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06.04.2021 By Rhosalyn Green, Manager, Current Global Health

One year on – 10 things I wish I knew about lockdown before it happened

Young woman sitting on edge of her garden working on a laptop. She is wearing a striped top.

Here in the UK we’ve been working from home in a lockdown scenario for over a year now. We’ve all got to grips with Teams and Zoom, although I still forget I’m on mute half the time.  We’ve created makeshift offices in the corners of our bedrooms, kitchens and for those sunny days if you’re lucky, our gardens. We’ve all adapted to balancing our work from home life, with our personal home life.

With that in mind, may I present the advice I would’ve given myself before entering lockdown, when face masks were just something you wore on Halloween and Happy Birthday was a song you sung on an actual birthday.

1.Public health is truly universal

The daily grind of COVID-19 headlines, the health authorities and their acronyms, pharma companies and their vaccines, all will become familiar to everyone, making their way into casual, socially distanced, conversations with neighbours, friends, and family for years to come. This will open the door to more meaningful conversations about patient care, access, and availability overall. We’ve witnessed health as a unifier and we now have an invested interest more than ever.

2.Audiences have changed

In the year that saw us contact our GPs virtually and get our prescriptions via food delivery apps, people will change how they interpret and interact with healthcare. The acceptance of this increased digitisation means that access to healthcare is literally in the palm of our hands. This new appetite will accelerate how we communicate and respond to the needs of our audiences.

3.The way we work has changed forever

The days of bundling into a meeting room and batting ideas around in a shared learning environment will be irreplaceable, and not something that can be easily replicated virtually. That is a creative challenge to overcome. But, adapting to these new ways of working allows focused moments and offers us a chance to develop and trust our own voice and instincts more deeply.

4.Change is a necessary part of our growth

There are certainly times when the repetitive nature of this new lifestyle will become unbearable, even for the most resilient among us. There are only so many walks you can take before you get bored of the same scenery. However, finding ways to experience change differently, in our day to day, will do wonders for our personal development. Sometimes the same walks can show us something different about ourselves because we are more tuned into how we are feeling on that particular day.

5.Communication is easy. Communicating is hard

Emails, WhatsApp, Teams, Skype, Zoom, WebEx, Slack – the list goes on, and finding a way to connect has never been so easy. But the nuances have gone, the tone in your voice and your expression cannot be seen. These things get lost when using virtual platforms and whilst we are battling the ongoing call invites in our calendars, use those meetings smartly and effectively, using the time to communicate what we need. Identifying how to communicate and cut through the noise requires persistence, but ultimately clear, succinct messages that resonate will win every time.

6.Plan not to have a Plan

With so much uncertainty still to be wrestled, 2021 will remain a difficult year to plan. It’s happened to all of us: cast your mind back to early 2020. That event you were planning in May that you’re still mourning. It’s truly the year of the Plan B (or C or D…). Having that ability to flex and bend to the shifting climate and find solutions creatively will serve us well in all areas of our life. After all, we should be ‘living in the moment’ and the past year was a practice run like no other.

7.Productivity peaks and troughs

Working from home allows for flexible working beyond anything the traditional workplace has encountered before. Initial concerns how this may affect a teams’ structure or productivity were squashed early on when most businesses adapted to this new reality. We’ve seen productivity soar. However, adapting back to office working may see this productivity dip as we adjust to life re-opening and are able to socialise again and make up for lost time. And what a lot of lost time…

8.It’s okay, to not be okay

The last year has seen us all connect to colleagues in ways that we probably couldn’t have imagined. We’ve all experienced the emotional rollercoaster of the impact of the pandemic. In many ways, the physical distance has brought us closer together. Perhaps because we now know not take people’s presence in our lives for granted in the way we used to. We’ve opened-up and allowed our colleagues into our lives (and homes) in ways that we never used to and have shown support, compassion, and empathy throughout because it’s truly ok to not be okay sometimes.

9.The future is full of excitement

We’ve identified and ditched systems and practices at work that are not efficient or as useful as we once thought. We have an opportunity to create the work experience around what matters most to people. This is not just in workplace settings like mine but everywhere, we’ve seen the rapid digitization of healthcare service delivery, we’ve seen the uptake of new digital tools that will allow us to work more efficiently – I’ll be carefully looking at how different sectors bridge our ‘old world’ with the ‘new world’ and what improved outcomes will fall out as a result of this re-engineering.

10.Finally, hobbies are annoying

It’s fine to not be that person who said they were going to have “so much more free time now to [insert aspirational hobby here].” Face it: you won’t have more spare time. Things will take longer to do; time still gets filled and you may not have the mental capacity to take on yet another new thing in the backdrop of lockdown.

You will, however, find time to binge watch Tiger King and 12 months on, still know this was time well spent indeed.

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