University of Oxford
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31796: A family in lockdown

online resource
posted on 2023-12-08, 14:18 authored by Lockdown2020 and Beyond Project

We began our family-wide lockdown in mid-March 2020. Initially it felt like we were all in shock. This was really happening, but we're resilient folk so got straight to work changing our home into an office and a digital classroom.

The three of us (my wife - who also works for the University, my daughter and I) began to get set up with our own working areas with computers, tablets and screens. Working from home for me wasn't vastly different to working in the office though I missed my office chair, mostly working with a lapboard sitting at my Mac. My wife nabbed the comfy spot, a proper desk and office chair for her laptop - though I had to take a jigsaw to the desk to cut out a space so she could fit her knees under it (it was a very cheap old desk we'd had for years so not too much of a sacrifice).

My daughter ended up using her piano stand with a coffee table mounted on it as her desk, taking part in classes at school via Zoom (initially) then later on Office365. Then things began to get busy. As a team supporting Office365 and Microsoft Teams, we began to see a huge increase in demand for Teams for home working and to facilitate University research on COVID-19 and a possible vaccine.

At that point we were a small team, creating Teams manually on demand. We were desperately trying to fend off suggestions that we allowed folk to create their own Teams, knowing that this would have a huge impact on another project we'd been working on before the lockdown, the setup and provisioning of our SharePoint Online platform. In order to do so, we were creating up to 200 teams per day - just to keep people working and connected. In fact Teams became a pivotal part of many people's working days, collaborating, communicating and conducting meetings in Teams instead of face to face or at their desks at work.

My wife came up with the suggestion of keeping a diary during our spare time, so that our daughter could look back on 2020 and share - perhaps with her own children - what ordinary everyday daily life was like. Below you'll see a couple of cartoons I drew for her diary (I love drawing and painting, so when I'm not working I can usually be found doodling or scribbling). It felt like an important thing to do, to keep a record of what it was actually like as my mother in law had also suggested that historians would want to read this stuff one day years from now (though I'm really not sure what they'll make of the panic buying of loo rolls, pasta and tomato sauce).

After a few weeks we began to adjust to the new routine. For me the biggest gain was not having to sit in a car for an hour at each end of the day. Not having the morning and evening commute meant that I could be up and around, and ready for work earlier than normal - yet still claw back an hour of my own time. People talked a lot about the amazing things they found more time to do during the lockdown and though 2 hours doesn't sound like a lot, it makes a huge difference and meant I got to spend more time with my wife and daughter.

It actually chilled us out a lot too. We were all a lot less stressed in general, though anxiety about COVID-19 and what was going on out in the world were tough to deal with at times, and the sheer mental pressure involved in being constantly busy from the moment you logged in first thing, to the moment you clocked off at the end of the day was at times really draining.

Every day we'd eat together, exercise, take a daily short work as per the government's advice, and then go online.

After a while I began to think about what life would be like when it returned to normal. Though we're still in lockdown as I write, I can imagine that eventually there will be a call to return to the office, to the desk, to the hated commute and in some ways I would rather carry on like this (though we do miss the 'social' aspect of the workplace). We all wonder what will happen when the lockdown is lifted. Will the world ever be the same again?


Message for the future

My message for the future is that the way we all lived changed almost overnight because of something we can't even see. Many folk fought against adapting to the lockdown, and carried on as normal. Many others dutifully followed all the advice to stay safe. Some heroes emerged from this crisis, and some folk vehemently denied it was happening. People seemed to be blase about the Coronavirus until it directly or personally affected them and there's a lesson there for all of us.

About the picture(s)

Pages from "The Lockdown Diary" written from my daughter's perspective, with some doodles by me to help depict how this all began




Abingdon, Oxon


Phil May

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