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Productivity during the pandemic

Caitlin Hall


Keyboard with Mug of coffee in focuss

Playing the guitar, learning a language, or starting to cross stitch, the pandemic forced an inordinate amount of time on our hands, and we filled it by taking up new hobbies. With social media as the only way to connect with our friends while we were perpetually stuck at home, people showcased their new creations and glut of baked goods on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. TikTok, a relatively new app, also allowed people to demonstrate their novel hobbies, surpassing 2 billion downloads during the pandemic.

A fixation on new hobbies during a time of global crisis is not unheard of, with stamp collecting and birdwatching being some of the pastimes taken up by people during the Great Depression. Unemployment and reduced hours led to time spent playing Monopoly or watching movies such as The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. For comparison, during Covid, 64 million households tuned in to watch Tiger King on Netflix, since cinema-going was out of the question.

However, instead of allowing ourselves to take a well-deserved break during the various lockdowns, the push for productivity has overshadowed any feeling of rest we should’ve received. Working from home came with the fear that we were being lazy and being paid to do nothing, with many articles imploring us to stay productive at home and a plethora of tips on how to not get distracted when working from our beds. The world stopped in its tracks when PM Boris Johnson announced the UK’s first national lockdown on March 23, 2020, but our working capacity still trudged ahead; the mental toll of the pandemic has largely been ignored.

Man clearing out his desk after being made redundant

Man clearing out his desk after being made redundant

With redundancies at a record high and unemployment at 5% for the first time since 2016, there’s no wonder that people are beginning to merge their spare time and work, by monetising their hobbies. With shops closed and retail therapy on the rise, many online shoppers turned to Etsy to send gifts to their friends or stock up on face masks, which turned over $133 million in a month. The idea of becoming a business owner and working for yourself in a time of such uncertainty seemed fantastic, plus selling was instant and accessible through sites like Shopify and Etsy. The number of active accounts on the latter nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020, showing that entrepreneurial spirit rose significantly when we had more time on our hands.

We seem to feel the need to fill that time with something, and with many of our regular pastimes prohibited during Covid restrictions, it makes sense that we would gravitate towards low-cost hobbies that can be done at home. However, as most of us have been working out of the office, perhaps sharing the desk/dining room table with kids trying to complete online school, we may not have enjoyed the same output levels as before the pandemic. Whilst monetising hobbies may bring in an extra income during precarious times, it leaves no room for fun, as they just become menial and boring.

It has definitely felt like a year of work and no play; little wonder, therefore, is we feel a lag in our productivity levels. Given also that we may only now feel the impact of the pandemic as we (hopefully) emerge from it (humans exist on panic mode during the worst of a crisis; it’s only when things calm down that the body and mind begins to process what happened), it may be a while until it’s business as usual.

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