We are now a two-kitchen family. Very posh. Not really just a necessity as Linda is going back to work tomorrow and Toby might be unfurloughed on Thursday. As I am vulnerable, I am attempting to stay safe. Sods law of course despite the last 4 months of semi solitude I will probably get it. Which will amuse my friends who think I am over cautious.
The plan is that when they return from work they will strip off, put their clothes in the washing machine and shower. They will eat their food in the cosy new kitchen which is equipped with fridge microwave kettle toaster etc. It also has a comfy sofa and a tv. Really what more could you want? And we can eat the evening meal together – 1 metre apart – with the windows open. You probably also think I am a little OTT.
While Linda who is freelance and thus hasn’t been furloughed and needs money is keen to have work – others like my son have quite enjoyed a long-paid holiday. And it is not surprising that some have developed what has been called ‘furlough fever’ and the prospect of rush hour and long working days are less than enticing. Which is a problem for some businesses.
Apparently one company boss said on social media while his employees were on furlough “I need to restart my business to avoid insolvency. I have a plan which ensures it’s done safely. The problem is my furloughed staff are finding every excuse not to return to work. How do I compete with a chancellor who is paying them not to work?” I am sure he is not alone. Its tough for business owners.
But even before COVID19 companies were seeing the benefit of remote working practices. A 2019 IWG Global Workplace Survey of 15,000 professionals in 80 nations found 80% percent of businesses in Germany, 76 percent in Brazil and 58 percent in India had flexible working policies. And these policies also seem to be translating into practice. Over 50 percent of survey participants reported they were working more than half the time remotely.
Certainly 3 years ago when Tod was at The Royal Mail they had bought in hot desking and were asking employees to work half the week from home. Tod was far more efficient and a lot happier. But this long absence from work has given many furloughnees the time to rethink their lives. Michael a friend of mine in his mid thirties with two young children went back to work last week. He said that his time on furlough was productive both as a parent and in giving him space to think about where he wanted to be in 5 years’ time.
“My life had been a routine, get up, get the children off to school, tube, rush hour madness, at my desk by 9.30, 8 hours later rush hour, home, kids, dinner, fall into bed exhausted. But after this 3 months break, I have really begun to think about is this really how I want to live my life.”
It is true sometimes I wonder how I got sucked into such a conventional way of life. It was never what I intended. I don’t regret the children one bit if anything I would have wanted more. But I had other plans. More unconventional ones. I was going to travel the world with the kids, run a bar on the beach or live off the land with lots of animals. Instead I took the conventional road because it felt safer. And once you get on a particular path it is hard to get off it. You get sucked into the world of work, buying a house, kids, schools, universities and suddenly you have run out of time.
I remember once, when my eldest was at primary school and it was my time to host a dinner party – back in the day when dinner parties were still in vogue. Most of the other mothers were quite conventional and organised – at least they seemed to be. I was having a few anxious moments because I didn’t have crockery that matched. Tod gave me a bewildered look “Ffs when did you start worrying about matching crockery – when did this become important.” And he was right I was in danger of becoming a conventional middle class mum. By the way I still don’t have matching crockery and it doesn’t bother me one bit. And I can’t remember the last time I had a dinner party.
Meanwhile I am going nowhere – well not until a vaccine is found. I have all the time in the world to fantasize and plan this next stage of my life which I can assure you is not going to be conventional. Just hope I get the opportunity to play it out. Think my kitchen flowers are in tune with my mood.
And for those confused about the etiquette of how to behave in this pandemic Debrett’s is issuing a new handbook which will include a good manners for the pandemic section. Nods, bows and namastes in the place of kisses and handshakes, paper plates not china and should you be hosting a garden party – a firm “I wish I could give you a hug” and “Feel free to use the bathroom” is the way to go. There’s something I doubt Debretts would have thought about this time last year.
“Let’s be careful out there”