Lockdown helps people wake up and smell the coffee

Whatever you think of the Covid-19 lockdown; the fact is it has given millions of people time to sit back and take stock like at no other time in living memory.

Putting to one-side redundancy, and households having a lower income causing financial stress, it has given plenty of people a chance to take stock of their lives, career, and what they thought was important.

According to one media report, a YouGov survey out of the UK reveals that 9% of people do not want to return to the way it was prior to the government-sanctioned lockdown. Fifty-one per cent of respondents have noticed cleaner air, 40% feel a stronger sense of community, and 39% had increased contact with friends and family (they’ve had the time).

While not apparently covered by the survey; anecdotal evidence (which is evidence) reveals that plenty of people are thinking twice about their current job, career, work pressures, and the reason they are working at all.

They are questioning paying huge sums every month for a place to live, car loans, the limited use of the boat (that’s $50,000 sitting on the drive for a few days’ use a year), and…well…I know plenty of people who are taking a good hard look at their lives right now.

Terry, not his real name, is one of them. The family friend called to say he is bored at work and despises his “inept” boss. Someone, he tells me, who enjoys keeping him in his place with high-volumes of work one day followed by a communication vacuum the next.

“I’m a man and I got upset when the government announced the date Level 3 would start,” said Terry. “It meant I had a date to return to work. My boss sent me an email to let me know I was expected in at 9am on Tuesday. I felt sick. These weeks at home have been wonderful.”

I am happy to kiss my career goodbye. But I have to stay active – I’m not dead yet!

Terry is evaluating his options. He has a family home that could be sold, and a move out of Auckland with his wife and teenage child means he could be mortgage-free.

“I’m too young to retire,” he says. “So I have got to be near somewhere I can get a job – and I honestly don’t care what I do. I am happy to kiss my career goodbye. But I have to stay active – I’m not dead yet!”

He’d enjoy nothing more than resigning his job; his savings would get him through for a couple of months while he job-hunted and considered his options to sell up and trade down.

“I look at property prices in the regions and see what we could get.”


Another anecdote to consider is that the Level 4 lockdown in New Zealand seems to have been used by some employers to rid themselves of staff they wanted to see the back of anyway. This means come Level 3, 2, 1 and ‘normality’ these same employers will likely need to start recruiting – and fast.

I told Terry that he’ll probably see plenty of vacancies pop up during May, June and July. Hopefully most businesses will bounce back over the coming months.

Just as a side note; I read a survey of New Zealand managers last week where one business owner wrote (anonymously) that staff increase their productivity by 20% when there is a risk of redundancy at his company (6 days’ work in 5). Fear will do that, and I think some people are sick of living this way, and living this way is making them sick.

And a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel so happy and full of energy I can’t tell you.

Terry and I had a long chat about life, living, the economy, house prices, re-evaluating personal priorities, his job, his manager, and their boss. We went around the block twice during the course of an hour.

“Yes, I could speak to my manager about working better together, I could speak to the owner of the company about going part-time…but the rot has set in,” he says. “It set in years ago.”

We left the conversation there. But two days later he was back on the phone.

“I’m resigning,” he says. “My wife supports me, I may be able to negotiate redundancy. I can’t face going back. And a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel so happy and full of energy I can’t tell you.”

Terry and his family may not be moving out of Auckland just yet; but he is contacting former work colleagues for job leads and investigating a few self-employed business options – including contracting and a franchise business.

I think there are lots of people like Terry. And if I’m right; business owners can expect to see the rate of staff turnover escalate during the next few months; along with people asking their managers to work fewer hours a week.

People may be prepared to earn a little less for a real improvement in their work-life balance. They’ve had a taste of freedom; they want more – and for some there’s no going back. The genie is out of the bottle.