While prepping a reading from my latest novel Life, Slightly, I realised how much working life has changed since Covid – and how we shouldn’t be harking after everything going back to the way it was.
There was SO MUCH wrong with pre-Covid work-life balance!
I wrote the below scene in late 2019, pre-Covid:
‘Commuting is killing me,’ Gavin said, taking a bite of cold lasagne. He’d promised to be home from work on time, a promise they’d both known he wouldn’t be able to keep.
‘What are you talking about?’ Imogen replied, opening the fridge without looking around.
‘Commuting to London every day,’ he continued, taking another mouthful. ‘I don’t think I can keep doing it.’
Travelling by Southern Rail was all consuming. Every day was punctuated by squeezing into a tin can filled with soul-dead husks who, like him, used to believe life would offer them something more appealing.
‘Oh, Gavin, you’ll cope. When it comes down to it, we all cope.’
Gavin’s character isn’t based on anyone in particular. He’s an amalgam of a lot of people I know. People who were ‘coping’ back then. Or not.
They used to get up at ridiculous-o’clock every weekday morning to commute from Brighton to London. They’d arrive home at ridiculous-o’clock late every evening, only experiencing their children as shadowy sleep beings, barely real.
At weekends, they’d do their best to squeeze a week’s worth of parenting into two days, despite being utterly exhausted. God knows how they found time for their relationships, let alone any time for themselves.
Covid changed everything. WFH and hybrid working are Genies that are well and truly out of the bottle now – but let’s not pretend for a second they are perfect, either. All of these models need work and effort, flexibility and trust from employers and employees alike. The problem isn’t solved yet.
But just because it’s challenging, let’s not rush headlong into thinking ‘the sooner things go back to how they were before, the better’. For far too many people, that’s simply not true.