How I redesigned my job during lockdown
This article was last updated on 11 May 2020.
Saying that the coronavirus lockdown has had a huge impact on the world of work is a bit of an understatement.
From online schools to home offices, professionals from all industries have found new ways to interact with customers and colleagues, as well as delivering their work.
Here, we speak with three people about how technology and social media have helped them redesign their jobs, which aren’t traditionally done remotely.
'Something had to change!'
When the lockdown came, George Williams, from London, had just started a new job as a chef. So after restaurants were forced to close, he found himself with a lot more time and energy on his hands.
“Cooking has always been a real passion of mine, and when I started my new job it was so exhilarating and I felt like I was on top of the world,” says George. “But that obviously stopped very abruptly, and I found myself stuck at home basically just cooking three or four times a day for my housemates, and overfeeding them to the point that we decided something had to change!”
While retraining as a chef, George cultivated a strong following on Instagram on his account @FedbyGeorge, so decided to see if there was anyone who would benefit from food packages in London. Within 24 hours he was overwhelmed with messages, and a new project was born. He’s now delivered 450 meals to people in just a few weeks.
George now spends much of the week cooking, preparing, and then delivering his food packages across London. But he’s also been keen to use this opportunity to help those who are struggling most during this difficult period. Every package bought includes a donation to Hospitality Action, a charity which is helping people in the service industry who have been affected by the lockdown.
After seeing the potential of his project, George opened a sponsorship programme where people can pay for a package to feed people working for the NHS. Last week he raised enough sponsorship to make food packages for 200 hospital workers.
“Something that’s always drawn me towards food is that it is something you can share; so much happiness can be brought to someone from just a simple meal,” explains George.
For anyone looking to use social media to turn their passion into a career, George advises: “Do something that you love and is true to you, because people will genuinely engage with something that’s authentic.”
'It’s changed how we teach forever'
Sarah Hudson-Jones owns a pilates studio in Manchester. When the government put the country under lockdown, Sarah had to put her normal work on hold and react as fast as possible to keep her business going.
“I came home and just burst into tears,” explains Sarah. “I was in shock. I just didn’t know what to do.”
Inspired by pilates instructors in other countries already in lockdown, she decided to create a digital platform where her clients could take part in live lessons or follow pre-recorded sessions.
Her son Toby, 18, was in the middle of taking his A-levels when coronavirus interrupted his exam prep. He decided to put his media studies course to good use, building and running all the digital aspects of his mum’s new project.
Sarah's biggest concern was whether her clients would agree to online lessons, especially those who aren't that used to technology, but that turned out to be fine: "We've got clients in their mid 80s quite happily joining us!”
And there was a silver lining too: many of her former clients, who had moved away or didn’t have the time for sessions anymore, were starting to rejoin her classes. “It’s so lovely seeing returning faces, people who were with me for years and then relocated are now able to take part again.”
While it’s been hard work for Sarah, by making the most of her family’s skills, she’s managed to create a new side of her business which she plans to continue with, even once the lockdown is over: “It's changed how we teach forever.”
'We’re all learning on our feet'
Atri Banerjee’s work as a theatre director means being in the room with other people is of the utmost importance. Atri, from London, should be rehearsing for his latest production at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester - a show he’s been preparing for over a year.
But, since the lockdown all live theatre has been paused. Instead of his normal work, Atri is now working on virtual projects with other artistic collaborators around the world: “I directed a short film, which we rehearsed and filmed remotely over webcam, phone and Zoom,” explains Atri.
And he's found new related work to keep him busy while theatres are closed. From teaching drama school workshops over video link to writing his own play, Atri has managed to stay productive and connected to his work.
However he also emphasises that nobody should ever feel guilty or obligated to be productive during such a difficult time: “Everyone should do whatever feels right for them.”
For anyone looking to make creative work in a virtual space, Atri advises that you get used to working digitally by learning about video editing software or building any technical skills you may need. “I would also say to think about the piece you’re making - how does the story change by being digital?”
Most importantly though, Atri stresses that this kind of work should be fun: “We’re all learning on our feet, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.”