As the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to stay home for extended periods of time, staying indoors has become the new norm for many. The lockdowns have had tremendous effects on societies around the world. However, I believe that we would feel the impact more in African societies and cultures. Things we took for granted before have now become privileges for us.
I got excited about the entire lockdown without understanding the constraints and restrictions. I did not even know the meaning of a lockdown. It is originally a prison protocol to prevent people, information or cargo from leaving an area. I had thought this was a great opportunity for me to rest from all my frequent travels back and forth which were now taking a toll on my health. I thought I would be able to have my alone-time and just not have any commitments outside of my house. I did not link the lockdown in any way to the pandemic. I just thought it was time to slow down and rejuvenate.
As the lock down progressed, my perspective began to change on various aspects of life, and I have the lockdown to thank for that. I have benefitted tremendously from this lockdown, and I share seven of those benefits in this piece.
I did a lot of reflection on my life in the first few weeks about my life. I would say, using my financial terms, I did an ‘end-to-end stock-take’ of my life. Confined to my house, I realized that I just could not simply get up and go out. I could not visit family members, especially ones that you just stopped by to see daily or regularly. I just had to stay at home.
I began to take stock of things I used to do before that, because of the lockdown, I could not do anymore, but yet did not miss. I also started looking through the things that I used to do that I could no longer do because of the enforced lock down. Those things created a void in my life.
I reinforced my thoughts that indeed material things did not matter so much. Everyone was now playing on one plain field regardless of status or wealth. We were all locked down and could not leave our homes.
The lockdown made me value my family even much more. I reconnected with my two teenage children who would normally have been in boarding school. As a family, we sat together and talked more. I got to understand more about what was going on in their spaces. We cooked meals and ate together, connecting and bonding more as a family.
My husband and I got to educate them on our upbringing. We shared experiences from our boarding school days in Nigeria, and the values and beliefs we learnt then that have made us who we are today. We all realized that all we had was one another. We had to make the best of our time together bearing in mind that we might never have such an opportunity to be together in the same place for an extended period of time, like we have now.
This period has also allowed me change my mindset on so many things. I have had to relook at how I have approached my future, career path etc., understanding that we will never go back to how things were. Pre-lockdown and the need to start working from home, I always thought that you had to be physically present for your presence to be felt. This has now changed. I now know that I am more effective working from home than I was going to the office every day. I can plan my day and time and get the best balance. This lockdown is proof that jobs we thought could not be done remotely, can actually be done from home.
Concept of Remote Work (Working from Home): It was a very new concept for me to continuously work from home over an extended period. I have embraced occasional remote work over the years. I normally would work from home 2 days a week. However, never in my life would I have thought that I could perform my role effectively working form home continuously. I have now been home for over 10 weeks! Yet, I have been able to function in my role, and lead my team effectively as well.
I learnt a few things and I have some advice for effectively working from home. This was not a success from week 1; I had several issues and challenges, all of which I overcame. I have shared below some tips to help your remote work, considering most jobs will still maintain the concept when the lockdown eases finally.
- Ensure you have the right infrastructure, tools, and equipment i.e. a dedicated workspace, great internet connectivity, laptop, office chair and table etc.
- Communicate your work-hours with your family and your line manager. This is quite important, especially if you must support your children and other family members at home. For those working at home with young children, create flexible working patterns that suits your children’s needs.
- Follow same routine as you would have if you were going into the office. Wake up, shower, and dress up. Use your office drive time to ensure you get your workspace ready for the day. Make your cup of tea or coffee. If you would have normally stopped by at some off your colleagues’ desk as you arrived in the office, please give them a call and use that as your stop-by opportunity. Socialize and check-in with your colleagues online.
- Ensure your calendar is well managed and you block out time for your lunch, tea-breaks, comfort breaks etc. Do not accept back-to-back meetings as this will have a huge toll on your wellbeing. Set ground rules with people so they do not bombard your calendar with invites that can be easily achieved with a 5-minute phone call.
- Ensure you walk around a lot and maintain the right health and safety rules that you would have had to adhere to in the office.
- Do not forget to take your sick leave and annual leave where appropriate.
- Do not be too hard on yourself, stay positive and ensure you look after your mental wellbeing.
Embracing technology: Hmm. This was an area I was not too comfortable with. I would normally not explore technology, but the lockdown and remote work have made me fully embrace it. I have had to have an open mind to embrace the technology that has been thrown at me during this period. Zoom conferencing, Microsoft Teams etc. I have also enrolled myself in as many trainings as I can to ensure I am able to navigate seamlessly with all these platforms that would now be my normal way of working.
Financial Readiness post Lockdown: One must start using the lockdown period to take stock of expenses and start curtailing them. This pandemic will result in a huge economic downturn, which will impact all of us. We must become very frugal with our spending.
Ensure you start adopting a savings culture. Put money aside for the future. Look at your expenses and prune the unnecessary spending. We should all be saving from social activities now and I hope that we are all now losing appetite for large parties and functions. The expenses that are attached to those functions can be saved.
Support Structure: Lastly, I have learnt to appreciate my entire support structure. It is very easy to take all these people for granted when they are there for you at your beck and call. I spoke to a lot of people who had to send their domestic staff away due to the pandemic – especially those that had their staff coming in daily – to limit the risk it was best that they stayed away for the lockdown period. This has put a lot of strain on some families. You also get to appreciate the schools, your mum’s place to drop off children, day-care centers, family, nannies, drivers, cooks, gardeners etc. They are real essential workers. I believe the lockdown was a good period to re-assess our life and priorities, and ensure we take stock of the things that now matter to us and those that do not. I have used this period to take stock of things than I now want to start, stop, and continue. I can tell you that my ‘continue list’ keeps shrinking day-by-day as my perspective changes. The things that I though mattered, just as we started, have changed, 10 weeks into lockdown. And I am sure the list will keep changing. Please ensure that you take a good look at these things and re-prioritize.