Bye Bye Lockdown – Hello New Normal
As we approach significant easing of the lockdown rules, I find myself looking back on the initial stages, and the dreaded fear we all experienced at the start of this pandemic.
I know everyone’s situation is uniquely different and we’ve all got our own challenges to face, however, what I have discovered, so far, are a few gems in the rough – positives in an overwhelmingly negative world situation.
Working from Home
As we start to return to workplaces and find a “new normal”, alternative working patterns will also help reduce commuter traffic and help with social distancing measures. However, at the outset, I must confess to being a bit sceptical regarding the concept of Working from Home. I thought it would be impossible for some and ‘overrated’ for others. My pre-pandemic self thought people would just linger in bed a little longer each morning….Sneak a bit of catch up TV in the afternoon…. Slip away early a few evenings….And how it would be a bit of a trial, with minimum interaction with colleagues. How wrong, I was!
Of course, it was a learning curve, requiring not only self-discipline but also extra effort to adjust to the new normal which highly depended on virtual interaction. You become conscious that you must make it work.
I developed a routine, getting up earlier, having a proper breakfast. I logged on a lot earlier than usual and in the evening stayed logged on a bit later than normal. I’m fortunate that technology allows my industry to function reasonably close to normal during the pandemic. I’m not sure I necessarily work longer hours, but I would posit that the hours I do work are more productive.
Technology has allowed us to stay in touch; God Bless Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
So now that we prepare to a return to our “New Normal” and get ready to go back to the office, what have I learned throughout this lock down phase?
- Daily Commute: Firstly, I’ve learned I certainly didn’t miss the daily commute; 30 minutes, if I’m lucky (double that if not). It is straight into gridlock and ditto on the way back. Not having to commute resulted in a minimum of one hour each day that was banked for me. Mostly, I spent that time walking and generally enjoying taking time for me. To such an extent I was clocking up 5-7 kms a day. It also meant I was typically getting an hour every day under the sunshine (how lucky we’ve been with the weather!). I’m now fitter than I’ve been for a long time and even have the look of someone just back from the Canaries.. In the course of these walks, I got to know a lot more of my neighbours and discovered common interests and learned more about them and their families.
- Cooking: I learned to cook, or at least improved my cooking skills. It’s amazing how creative we can get in the kitchen when it’s put up to us. I discovered local suppliers that delivered to my door. I order now from my local butcher online and get goods delivered next day. Right now, I buy strawberries, eggs, and new potatoes from my old friend at the side of the road. I’ve never eaten more healthily. I hope to keep that up. Mind you, I also look forward to a trip to my favourite restaurant.
- Missing sports but falling in love with books again: As a sports fan, I was in a bit of a tizzy when all the events were cancelled; how would I spend all this leisure time. I reacquainted myself with books. Now they’re my comfort blanket. I have two or three on the go at any one time ranging from History to pulp fiction. A few of us exchange recommendations, and I’m continually open to suggestions.
- Music: As options on TV declined, I tuned into more music (pardon the pun!) Hit the rack of old CD’s and dusted down Frank and Ella and even gave Miles Davis a twirl. And with respect to Alexa, it doesn’t match the sound of a CD. And let me mention RTE Lyric FM. Marty in the Morning smooths my troubled brow before I log on to start the working day. You can listen to everything from Puccini to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. And in the absence of sport on Saturday afternoon, I discovered a little gem on Saturday afternoons: music from the Movies. The great John Barry’s James Bond scores, ET, Superman, and even Jaws, that bring us back to those soaring themes that we almost forgot. Not sure what I’ll do when the sport returns!!
- Netflix: And of course, there’s Netflix, and Amazon Prime and Disney etc. When we meet on our walks, the conversation comes around to the latest movie, series or documentary that might be of interest. I find myself watching all sorts of unusual stuff; a documentary of F1 for God’s sake. But absolutely riveting, even for a novice such as myself. And I’ve discovered that there are great movies and TV series in languages other English; try some of the Scandinavian Noir or French thrillers. If you’d enjoy some Parisienne chic, look no further than “Call my Agent” A Netflix original.
- Sound of silence: But most of all, I will miss the solitude. The calm, the quiet, the peace and the option of being alone with your own thoughts, and the absence of background noise and chatter. I enjoyed the “sound of silence” I would consider myself to be a reasonably social animal, but I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m a closet “Loner”; quite comfortable with my own company at times. To paraphrase Hemingway’s Moveable Feast, I hope it stays with me whenever I go.
Lockdown has had many challenges and testing times, but it has also brought many little surprises and introductions to new ways of doing things.
Returning to the office after COVID-19 will be a monumental transition for all organisations to a new way of working.
How’d your lockdown go?
(Director) BBS (Hons), MBPICS – Shannon Office
Joe Robbins is co-founder of CareerWise Recruitment. A graduate of the University of Limerick (Degree in Business Studies, 1985), Joe worked in the UK for five years where he specialised in materials management, production management and plant management for a number of companies.
He returned to Ireland in 1992 to become Operations Manager for a Cork-based start-up, FMC Automotive Division which was subsequently taken over by Snap-on Equipment. Joe managed the business re-location of this company to Shannon in 1997 before setting up CareerWise Recruitment in 1999.
He is a committee member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Mid-West region, and a former Director and Vice President of the Shannon Chamber of Commerce. Joe is former Chairperson of the Sixmilebridge Camogie Club and current Chairperson of the Clare County Camogie Board.