Darren Lawrence

Learning from Lockdown

We’ve all been through the same thing, but we’ve experienced it differently.

 

During May and June, I ran 6 weekly polls on Linked In asking questions about how people were dealing with lockdown. The topics covered productivity, wellbeing, optimism for the future, job changes and career aspirations,  planning and goal setting, and who people looked to for support.

The poll attracted between 13–30 ‘votes’ each week and 116 in total with the ‘results’ needing to be viewed with caution, as it is clearly not a representative sample. However, the conclusions gleaned from this exercise were that:

  • The majority of people (60%) felt they had been more productive during lockdown and only 15% reported being less productive
  • 70% felt their wellbeing was better than before, or at least the same as prior to lockdown
  • 73% were optimistic about the future, workwise
  • The majority of people (62.5%) had no plans to change their role
  • Very few people were working towards goals set out in a clear plan, preferring instead to work to some broad outcomes
  • In general, people access support from a wide range of people as opposed to one main person.

I have to say that some of these responses were unexpected! In a global study of over 2,700 employees across more than 10 industries undertaken during March and April and reported in the Harvard Business Review, 75% of people said they felt more socially isolated, 67% reported higher stress, 57% felt greater anxiety and 53% said they felt emotionally exhausted. This seemed to be the direction of travel.

This, coupled with my own experience (where due to providing the majority of childcare for 3 months my productivity plummeted and at times my wellbeing suffered) led me to believe that these two areas in particular would have been negatively affected. The responses I received suggested this was not the case, reminding me not to make judgements about a situation based on my own experience, and lead to the realisation that we have all been going through the same thing, but experiencing it differently.

Some people had childcare and homeschooling responsibilities, some did not. Some continued to work, especially keyworkers of course, whilst others were furloughed. A number of people I spoke to were enjoying the rest and recuperation away from the tiring daily commute, some businesses struggled to survive and others thrived.

Over the last few days some additional research has been released, it is far more robust and representative than my own, but it still backs up some of the poll responses I received.

According to research released today, researchers from Cambridge’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy found that the coronavirus pandemic initially caused a sharp decline in people’s reported happiness and life satisfaction, but by the end of May this had bounced back to almost pre-pandemic levels.

 

“It was the pandemic, not the lockdown, that depressed people’s wellbeing.”

Dr Roberto Foa, Director of the YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research.

 

The distinction here between the pandemic itself and the subsequent lockdown is interesting. Furthermore, results from Linked In’s ‘Workforce Confidence Index’ shows that confidence among workers in the UK is on the rise. The study concludes that while workforce confidence in general still can’t be deemed as high, it is moving in a positive direction. This supports the responses to my poll in which 73% reported feeling optimistic about the future.

The results of the study can be ‘sliced and diced’ in a number of ways but in terms of the headlines it shows that:

  • Some industries such as construction and IT/software came out as more confident compared to others e.g. retail and recreation/travel.
  • In terms of individual roles, those in finance and business development roles were the most confident, whilst sales, education and arts & design were the least confident.
  • The most confident age groups were Gen Z (those under 25) and Millennials (25-39).

When reporting the Cambridge research, The Independent’s headline stated that ‘Lockdown has made the nation happier’. I think this might be overstating it but my own conclusion is that for most people it appears that lockdown wasn’t that bad, however new challenges are emerging as a result of it.

As Dr Foa suggests, the next few months are likely to bring greater concerns about jobs and income as Government support ends, businesses and the economy react accordingly, local lockdowns are likely and ‘the real mental health challenge may just be beginning.’

So it is clear to me that although we have all been through lockdown at the same time, we have not all experienced it in the same way. Our resilience has been tested at different times and for different reasons, and will continue to be. Our outlook on the future is often not a shared one, depending on our personal circumstances during lockdown, how we coped through it, the roles we have both at work and at home, and the industries we work in. I do believe the real impact of the last few months will not be known for some time.

Therefore as we move through the summer and into Autumn, in a rapidly changing environment, and as part of our continued recovery, it can serve us well to have this awareness when speaking to and working with colleagues and clients and even when speaking with friends and family.

I would be interested to hear what are your learnings from lockdown, and how will you use them to approach the future?

Darren Lawrence is a qualified Personal Performance Coach and works with indivduals and organisations to help them to be more productive, manage change and transition, and improve their wellbeing. For more information about how coaching may be able to help you get the most from your career or life in general, please get in touch using the ‘contact’ tab above.

 

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