From online funerals and weddings to working from home - the way we live, work and play has changed
From online funerals and weddings to working from home - the way we live, work and play has changed as a result of the Pandemic says Matthew Tukaki:
If there has been one constant in our lives the last 18 months, it’s been the move to online meetings. Sure, they were a thing a few years back, but we only really used them sparingly with our preference being to try and catch-up and meet with people physically. As the COVID19 pandemic took hold ZOOM was just a by tool as was Microsoft Teams with many preferring to use Apps such as SKYPE Business or traditional forms of video conferencing – and then, as the days, weeks and months dragged on ZOOM really took hold as lockdowns become certainties. Let’s be clear here this was no longer about work it was also about staying in touch with friends and family – that insatiable need for humans to find new and creative ways to maintain social and physical contact. Boy did we take to it - The video conferencing company expects sales to rise more than 40% this year, reaching more than $3.7bn (£2.66bn). The firm's sales in the last three months of 2020 were up 370% compared to the same period in 2019, hitting $882.5m.
We also started to learn more about each other as we began to use online video conferencing from those in our inner circles to those who we only know from the movies or TV – suddenly, we were welcomed into the homes of everyone! We saw their surroundings, where they lived, how they rooms were set-up right through to the more intimate objects on display on bookcases, desks, nightstands, and windowsills. You got to see things about people you thought you knew but in much more detail. For me, books on shelves tell a lot about people – what are they interested in? what are they reading? What motivates them? In August last year a work colleague messaged me privately and asked me about one such book on my shelf that sits behind me in my home office “The State of Africa” by Martin Meredith that tells the story of multiple conflicts and the politics of the continent. We ended up in a near three-hour conversation which each other that included our many trips to places such as Angola or South Africa, my work in Zimbabwe (formerly known as Rhodesia). On another occasion someone asked me about the War Medals on display behind me and another was fascinated by the Space Lego on my wall. In other words, people were now interested in what made me tick by seeing a part of me that they hadn’t thought of.
I find myself doing this to others – observing what was behind them and around them – don’t laugh part of it sounds like observing animals in their natural habitat! But like this who were asking me so many questions I too was asking questions. Where did you get that artwork? Who was the author of that book? My goodness you looked different in that photo and so on and so on.
Then there was the hilarious side of human behavior that does warrant a laugh – like the bloke who stood up halfway through a ZOOM and it was clear he was still in his undies. Or those that you know just rolled out of bed because they had they bed hair – the barking dogs, the cats that jump up on the keyboard or the children that appear out of nowhere demanding lunch or just wanting to be seen and heard.
And of course ZOOM and other platforms are not just for work – for many they have sat at the very heart of some of the most personal moments in our lives the last 18 months. Weddings with virtual guests and speeches, the clinking of virtual glasses. The passing of those we love have, perhaps, been the toughest moments of all – not being present at a loved ones bedside with nurses holding the phone with the video or speaker functions turned on as someone you love passes on. The funerals we have not been able to attend, to celebrate the life of the ones we hold most dear right through to the bringing into the world of new life. Babies that have been born who have not yet met grandparents and, in some cases, fathers, brothers and sisters.
My point is life as we know it has changed and for many around the world the way we live, work and play has evolved. The way we talk with each other, interact and share has become different; and not always for the good.
As we come to the end of 2021 our ability to share and connect is still more virtual than physical. The pandemic is no where near the end and for now, life will still have moments shared online but not in person. But i would reason this – it will never replace the physical connection, social interaction and human to human “touch” that makes us who we are. Its all now just a matter of time.
Author: Matthew Tukaki is the Chair of the National Maori Authority and former head of the worlds oldest and one of the largest employment companies, Drake International.