Yesterday [23 March] marked the anniversary of the UK going into its first lockdown since the Covid pandemic outbreak.
Thinking back to a year ago, I could never have imagined how much my life – and the rest of the world – would change in such a short amount of time.
As lockdown started it didn’t take long for me to swap my work clothes for pyjamas, and my afternoon tea for wine. While it felt like a well-deserved break at first, I soon began feeling the effects and challenges of working from home. We’ve all heard about how nonverbal cues play a major role in how we communicate, but it took the lockdown for me to truly understand.
The pandemic made me realise that the essence of communication – and more specifically, good communication – is one of the most valuable things in our everyday lives that we take for granted.
Team meetings were via video conferencing software and immediately many of the dynamics of in-person meetings were lost. Add on glitchy Wi-fi and the ability to mute yourself and go off camera, and all the things that make communicating so wonderful were gone.
Joining the Pumpkin team as an Account Manager during lockdown also added another layer of communication challenge. Who do I report to? And who reports to me? How precious those initial in-person meetings are when starting a new role. Without physically meeting my colleagues it was at times hard to feel supported when you’re speaking to a screen. Similarly, I sometimes felt I wasn’t sufficiently supporting people in my team.
The communication challenges continued and spilled into my everyday life. After spending endless hours on Zooms and Google Hangouts, the last thing I wanted to do when finishing work was do the same again to speak to my friends and family. Even doing my weekly grocery shop there was the constant physical barrier of protective screens or face masks.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the importance and need for these barriers and am grateful for whatever protection I can get. But at a time when so many people were yearning for connections and conversations, I couldn’t help but notice every hurdle in my everyday life which prevented that from happening.
But in all this turmoil there were also positives. I picked up the phone more often to check in on family and began contacting old acquaintances. I realised that a simple “hello” and “how are you” could mean the world to someone and vice versa. On my morning walks I took every opportunity to say “good morning” and interact with people. The lack of human interaction that the lockdown imposed inspired me to proactively seek out people and make connections.
So, what did I learn in the past year about communication?
I learned that good communication is essential and a privilege – one that I will never take for granted again. And despite the communication challenges, lockdown did bring back some welcome humanity in the way we interact with each other – and I hope that continues once this is all over.