I have not been writing COVID diaries lately (the latest one is from June) but it was pointed out to me that our two lockdowns add up to 5 months, and as this last one has been extended adding up to at least 6 months, I think it is time for some celebratory COVID feelings.
I remember being much more optimistic during the first lockdown, probably because it was warm and I did not know it was going to last what feels like forever. Now it is more about enduring, trying to pass time in a way that does not feel too much like I am just passing time waiting for my life to start again. Of course one can say that I am privileged (I am) and there are so many things I can still do, but the problem is, I don’t want to. So I work and watch TV.
Things to remember when I look back on this time:
- We have to wear surgical masks when we go to the only places that are open: supermarkets or restaurants for takeaway food.
- There is not much daylight, so I pretty much go out for walks or bike rides only during the weekends. Which is when all the other people are also out walking or riding because it is the only thing we can do.
- When you go out, you can’t go for very long because it is cold and there is nowhere to pee.
- You are allowed to meet only one member of another household which practically means that you don’t meet anyone very often, and the ones you meet live nearby.
I don’t even want to say that I cannot go to Finland because of course I basically could, but it is awkward and risky because rules change all the time. Other people travel and congregate, and justify their travel and congregation, or actually we all justify any rule we break, because the fact that COVID is not gone is not our fault, it’s their fault. And I am envious of my Finnish friends because their life is almost normal.
It is so odd that the video meetings have become a lifeline because in the end they are quite awkward when it comes to interaction. It is very difficult to create a cosy vibe when your conversations cannot overlap or include silent moments, you have to stay put or you make the other parties nauseous, and somehow at the end of the day you feel like you should have an agenda because we cannot just hang out like this, can we?
But maybe we will learn, we have definitely learned to work like this. I have been at my current job for almost 9 months and still haven’t seen most of my colleagues in real life. Seeing their physical bodies is always a surprise, it feels like you are meeting them for the first time although you have known them for months.
Many companies are coming up with new ways of organising work. Many go for the so-called hybrid method which allows the employees to choose where they work from: remote, office, or both. This model will probably be the most typical because it caters for everyone’s preferences and does not require companies to provide good remote working conditions, but at the same time it is also likely to be the worst. We would still primarily be on video calls, but we would not optimise our processes for remote, and the people going to the office would also have the benefit of ad hoc conversations (both work and social) and the cushion pleasant social interactions provide against isolation.
A couple years ago I ran a future thinking workshop at my previous job. Our topic was mobility and smart cities, and our scope was 20 years with both tech utopian and dystopian scenarios. One of the groups tasks led them to create a city where no one goes anywhere anymore: most of your experiences are virtual and everything you need is in your home and what you don’t have, you get delivered by the poor people who would still move around. Sounds like right now, except that these dwellers did not suffer from isolation, they studied philosophy and wrote poetry. Utopia or dystopia?