These are unusual times for all of us. I’m deliberately using a neutral word, rather than saying difficult or challenging. Lockdowns, social distancing, and quarantines met each and every one of us at a different point in our lives and brought us different challenges accordingly. There are financial woes, and the need for human contact, each felt in a different volume, shape, and form by different individuals. It is important to remember that even if the days seem to stretch on and on, this situation is not permanent. It's not forever. This too shall pass, and we’ll emerge slightly changed from it, both as a society and as individuals. Some lessons we’ll only be able to fathom in hindsight, and some are already forming before our very eyes. So what conclusions can we draw from the lockdown so far?
1. A LOT Can Be Done From Home
Until a couple of weeks ago, working from home did not even seem like an option to most people. Until there was no other choice. And then it occurred to us, how almost everything that we did in the office can be done... from our couch. How so many meetings actually could have been emails. Many employers have even initiated Virtual Happy Hours or Virtual Coffee Breaks to maintain a sense of community in the workplace.
Of course, online interaction cannot fill all of the needs face-to-face interaction does. Research has revealed that in creative assignments, for example, work teams perform better face to face. And some jobs are simply impossible to do remotely. So, is it possible and likely that working from home will become the new norm after the pandemic’s end?
Not entirely, but it will certainly become a much more common practice, and many companies will change their policies about it. It can reduce the cost of employers’ real estate and be beneficial for employees who proved that they can do it successfully. Rather than having everybody at the office, or everybody working from home, it will most likely be a hybrid of the two.
2. Buying Less Is Possible
Lockdown posed a threat to many people’s salaries and work security. But it had one upside - I suddenly realized I just stopped spending money unnecessarily. Obviously, travel costs no longer exist, but there is more to it. As the days turned into weeks, fewer and fewer purchases seemed vital. Lockdown made it easier to tell the difference between the things I want and the things I need.
Cooking at home aids sustainability. Cooking our own meals is healthier, and with so much more time on our hands, we could work out and develop habits of sustainability. I, and many others, I’m sure, have become more aware of what exactly we have at home and how to make the most of it, even getting creative with leftovers. The global financial situation is likely to be shaky for a while, as going back to normal will be a gradual process, so those new spending habits are an asset to preserve.
3. The Power of Nature
Not only do these changes in buying habits help us cut costs, but they are also environmentally responsible - fewer plastic packages, more seasonal and local food. On the bigger scale - the people of Delhi, the world’s most polluted city, now experience the freshest air in decades. The same is true for other cities like Bangkok, Sao Paulo, and Bogota. Animals noticed the absence of humans, too, and started showing up in spaces that are usually too populated with people.
It's true that all of these wonderful things are happening while we are confined to our homes, and so we can’t necessarily enjoy them. Those lucky enough to have a garden or live in rural areas, and certainly those that don’t have these privileges - we all understand how important nature is, not only as a resource but to our mental health. Hopefully, this understanding will prompt humanity to treat planet Earth with more care.
4. Be Critical of Our News Consumption
The new situation has made many of us obsessed with the news. But I soon found out that less news intake is a whole lot more. There is a reason many mental health experts have advised limiting our news intake to once or twice a day. Staying up to date is important and can ease anxiety, but getting too caught up in media reports can be a trap.
There is an influx of opinions, assumptions and calculated guesses which can be misrepresented as facts - and while interesting, too much of it may actually increase anxiety. Lockdown has been helpful in developing this awareness - which media channels are trustworthy, right for me, and how much news consumption is healthy for me.
5. The Appreciation of Freedom
When news about the lockdown in Wuhan started circulating in January, the measures taken by the Chinese government seemed draconian. It seemed impossible that these rules would soon apply to all of us. As cliche as it may sound, this unprecedented state has made us appreciate all of the little things that made up our lives before all this started - which can all be put under the umbrella of freedom.
We were free to get a haircut. We were free to buy coffee made by a stranger. We were free to visit our family and see our friends whenever we pleased. If anything, the lockdown has taught me how valuable and indispensable this personal autonomy is.