I have been reflecting along the lines of how our lives in isolation are resembling those of our parents. We are having to do without things which, although we are used to, are turn out to be pleasant, but unnecessary. I am thinking of things like having coffee (and occasionally lunch) out in a cafe, going to shopping centres for an outing — things like that. Our parents didn’t habitually do things like that because, in general, these activities were not on the menu in those days. (Shopping centres came along in the seventies, in Sydney anyway, but my parents weren’t habitues.)
Other things that we are getting used to doing without were activities our parents routinely did — getting their hair done, going to the movies and to concerts, socialising with friends, neighbours and family, and going to the library. (I am leaving travelling to and from work as that will be in a separate point.) There are digital alternatives for a few of these. I am thinking of Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms, borrowing e-books, and watching TV shows and movies from streaming services. There is no substitute for getting a physical haircut, though!
Although streaming technology is fairly new, in a general way, our activities in isolation are resembling those of an even earlier generation. In the Victorian period, entertainment used to be conducted more in the home. More people played an instrument or sang; most homes of any means had a piano or pianola. Others told funny stories or recited poems. The advent of electronic entertainment services like radio meant that people were able to devolve these things to professional performers. (Before these technologies, one had to leave the home to see or hear these performers.)
The world of paid work is another that won’t be the same even after all the restrictions are lifted. It will be like electronic commerce over again. Remember how difficult and insecure this was at the beginning? But the advantages of being able to make a secure payment at a web site were so huge, the problems were overcome. It will be same with working from home.
From what I have observed and heard, most of those working from home enjoy it — most of the time. They can get more sleep, without having to get up early to battle congested public transport or roads. Maintaining social interaction with colleagues takes some work, of course. Ditto with keeping the work and home spaces distinct. (We were just sitting down to lunch yesterday when my beloved’s work phone rang. She excused herself and said she had to take the call. It was a simple matter to resolve, but it illustrated the pitfalls of being in the “always available” workforce.)
From the other point of view, being able to devolve some of the costs of maintaining workplaces onto employees will be in the employers’ favour. The current cirumstances have forced employers to authorise working from home. This is something that many of them were reluctant to investigate because of a prejudice that, if employees were not under constant oversight, they would slack off. Studies have shown, however, that people working from home have better morale and commitment. Absenteeism because of having to let in a tradesman or deal with a school crisis must be less. So that will be another win/win.
Other things have become a priority that weren’t so in our parents’ day. My father took up jogging briefly in the eighties. Other than this, though, I don’t remember either of them exercising either in the home, or out of it. They gardened, did housework, or handyman-type jobs. (Their last home in Sydney had a pool, but domestic pools aren’t really large enough to exercise in.)
So exercise has become part of people’s lives in a way in which it wasn’t then. Of course exercise, and selling the equipment needed to do it, has become a huge industry. This notwithstanding, the greater priority of exercise in people’s lives nowadays is, I feel, an improvement.