For many there comes a time, or an event, in their lives that makes them stop, look around, take stock, and then perhaps make major changes.
Could this period in our lives be that event that enables us to see with a little more clarity our actions, our lives and the way we interact with the world? And therefore make changes . Or will we just go back to doing things the way we already have – albeit with minor changes?
As we have adjusted our lives through the lockdown, here are some of the questions we have asked ourself – in isolation of course.
- Do we really need non-essential retail open 7 days a week? Yes, it has been annoying that we haven’t been able to shop at Briscoes for 60% off something we really didn’t need. And for such a long time! But would closing down non-essential retail for one day a week be such a disaster? Or could it actually have a positive impact? Perhaps families would spend time together, and exercise in the fresh air, rather than driving to the mall. A lasting memory of the lockdown will be the numbers of families out walking or cycling together.
- What has working from home taught us? Is it the answer to our clogged motorways, and the increasing cost of office space? Two answers have been very apparent. For those who are disciplined, or “self-starters” as they used to be called, working from home can be very productive. There can be fewer interruptions, and less non-productive time spent in traffic. But for many working from home has proved to be an unproductive nightmare - things such as no dedicated home office ready to use, enough quiet time away from other obligations such as family and homeschooling, too much time following social media, newsfeeds etc. For many there has come the realisation that the collegiality of the workplace is an important element in their productivity. Yes, having colleagues all around can be frustrating at times, but in many workplaces the diversity of experience, ideas, and attitude actually adds to the quality of the work produced.
- Why do politicians define “be kind” so differently from the way we define it? The simple, and cynical, answer is that spin and PR will get them re-elected. One of the most disgraceful episodes we witnessed was the PM saying, ”be kind”, and then doling out millions of dollars of taxpayers money to companies who were outright refusing to pay rent. Blatantly endorsing bad behaviour. Or favouring some businesses over others by allowing them to operate. Why close butchers down, but allow supermarket butcheries to operate? Why post on a government website that you can buy your essential whiteware from Noel Leeming, but not from any of the numbers of smaller whiteware retailers?
- Do we need an independent, intelligent and vibrant press? This is perhaps the simplest answer of all. YES. It has been an embarrassment watching and reading a largely obsequious and sensationalist media toe the government line. It has been indeed a dire emergency, the likes of which we have not seen for generations. But that does not mean that we should accept everything we are told without question. Even, and perhaps essentially, at a time of national emergency, we need decisions to be called to account.
- What have we learned about our legal profession? We already knew that justice is something of a mis-nomer, and that the legal system really only benefits lawyers. In this crisis many were quick to point out clause 27.5. But almost none would interpret it in practical terms. And then the consensus was that what the lease said really didn’t matter, as it was up to the parties involved to sort it out. Thanks heaps. So why do we need a multi-page expensive legal document? Why do real estate agents recommend lawyers vet every agreement, yet when crunch time comes, lawyers say “sort it out between yourselves”?
- What is so sacred about a 5 day week? For a time many of us have had to ask “what day is it?” as the days merged into each other. For productive and unproductive alike, this debunked the concept that Monday to Friday and 40 hours a week are the way to maximise productivity. Would working only 4 days, but longer hours, and having 3 days to rest and re-charge actually end up being more productive and create better balance?
- Are our businesses resilient, and do they plan ahead? The lockdown has exposed the lack of resilience on the part of so many. As Warren Buffett said: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked”. And it became immediately apparent those businesses which had failed to plan ahead and put reserves aside. Just as there is a problem generally with financial literacy, there is obviously a problem with many business owners and managers being unable (or unwilling) to plan ahead to create a resilient business. Far easier to cry for help at the first sign of difficulty.
Will we have a major re-set in the way we live our lives? Every day the medical profession witnesses patients with life threatening conditions being told what they need to do In order to improve their quality of life – indeed to save their own life. Exercise more, stop smoking, eat better, eat less fat and sugar. Does it happen? After the first week – rarely ! Will a major pandemic change us and our habits? My bet is that we quickly revert to same old, same old.