One’s experience of lockdown is intensely personal, shaped as it is by temperament, age, material circumstance and even gender (women do more home schooling, for example). I am fortunate to live in a pleasant enough abode and the Rogersons minor no longer require my pedagogic skills. I don’t have a garden, but there’s a park nearby where I can stroll along a calm (and calming) riverbank. And I have a job that can be done from the spare room.
Many – perhaps most – lawyers will be similarly disposed. But it is important to remember that even the materially fortunate are lacking the one lifestyle characteristic upon which your profession thrives more than most – human interaction. Recent graduates and the young generally are particularly vulnerable. From the breathless whirl of college to enforced and open-ended isolation. For them that must have been a deeply discomfiting leap.
That is why the sterling work of LawCare promoting mental wellbeing throughout this difficult period deserves to be both commended and advertised in today’s issue. This week’s special feature on Covid-19 and its aftermath (p16) includes much helpful advice from the charity on coping in a profession that is stressful at the best of times.
As I write, liberation does at least appear a realistic prospect; though the ramifications of the curtailments imposed on our freedoms will long give cause for national introspection.
More positively, it is heartening that some of what we have learned about ourselves seems likely to endure. Let me offer a comparison. In the last decade, approaches to gender diversity in the law have changed utterly. That is partly a consequence of the MeToo movement, but also – let me be frank – an exodus of antiquated attitudes.
I would hope it is not too much of a leap to suggest that Covid-19 will have a similarly transformative effect on wellbeing in the workplace. ‘Coronavirus will lead to a permanent change in the way we work’, trumpeted a recent survey from the Institute of Directors. Indeed – but that is only the half of it. Coronavirus must also lead to permanent change in how we work with, and accommodate, our colleagues.