Why COVID-19 marks a return to the simple life and a focus on wellbeing

After a decade of digital disruption and an increasing pace of change, Australians had been seeking simplicity. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 35 per cent of Australian men and 42 per cent of Australian women say they are always or often rushed or pressed for time. Then came COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns at home.

While this season has brought anxiety, health concerns, and financial impacts, it has also provided a much-needed “coronacation” which many Australians have used to rebalance their lives and focus on their wellbeing.

Our national research shows that one in three have spent more time reading, baking and in creative pursuits as a result of “iso” (social isolation). We have also learnt new skills or engaged in online learning (one in four) and dusted off some old-school activities.

The results are positive: one in five say that all this has led to stronger connections within their household. Home hobbies are being passed on to the next generation, backyard sports have had a resurgence, and vegetable gardens, and gardening generally have become mainstream once more.

Homes across Australia also shifted from living spaces to home offices overnight as more than a quarter of Australians (27 per cent) started working from home. This has brought unique opportunities with the biggest benefits being more time because of no commute and less time getting ready (82 per cent) and saving money on travel and lunch costs (76 per cent).

Despite the challenges, Australians are embracing this return to the simple life, and it’s set to continue: seven in 10 (73 per cent) say they would be excited to do more working from home and a similar proportion (70 per cent) say that their home is well suited to allow working from home. Indeed most, (69 per cent) say that they are as or more productive, working from home compared to the workplace. The challenge (for 57 per cent) has been managing children learning at home or other household members working from home at the same time. However, this is a unique problem for this COVID period.

More than three in four Australians (78 per cent) believe working from home will be the new normal, with many hoping to continue some of the lifestyle and well-being benefits brought on by COVID-19 when life and society resume to a place of normalcy. So you can expect to use the letters WFH more frequently from now on.

All of this highlights the simpler life we have experienced, and much of which will remain for a while to come: less driving around, more home activities, resurgent handicrafts, a return to home cooking, more time together, a greater focus on our wellbeing – and loving it.

Although the outbreak of COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of many, Australians have seen their neighbours, communities and the nation as a whole displaying the Aussie spirit, with our sense of humour still going strong (41 per cent), particularly with our unique Aussie lexicon. Our old life is remembered as B.C. (Before Corona) in this A.C. (After Corona) world. But far from being intimidated by this virus, for Aussies it is simply The Rona, our lives are now spent in iso, our DIY haircuts and colours have delivered the embarrassing coronacuts and working from home has become such a mainstream thing, it now comes with its own three-letter acronym: WFH. This work context has brought with it new work realities like Zoom-bombing (kids or partners lurking in the background of our virtual meetings), virtual happy hour (Friday afternoon drinks at home), and with less incidental exercise, the dreaded corona-kilos!

Mark McCrindle, Social Researcher and co-author of “Work Wellbeing: Leading thriving teams in changing times” 

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