Back in the 1940’s, people had to go out and risk death during World War 2 to defend their society and they did it. In the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, most people just have to stay at home and relax to help the situation, yet far too many of them can’t seem to do it. Barely a month in and there’s lots of complaining that the lockdown is boring; that they can’t wait to ‘get this over with’ and ‘be done with lockdown’ in the next 2-4 weeks. I’ve locked myself down at home for over a month now and am far from being bored – here’s how I’m enjoying it.
First off, I hate to rain on your positivity yet again, but it’s unlikely that the coronavirus pandemic will end anytime soon. And even if it does simmer down during summer (doubt it), we won’t find out if there’s a ‘big round 2’ until the weather cools down in 6 months’ time in the northern hemisphere.
Yet I have to disagree that the lockdown is horrible – aside from the obvious benefit of not catching the virus or passing anything around, it’s great fun being at home with lots of benefits, very few negatives.
Wasting less time at work and gaining more freedom
Let’s talk about the biggest thing – work. At 40 hours plus 5-10 hours of commuting a week, it’s something that eats up half of our waking time (112 hours a week), if not more. The truth is no one really works that amount of time, and a fair chunk of that time goes to slacking off – coffee breaks, small talk with colleagues, screwing off on social media, watching videos, etc.
Being forced to work from home:
- I save over 1 hour per day from having no commute, and that draws closer to 25 hours in a month (20 weekdays).
- I don’t have to put up with coworkers in a loud, distracting open office environment, where I can hear some team’s daily standup from the other end of the room, people talking about their weekend, how their date went last night and all that other garbage.
- I’m able ‘start’ and ‘end’ work whenever I want, without being judged by anyone around me. I don’t consider my workplace toxic by any means but you can never be sure who’s watching.
- My downtime is not restricted to consuming content (reading the news, watching videos, listening to podcasts) as when I’m in the office – I can now have total and complete freedom on what I can work on, including chores and home improvement.
- I can now ‘tune out’ of meetings and work on other stuff, which isn’t always possible in real life. My average week has 6-8 hours of meetings but only half of that time (3-4 hours) contains info relevant to my job, and my actual participation AKA talking is only half of that half (2 hours).
- Recently I was in a meeting that devolved into a squabbling match between 2 egoistic old men that ran 30 minutes overtime with the rest of the ‘room’, including myself, helplessly just watching. I was able to get some exercise in and read the news while that happened – which would not have been possible at the office.
Of course, there are downsides of this new lockdown-induced work from home situation, which include:
- More meetings because people are bored and haven’t much else to do (as I discovered shortly after starting my first job ages ago, a surprising number of people don’t have a life outside of work!)
- My department now has a ‘daily social’ virtual break room meeting for 30 minutes a day so ‘everyone still gets to see each other’. The whole purpose is to have ‘face time’ while talking about casual, non-work-related things – so far, it’s only been people showing off their kids/babies and ranting about ‘the boring lockdown life at home’.
- A weekly meeting, where a bunch of box-tickers give a presentation of ‘feel good’ information as a way to justify the existence of their jobs to the whole company, that was optional is now mandatory due to everyone working from home.
- A new project as a reactive measure to the pandemic that somehow requires meetings to occur daily, as opposed to ‘as needed’ with normal projects.
- All-in-all, that’s an additional 6 to 10 hours of meetings a week – or DOUBLE what I have in a normal, non-pandemic week. The worst part is literally 90% of the new meetings are a complete waste of time.
- Furthermore, a new policy to have your webcam turned on as much as possible has been enacted, again to get in that ‘face time’. It’s a complete waste of bandwidth since everyone is mostly staring monotonously into the camera, trying to look like they’re giving whoever’s talking their full attention. The only real purpose this serves is to make sure people aren’t doing something else (god forbid, something more productive) during the duration of the meeting.
Saving money and learning new skills
That being said, the lockdown has been a net positive for my life as I’m able to save tons of money, spend time on personal projects and even picking up some new skills!
Thanks to the pandemic lockdown, I’m able to cut north of $400 per month in expenses:
- I’m told my average of $220 spent on eating out per month is already very low. I’ve been locked down at home since the start of March and last month, I was able that number down to under 10 bucks (we ordered pizza once). I’m happy to go out with my good friends but half of that $220 number is caused ‘work outings’ (which are really mandatory in almost every company globally, no matter how ‘optional’ that invitation is) that, given the choice, I’d rather not go to.
- I don’t have to spend on driving and public transport. This saves me at least $1000 a year.
- I can cancel my high-end credit card which I have almost entirely because of the travel and car rental insurance (for my once a year vacation), and airport lounge access for work trips. This saves me around $500 a year.
- I’ve been able to stop topping up my prepaid phone plan since I’ve used precisely 0 MB of data in the month of March. I’m on a horribly cheap plan already ($18 a month) but this will still save $200 a year.
- I’ve requested to terminate my gym membership (again I don’t see the pandemic ending anytime soon and even if it does, I’d like to wait until early 2021 to verify that it is indeed over) but the scumbag annual contract makes it such that I still need to keep paying for a few more months.
- Wear-and-tear on my nicest clothes (some very expensive work shirts, sportswear, ‘going out’ casual wear) is now zero, meaning they can last a lot longer. I’m now on a cycle of old T-shirts and free T-shirts from previous companies, 24/7 – I would normally wear them as pajamas or when not going out.
I’ve also picked up some new skills:
- Invested in a salon-grade Panasonic hair trimmer that is expected to pay for itself in under 5 months (1 haircut every 4 weeks), and will save me $500 in haircuts a year. I’ve tried cutting my own hair in the past and still am not good at it, but I’ve got 2 proper mirrors now (as opposed to a mirror and a camera) and plenty of time to practice. Also, it’s not going to matter if I screw up several times because nobody from work can really tell from a low-res webcam feed during meetings.
- Built some furniture last month and got myself a power drill to do some (long-overdue) home improvement this month.
I’m also able to spend a lot of time on personal projects, that includes writing, and catching up on some reading. The net increase in free time from this lockdown (thanks to no commute and flexibility of working from home) is upwards of 10 hours a week.
The only downside to all of this is I’m far less active – I don’t want to risk going outside at all, even though ‘taking a walk’ is allowed (kind of stupid, because everyone’s still walking past one another and breathing in air in close proximity…) I’ve an exercise machine which I bought some time ago as I expected it to get this bad, but I haven’t used it as much as I would have liked.
You need a (real) hobby
I think the lockdown and most of the changes in culture (except the increase in meetings!) is a great thing and honestly would not mind if it lasts for another 11 months. It gives one so much more freedom to do things they actually want to do. Not to mention, it saves a ton of money (I’ll have an extra $5000 in my pocket if the lockdown lasts a year) while deterring impulse buys of things and food from being outside.
The people who are complaining that the lockdown is boring need to get a life and stop being so negative – which is funny, because they’re usually the ones telling people like me to get a real hobby because somehow, video games aren’t considered a hobby for an adult and most things done in front of a computer like coding, writing, etc aren’t “real hobbies”. Yet drinking, partying, eating out, scrolling through social media and traveling are considered real hobbies for most of society.
Again, if you’re feeling bored and hate this lockdown because preventing the spread of a terrible disease is uncool compared to your “fun real hobbies”, the problem is in the mirror.