Corona..

It’s the 30th March, and I suspect everyone has had quite enough about corona virus haven’t they? For some, like my colleagues in the NHS, my girlfriend in the supermarkets or my friend driving HGVs across the country, the criticisms are very pointed and concerning. They are very much on the front line of this crisis, and in many cases, they’ve gone from feeling dispensable, underappreciated (and under paid!), to being the critical workers of a Nation. There is a genuine fear (or perhaps sadly, an inevitability) that once this is over, there will be no reward, and they will return to the realms of under-appreciation. But there is no time to worry about that now though, as they have a very difficult job to focus on and real heroes do not what they do for approval or wealth.. I think of them everyday and am so grateful for what they do. We’d crumble overnight without them.

Given this! It often feels hard for me to grumble too much about it, from the safety of my own home, with a supporting employer and the luxury of a pay-cheque (for the next few months at least!). I am also minutely aware of how glad I am that this is happening in 2020, rather than 2010! The current state of technology is such that I can generally work very effectively from home, I’ve even found that my outputs have, if anything, been better since the shift. I’ve found that with Teams, I’m contacting my lab more frequently and the ease of small brief chats with people not tied up with bureaucratic strings of needless meetings has been a great advantage. Zoom has also been a really great tool for organising massive meetings, where Skype falls a long way short. Now I try thinking back to 2010… Lab meetings via Facebook messenger? 30MB limits on email attachments? No decent cloud storage service? Not sure how I’d have been able to do anything at all.

The truth of the matter is, I work in an industry that is fully and unashamedly reliant upon technology. It’s our biggest strength and our Achilles heel at the same time. The mediocre delays of IT support, remote desktops to install drivers and out-of-date software causing PC failures was a consistent companion of research pre-Corona. However, as soon as the University shutdown, the importance of these systems became paramount and the whole world seems to be working more effectively as a result. It’s actually been very refreshing! As a man who tends to put excessive hours into my job, it’s been interesting seeing how many of those hours were going to fruitless activities..

An upside of this realisation is that once you correct it, you can actually restore a bit of your work/life balance. I should suspect there’s millions out there who are finding that, without the tedious life-admin tasks and the constant “busy work” of life, you actually have quite a lot of time left over. I’m hearing from so many families who are discovering that benefit of this free time, and how they are able to actually ENJOY the time together. Myself, I’ve actually been able to log off at 5pm, spend time learning to cook, playing boardgames with my housemates, talking to my Mother on the phone, improving my guitar, getting the garden tamed, learning basic carpentry etc. It makes me wonder whether we may learn something from all of this? If asked to describe our lives, pre-lockdown, it’s my instinct that almost everyone would have included the word “busy” in the top 3 words. While this may never change, maybe we can evaluate just WHY we are so busy and where our time goes. This new forced approach to efficiency, self-care and internalism is brought about for a terrible reason. It’s something that, for all our sakes, should end ASAP. But, there’s no reason we can’t try to find silver linings, make the best of it and hopefully pick up some good habits along the way. For now, stay healthy, keep washing your hands (it can’t exactly hurt can it??) and, for goodness sake, stay isolating!

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