Life in lockdown – what will we learn?

As Ministers yesterday announced a further ‘minimum’ three-week extension to the coronavirus lockdown, I reflect on the first four weeks of social isolation.

March 23rd 2020 will go down in history as the date the Prime Minister addressed the nation and told us all to stay indoors –  unless you absolutely had to go out for work, buy essential supplies or you were getting your recommended maximum one hour of daily exercise.

For me, March 23rd 2020 was my son’s first birthday. It will now always be remembered in our house as the day we had a picnic in our campervan on the drive and then video-chatted with our friends, so all together they could sing him ‘Happy Birthday’. It wasn’t quite what we had planned but it was still special and maybe even more memorable.

Since then, like many people, I’ve fallen into a new ‘norm’, juggling work with childcare and counting my blessings for being safe and healthy. I’m thankful that Tonic is surviving, particularly after all the blood, sweat and tears we have ploughed into it over the past eight years (this June), and that Kelly and I always planned for a rainy day – making sure we had enough of a buffer to pay all the bills and our employees’ wages.  We’re faring well and are still operating business as (nearly) normal thanks to quickly taking advantage of Government support measures and because we have valued clients in the healthcare space who still genuinely have lots of great news to share.

Life has definitely slowed down and of course there are moments when a face-to-face meeting would be more beneficial than a Teams call, but generally, people have been quick to adapt and everyone I’ve spoken to appreciates that ‘we’re all in this together’.

While COVID-19 is a very real and terrifying threat, the power of positivity is more prevalent during this period, than I ever remember in my lifetime. Rainbows in our windows, the feelings of camaraderie as we all stand on our doorsteps and clap for carers, the positive news stories of people fundraising (take a bow Captain Tom Moore) and significantly for me, appreciating the everyday things which I often overlooked – birds tweeting, trees blossoming and the sun on my face – are amounting to special moments.

It’s hard not to be philosophical about why this is all happening, after a particularly tough 2019, in which political uncertainty and Brexit seemed to be doing its best to rip the country apart, COVID-19 seems to be the catalyst for balance.

So, what will we learn from this and how will things change? It’s too early to tell, but once the pandemic is over, hopefully things won’t just go back to the old ‘normal’. I hope we recognise the working day should be about delivering outcomes not just sitting at a desk for 7.5 hours, that a slower pace of life continues to be observed, that open collaboration between companies becomes more commonplace and that we consider the environmental impacts of our meetings – do we need to travel or will a video conference suffice – particularly as we’re all pros at it now!

I have already learnt invaluable lessons about Tonic’s resilience and couldn’t be prouder of our team for quickly adapting during this time. And, after agreeing only a few months ago that we needed more focus ‘on’ the business, Kelly and I are now getting our wish – more quality time to reflect and plan for Tonic’s future. The landscape post-coronavirus may be a little different to what we originally had in mind, but our values as an ethical PR business operating in the healthcare, retail, transport and leisure sectors remains. We can use this time to adapt, to make sure Tonic comes out even stronger. As American author H Jackson Brown eloquently put: “When you can’t change the direction of the wind – adjust your sails.”

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