The silver lining of the coronavirus lockdown is the gift of time — finally we are not in a forever rush — hustling, commuting and working hard towards the goals we’ve set in life.
Ironically, many are using this extra time to do exactly what they were happy to get respite from — hustling to achieve goals. It’s just that their attention has shifted from achieving career goals to personal goals.
Pressure of productivity
As the demand to learn something new surges, apps such as Duolingo and BYJU’s, among others, have seen a significant increase in the number of downloads. This is a way of feeling productive when most of us are working in our pyjamas, without even showering.
However, it becomes a problem when people pressure themselves to excel in this ‘something new’ that they’re trying.
Hobbies, in general, have come to be seen as a means of side-hustle that can serve commercial purposes. Our ‘picture-perfect’ profiles on Instagram also force us to be good at everything we do, taking away the comfort of being average.
There is an obsession to perform special tasks even during a crisis as huge as coronavirus. Mimicry artist and comedian, Saloni Gaur, who entertains her Instagram followers with the character ‘Nazma aapi’ and ‘Kangana Run-out’ also took a dig at such ‘tasks’, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been asking people to perform during the coronavirus lockdown.
An article in Refinery 29 defined this need to master a new thing during the lockdown as the ‘Ultimate Humblebrag’, describing it as a “part impulse, part distraction, partially born out of a need for something to help define us,” adding that we do this by advertising our new found hobbies and achievements on social media. It’s not, “hey I cooked to help my anxiety today”, it’s, “hey, look! I’ve utilised this time I have by learning how to cook, and I’m acing it!” This is something one should be wary of.
In fact, Bollywood star Anushka Sharma took to her Instagram page against the practise of using this time to increase our productivity and said, “it’s a pandemic, not a productivity contest”.
Also Read: How coronavirus is making venting okay
No ‘extra time’
If you have managed to keep your job and are doing it without any hindrance, I’m not really sure how much time you’re saving except the commute time.
But the time saved in commuting is now being utilised in doing house chores because of the absence of a cleaner or cook. How much of a ‘gift’ is this time really then?
Companies are also exploiting the fact that their human resources are literally living in their offices. Many people are handling extra burden of work. But organisations are still complaining about the reduced productivity in these times because for them, even if the world ends tomorrow, you must die a productive employee.
Invading their employees’ time, some companies have started encouraging them to take self-improvement classes. Companies in their normal boring, HR lingo are ‘motivating’ employees to use this opportunity to hone a new skill. For example in a Business Standard report, Shubha Arora the chief people officer in Schindler India revealed how the company is sending its employees bullet modules with short quizzes so they can “upskill and utilise their time”.
Ah, yes a quiz! That does sound like a lot of corporate fun and is everything one needs to knockout lockdown blues.
This example is not isolated. Managers are micro-managing their employees, who they believe are having a gala time at their houses, keeping a close watch on every moment of theirs.
An advertising professional told me how the company HR was unhappy with her because the system showed “2 hours of ‘leisure’ time” on a day she worked an easy 10-12 hours.
We’re living through uncertain times when humanity has found itself at a complete loss because it neither has the experience, nor the historical knowledge to ward off this crisis.
This sudden need to self-isolate into the cocoons of our houses, with an ambiguous future can be counted as a recipe for stress.
The economy is crumbling, death toll is rising and employment prospects are taking a beating. By some counts, India is going through the biggest one-stroke employment destruction in history.
Facing an uncertain but a definitely bleak future hasn’t been good for our collective mental health. Mental health experts have witnessed a rise in mental illness cases by 50 per cent.
It is undeniable then that one must do something about this collective anxiety, an argument on basis of which many have appreciated the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion calls of lighting lamps and banging utensils.
Finding time to finally do something you always wanted is indeed a productive, self-improving and satisfying way of spending time in isolation.
While it’s always a good thing to give time to a hobby, it’s vital to realise that one doesn’t have to come out of this pandemic prim, proper, with a degree in hand and a new language on the lips.
Views are personal.