There’s been much talk in the media recently about how if people don’t go back to offices to work then towns & cities will become ghost towns.
I find this talk hugely frustrating & short sighted & here’s why. Whilst I’m in no doubt that the pandemic has been truly awful for those people who have lost loved ones & their livelihoods, & those people have my heartfelt sympathy, I believe that for some people the effects of the pandemic has created some much needed relief.
So many people were living their lives at a rate that wasn’t sustainable & the pandemic forced them to slow down & hopefully reassess.
Pre-Covid a huge number of people were undertaking lengthy daily commutes that involved 6am or earlier starts, battling traffic or running for packed trains and getting home well into the evening. Often those people would eat late, wind down with a drink or 3 after their long day, fall into bed late & then get up & do it all again the next day, longing for the weekend or their next holiday.
Whilst Covid has undoubtedly meant that we’ve had to make adjustments, especially during lockdown, many people have found themselves with more time with their family, time to exercise, time to plan what they eat & with no commute they’re able to sleep more & feel refreshed before they start work. Doesn’t that sound better?
The talk of the necessity to get people back to offices is seemingly to save the coffee shops, sandwich shops, dry cleaners & other facilities that office workers use regularly. My view on that is that 30 years ago there wasn’t a sandwich shop or a Starbucks on every corner & people coped. I’m sure plenty of people will return to offices, but I do hope that many will be allowed to continue to work from home, even if only for part of the time.
Where those local businesses have lower footfall, they could diversify by using other ways to reach their customers, offering home deliveries as just one example.
There are areas of modern life that have needed addressing for a long time and I believe that a post-Covid world provides us with such an opportunity:
The pressure on working people
More people are suffering from depression, anxiety & burnout than ever before.
The UK has been facing a mental health crisis for some time. It’s by no means limited to working people, but for the purposes of this post they’re the group I’m discussing.
The daily stress that working people are exposed to, simply by getting to & from work each day, is a huge contributing factor to our mental state. Rush-hour traffic is a huge stressor in itself, as is leaving home incredibly early to avoid rush hour, paying the high cost to take oversubscribed trains, or getting up at 4am to catch a pre-peak time train just to save money. Add in the juggling act of the many demands of modern life, managing a family whilst working full time, caring for elderly relatives, trying to have any semblance of life outside of work & family, doesn’t it all sound exhausting?!
By working from home, even some of the time each week, enables people to use their commuting time more productively; to exercise, to plan their weekly meals, to spend time in nature – all of which are things that benefit individual’s mental wellbeing whilst having a positive impact on society.
Happier people are healthier people & healthier people don’t need to use their local doctor or the NHS as often, as just one benefit.
We are a sleep deprived nation
People are sleeping for considerably less time than they did 50 years ago & society is seeing the effects. Lack of sleep is linked with a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, something else that is a huge cause for concern for the care sector & in society. Lack of sleep is proven to be related to weight gain, as Michael J Breus (who’s known as The Sleep Doctor) said ‘the evidence is overwhelming, when sleep goes down, weight goes up.’
The obesity crisis
The UK is facing an obesity crisis, and whilst more needs to be done in terms of education of & access to good foods, knowing that a lack of sleep impacts weight then cutting out a potentially unnecessary commute has to be a no brainer doesn’t it?
The obesity crisis has become such a prominent issue in the last 10 years + as a result of the pace that people are living their lives. They’re eating on the go & very often grabbing what they can to keep them going, which is usually something carbs or sugar filled.
By promoting a more flexible approach to work, not being required in the office 5 days a week, I believe that people will have more time to cook nutritious food, as well as exercise more. The UK government has been wrangling with both of these issues for years!
Good habits love company, so when you develop one good habit it’s easier to develop others. Let’s use exercise as an example, when you exercise regularly you feel good & you’re far more likely to make better food choices. When you feel good as a result of exercise you don’t want to undo the good work of that exercise by eating McDonalds everyday.
More focus is needed on our future selves – people think about the future more often when they have more time.
Before the pandemic many people were living like zombies, putting one foot in front of the other just to get through each day, week, month & year. There might be a holiday thrown in where they recover from the stress of their everyday life, how crazy is that the it is/was the norm to live a life that you bust a gut for all year to then take 2 weeks away to recover from your everyday life?!
The choices we make each day dictate our future. If we choose to eat poorly nutritious food then we’re going to feel poor in our body & our mind, that impacts our mood, how tolerant we are, our sleep and our productivity levels.
When we choose to eat well, and we get organised to make it happen, we feel great. We want to exercise, we’re more productive in our lives and we’re happier. That means we have more fun with our family & friends, which perpetuates the positive cycle of us feeling good.
By being able to work more flexibly we can live a more balanced life. A balanced life leads to balanced people who can do good in society. They have time to spend with their children, their children eat well, which leads to them feeling good and exercising. They’re more likely to contribute positively to their local community & not be a burden on government services or society.
Of course there are many benefits to working alongside our colleagues, and I know lots of people are looking forward to being in person with their colleagues again. However, having the flexibility to continue to work from home, at least for some of the time, has huge benefits that cannot be under estimated in terms of their potential positive impact on the lives of so many.
As for the office space that will inevitably be freed up as a result of more people working remotely, why not consider creating affordable housing to help address the housing crisis that has also been blighting the country for some time?
By thinking laterally, instead of just being eager to return to what we have known, there is a huge opportunity to make significant improvements to individuals and society. Are we willing to take advantage of the opportunity that the pandemic has given us, to rethink how things have been done to date?
I was on the corporate hamster wheel for many years & the result was I was unhappy & unhealthy. I could foresee what my future would be if I didn’t take action to change it. Today I work from home 100% of the time, I spend time in nature, I exercise, I eat well & I feel better than I ever have. This is an opportunity that’s now potentially available to so many people in a way that didn’t seem possible 6 months ago. I truly hope that people think before they agree to jump straight back into their old life, without considering what lessons life in the pandemic has taught them.
If you’d like some help in improving any area of your life then get in touch. It’s entirely possible to create the future you want.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for!