I was recently asked what people are mostly talking to me about – in a professional rather than social context (though what I’m about to explain is also playing on the minds of many individuals I speak to on a social level as well). The single biggest issue pervading our conversations seems to be fear and anxiety. There are many ways in which this is manifesting in our lives, and set out below are some thoughts on what is currently being said to me.
There is little doubt that the Covid19 pandemic has been a significant disruption to our everyday lives. It has impacted all of us in different ways albeit to a greater or lesser extent. The root of the crisis is of course health. Even if you’re fit and well, I bet it has occurred to you over the past six month months the grave consequences if you were to contract the dreaded virus.
Indeed, maybe you already have. Perhaps you were lucky and only suffered mild symptoms. Or, maybe you had a horrendous time and fear that it might be coming back or are suffering from ‘long Covid’. For myself, I’ve oscillated between believing catching the virus would be dreadful to sometimes feeling I’d rather have it and build some immunity. But all of that’s just a my own personal view. What seems to be a bigger fear is for the health of our loved ones, particularly those who we have caring responsibilities for.
Many of us are concerned about the next generation above us and maybe the one above that. How would it be if our parents or grandparents were to come down with the virus? What chances do they have of simply shaking it off after a few does of paracetamol?
Schools and universities are back, which is a huge relief for most of us. However, this relief is offset by an anxiety that all educational institutions by their very nature will carry the risk of contagion. No doubt all professionals involved are doing their best to keep the spaces safe, but it’s a huge challenge. For others in the economy who are working now that young people are back at school and college they’ll look to their employers for the ability to stay safe at work if they’re required to attend. It seems the prevailing view is that employees are more confident about their workplaces being safe and much more concerned about public transport, if that’s what they rely upon. Whilst these health issues are important, there are other fears as well.
What does a safe job look like six months into this pandemic? With nine million people furloughed there are huge concerns that employers will not be able to take their furloughed colleagues back onto their payroll in the coming weeks.
Every sector and segment has changed in the last months. Some have done well and have even been able to take advantage of the pandemic. Some have gone to the wall whilst others are seeing a very bleak future indeed. The leaders and managers closest to the detail will have some certainty (either way) about their business and its survival and indeed their place within it. For every one of them, however, there are many who await the considerations; often feeling like the sword of Damocles is about to fall on them. If like me you’re mature enough, you’ll have lived through previous recessions. And as you know we’re in one now. However, rarely has there ever been such a level of anxiety leading to fear for so many people in our country.
When the lockdown happened, many people took the opportunity to pare back their spending. Suddenly they didn’t have their usual outgoings, including travel costs, the daily lattes and even work clothes. There has been a reset in household expenditures and more has been saved. The fear is what happens next and how much safety and security do we have to pay our bills if one or more of our household loses their capacity to earn. For many households, this is a huge fear.
For those of you who are unfortunate enough to lose your jobs, the need for you to have resilience and determination to find alternative work is paramount. If the expert predictions come true there will be a significant number of people seeking employment in a continuously contracting jobs market. Individuals may have a degree of choice, but some will have to recognise that they may well need a reset in their career thinking.
2020 feels like a prolonged period of rain with some huge thunderstorms included. The sun will eventually make an appearance again and our prospects will look more promising both in terms of our health and economically. The overarching feeling of fear is completely understandable. These periods of change for us are desperately uncomfortable and we need to hold on tight to our families, our close friends and the neighbours in our communities to see each other through.