This week we speak to Paul Easton for our #memberinfocus feature: “The Challenges and Opportunities of 2020”.
Q1. If you could describe the year 2020 in one word, what would it be?
Q2. What was happening in your life when the pandemic struck?
Nothing out of the ordinary for a divorced self-employed grandfather with grown-up children and a 5-year-old grandson here and a 1-year-old grandson in Scotland. Work for me is interior landscaping and with the new offices and common work areas springing up, there were a number of opportunities arising for the business to grow – no pun intended! Work was busy but enjoyable.
Many will tell you when you are self-employed it’s not easy getting the work/life balance correct. In fact it can cause additional stress because you feel under pressure to get it right! I generally try not to work on a Friday to allow some time with my 5-year-old grandson and was looking forward to a few trips to the Motherland to see the 1-year-old version.
Q3. Why and when did you decide to get involved with community-based support?
A few years ago I had finished 5 years as a volunteer counsellor at Childline and I felt I needed to find something to fill the gap. 5 years was long enough for me but it was something I enjoyed, something that I felt was rewarding and something that I felt actually made a difference to the children I spoke to. When I finished in Childline I always had a desire to do something useful but life sort of took over and it was placed on the ‘back burner’ but the desire was never really extinguished. And here we are, a message from Danielle, who was a previous work colleague in another business I had, and I’m filling in questionnaires.
Q4. What is the biggest challenge you have faced since the world went into lockdown?
Personally, it’s isolation and lack of contact with people – not just family but customers, friends, and just people in general. I like to talk, I like to listen, I like to communicate, but on a face to face basis not on Zoom/Teams/Skype – these things serve a purpose but they can’t compare with the genuine and real conversations where you can see expressions, sense feelings and create an atmosphere. The workday goes in so much quicker when you find yourself in empty offices where you do your work and move on instead of the buzz of interaction with people. As the workday was over earlier I felt it should be an opportunity to spend time with others only to find we weren’t allowed. I also liked to travel abroad but…
Q5. Are you excited about any opportunities that have arisen this year?
This is going to sound terrible and defeatist, but to be honest, not really!
I feel the air of uncertainty has dampened the excitement of any potential opportunities. I find it very difficult to push forward when the future is so unpredictable. To use an analogy, it’s sort like being afloat in the sea and you can see the island you want to reach but you need to tread water for a little while until you see how the tide is turning. Once you know, swim with all your might to reach that island. I think for a lot of people this is a time for simply ‘keeping it together’, to continue to function and to draw on the strength they inherently have. If we can manage that during the times we are in, it is a huge achievement.
Q6. How are things looking for the remainder of 2020?
From a work perspective, I feel there will be a shift in how people work, which raises concerns over viable office space and the need for office plants. Unfortunately, too many people see them simply for their aesthetic benefits and don’t know about the benefits plants have on mental health, productivity, creativity, and sickness levels. All these benefits are well documented and a little research could make a big difference to a business operation.
Work aside, I’m optimistic, one way or another it can’t be like this for too much longer which will allow contact, interaction and the ability to actually see the expression on someone’s face! The sooner we can get back to actually meeting and interacting with people, family and friends the sooner we can begin to enjoy the life we had or the one we were striving for.