Reflections on the year that was….2020!

This is just a personal reflection on an extraordinary year; a year in which almost everything that unfolded was a new experience, a new challenge. Not just to us as individuals, but to businesses and to our legislature – the civil servants and politicians who have tried to patch together first a holding strategy then a recovery, only to be dashed down by the remarkable infectiousness of the dreaded Covid-19.

So we end the year with selective Lockdown Tiers (or Levels) 1, 2 & 3 (and 4 in Scotland & Wales) and huge uncertainty about what will be possible, or advisable, during Christmas.

The impact on the country as a whole has been significant. Lives lost, jobs and careers interrupted by furlough or worse, reports of spikes in anxiety and depression (and all the consequential effects of those silent killers) and yet…… perhaps the construction sector can count itself relatively fortunate.

I know that there isn’t a single members’ business that hasn’t suffered some hardship but, since the end of Lockdown #1, most have been able to establish some kind of ‘new normal’ – operational but not full-steam ahead – which has kept staff busy and given hope of a rapid recovery in 2021 (helped, we hope, by the vaccine roll-out).

So what about this personal reflection?

I’ve been thinking for a while about how the pandemic has changed my life and not all of the impacts have been bad. So let’s review the ups and downs, as I say, from a purely personal perspective:

Good: Who would of thought that using Zoom (or Microsoft Teams) was so easy! Something we probably all thought would never catch on, was no substitute for the ‘real thing’ i.e. face-to-face meetings, has actually surprised us all. OK, it probably never will be quite like a physical meeting when you can see the whites of each other’s eyes during a key negotiation over future contracts.

But it’s not been too bad either. I’ve lost track of the number of successful i.e. effective ‘meetings’ I’ve had with individuals (membership audits) or with colleagues (team catch-ups) or with Groups (open meetings, our AGM, on-line Training). It works and its easy; it’s been a complete ‘godsend’ as a means to conduct near-normal business activities whilst observing all the restrictions on movement and mixing.

Bad: Working at home. I hate it! Well, perhaps that’s a bit strong because I’ve worked ‘from home’ for about 20 years but one or two days a week at home catching up with desk jobs is quite different from the 2020 routine of 5-day weeks in my office with only the walls for company. We are all social animals, some more gregarious than others admittedly, but we all need to interact a bit to maintain a positive outlook. I miss that and look forward to the day when we can all enjoy each other’s company again (at work and otherwise).

Good: Less travelling. I don’t mind the odd trip in the car and fortunately most pre-Covid trips were not too many miles but it does absorb a lot of time. Not working in the office and/or attending face-to-face meetings has freed-up a good few hours a week and I’ve been putting these to good use! No. 1 is that I have developed the virtuous habit of getting some exercise (walking) before I sit down for a hard days keyboarding – good for the soul especially in the winter. Otherwise it’s the environment that wins! Less CO2, NOx, particulates – even noise. All these ‘wins’ will be most keenly felt in urban areas but even my rural location seems a lot calmer with less traffic around!

Bad: Face Masks! Do I need to even say why?

Good. Humour. Right from day 1 of Lockdown #1 my What’sApp inbox has filled-up every day with friends and colleagues sharing jokes. Some about Covid, many not, but all with the intention of trying to reduce the anxiety we are all feeling one way or another. It is definitely a new thing and we have all embraced the challenge (to keep the flow going) with gusto. My most recent favourite is a Winnie the Pooh joke:

Piglet: What would you do if it was your last day on earth?
Pooh: I dunno. Probably just hang out. Maybe have some snacks.
Piglet: But that’s what you do now.
Pooh: Yup. Live every day like it’s your last…..

That’s it folks – here’s to a safe & ‘normal’ 2021

I wanted to end on a ‘good’ point so lets leave it there.

Remember ‘that sketch’ in The Life of Brian? You know, the one where the Palestinian Liberation Front leader (John Cleese) asks “What have the Romans ever done for us”? I think it applies quite well now – but to Covid! Yes, Covid-19 is NEVER going to be viewed by historians as a ‘Good Thing’ but it hasn’t been all bad!

Have a good Xmas and new Year break everyone and lets all say a prayer for a safe and ‘normal’ 2021.

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