2020: The year of living dangerously

June O'Sullivan
Monday, December 14, 2020

2020, the year of living dangerously and the year of lockdown.

L – Living at work

O – Obesity: The Covid diet

C – Cook, clean and carry on

K – Kindness and keeping to the rules

D – Dentist, opticians and hairdressers, DOH! Says Homer

O – On mute…

W – What’s App. What’s up. What’s Over

N – Netflix: the antidote to lockdown and furlough


L – Living at Work

Working lives have been transformed by the pandemic as many became remote workers almost overnight. 

During height of lockdown the Office for National Statistic revealed that almost 50 per cent of all workers in the UK worked from home, while among white collar occupations this figure rose to almost 70 per cent  and is a trend likely to continue and accelerate. 

To be honest, it was a relief at the beginning because I was working so hard and such long hours that not having to commute was brilliant. It was also a way to avoid office presenteeism, an unhealthy creep into the work life balance. Virtual meetings with so many people gave a very clear idea of people’s living standards. I remain bemused by people is senior positions presenting with the ironing board behind them or clearly sitting on the edge of the bed. The background options available have not been put too much use. 

However, while I miss the thinking time walking to the station and I certainly miss being up in London and the joys of discovering more of the city, I am not nostalgic for the 8.17 train or the delights of the Northern Line.

O – Obesity: The Covid Diet

At the beginning of lockdown, the topic of quarantine weight gain starting to trend pretty hard on social media. 

Jokes about gobbling two weeks’ worth of snacks in a single day or trading a wardrobe for a “quardrobe” that’s four sizes larger. 

Not helped by restriction on movement especially the daily couple of mile commute to and from the station every day. 

That said, I was mighty relieved by the jokes as they formed a sense of camaraderie in a very stressful time. I certainly gained a stone but now I have nearly reclaimed my healthy weight and a sensible diet. 

Obesity is a strange conversation because while it’s an adult joke it is also no joke for those children living in poverty whose parents rely on cheap sugar soaked convenience foods. One of modern society’s great ironies.

C – Cook, Clean and Carry On

The Economic Social Research survey of 14,123 women shows far more women than men were doing cooking, cleaning, washing /ironing and grocery shopping during lockdown. 70 per cent of women reported being the main person in the home doing the washing compared to 13 per cent of men. 63 per cent of mothers saw the role of home schooling as their responsibility. Plus ça change!

K – Kindness and Keeping to the Rules

Kindness is central to social leadership along with empathy and compassion. It has never been more important. Employees prefer organisations that care and show mutual respect for their staff. People will not forget those organisations that put their employees at the heart of their decisions making and acted in a principled way especially during this crisis. We are hearing stories of great leadership but also those who felt abandoned and dismissed.

Let’s hope that post Covid will see the rise of the social leader but only if we all keep to the rules and figure out how to navigate the tiers, the isolation periods and when and with whom you can meet up inside or outside. Wrap up though because you don’t want your efforts to avoid catching Covid meaning you ending up with pneumonia.

D – Dentist, Opticians and Hairdressers, DOH! Says Homer

If there’s one thing that’s united the country during the pandemic it was having a good chuckle at Boris Johnson hair memes. Never one to look immaculately groomed, Boris actually took things to new un-groomed levels this year, which was a relief to the rest of us, who  tried tying  it up, sweeping it back, wearing scarves, home dyes all to little effect. No wonder there was a rush to the hairdresser.  

Next time people compare Early Years teachers with hairdressers, remember who were two of the most important groups during Covid… yes never underestimate the power of the hairdresser…

O  – On Mute…

W – What’s App. What’s Up, What’s Over

The rise of the Covid Videos with the power to clog up your phone as people compete to forward you the latest version. While our lives are upside down right now humour is just one potential coping strategies. And you can pass that mindset on to others through uplifting, motivating conversations—on social media and everywhere you connect.

N – Netflix: The antidote to lockdown and furlough

From How to Get Away with Murder, Unorthodox and The Queen’s Gambit to White Lines and Grace and Frankie, some of the highlights of the summer and that’s without mentioning The Crown…

Happy Christmas, Let’s Hope for a Happier 2021.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website.

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