They love not having to commute, travel to meetings, see their colleagues, or get up as early as usual. As one person I know well put it recently: “what’s there not to like?”
And yet the whole process is still challenging – but in ways you might not have imagined. Take the video meeting, which so many people have been subjected to on a daily basis since last month. There’s so much time lost establishing connections, then ensuring everyone can hear each other and then circling back to things already discussed as and when people drop off. It’s also hard to know when to speak and when to remain silent, leading to loads of ‘no, sorry, after you’.
Even worse is the impromptu game of ‘through the keyhole’. There are plenty of comments on the background décor, tidiness of your room, and sometimes peoples’ clothing choices. Not everyone would choose to invite their colleagues into their homes for several hours each day, but that’s what many people are effectively forced into doing.
One friend works for a company, which to foster ‘team spirit’ has enforced a compulsory half-hour ‘drinks at home’ session for all employees on a Friday afternoon: where work talk isn’t allowed and you have to socialise online. Everyone is encouraged to bring a different drink and explain why they have chosen it.
On the face of it, this sounds fun and well-intentioned (as it probably actually is) but just think about it for a second: enforced jollity, in the sanctuary of your very own home? Even if you’re busy or just not up for it? It’s a degree of workplace control into your private life that’s never been seen before.
Coronavirus has additionally meant that shops are enforcing social distancing measures and closing early. So if you’re working, getting out to do some shopping has become practically impossible – every trip can mean a lengthy excursion – while it’s easier to find a winning lottery ticket than a home delivery slot.
The sharing economy has also collapsed: there’s effectively no AirBnB anymore and to get around you need to have your own car – nobody wants to share theirs with you.
So you make do with what you can, or find a volunteer to shop for you, or settle for a tin of spam and a few old tomatoes from your local shop (just be careful they’re not trying to fleece you: one friend is still complaining now about how he paid £2 for two tomatoes…)
The odd thing about this current way of living is that it’s making us strangely more dependent, at a time when everyone is being encouraged to fend for themselves. There have been lots of examples of enterprise and entrepreneurship but at the same time, more people than ever before are dependent on government handouts – just for business survival. We’re also completely reliant on the state for information about when it’s safe to go out, and when we can resume everyday life.
There’s no suggestion of any conspiracy theory here – although the irrepressible David Icke has been putting out loads of them – but it’s the closest thing to absolute rule that most of us have ever seen, hence the current debate about police powers and the much more serious controversy about what has happened in Hungary, with the prime minister essentially declaring a dictatorship.
Questions have also been asked about what’s being done to ease this country out of lockdown, with the central one being: does the government have a plan and is just not sharing it – or is there no plan at all? As usual, you’ll hear different experts saying different things, but relatively few experts are genuinely independent: most are in the pay or debt of an interested party, so there’s an agenda. Who do you trust? Opinions differ widely: from life getting back to normal relatively soon, to life never being normal (as we knew it) again.
No wonder a lot of people are feeling anxious right now – and that’s before you even start worrying about your likelihood of catching the actual disease…
For more reading about the lockdown, here’s more of Anthony’s coronavirus content: