Of the many government relief packages introduced in the wake of COVID-19, one of the most transformative was the childcare subsidy. Australia holds the 4th most expensive childcare in the world, so when Covid-19 hit and saw already-struggling families face further financial loss, the Morrison government introduced the emergency relief package, providing Australian families with a taste of free childcare. This offering was available to families who already had their children enrolled in a childcare center, with the federal government covering all fees until July 13th.
The expiration of these measures has since shone a light on the cost and inaccessibility of childcare in Australia, which may have otherwise gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for Covid. Many Aussie parents spend more on childcare than they would for a private primary school. There is a clear irony in our current system, as parents need childcare in order to be able to go to work, but for the majority, even with pre-COVID government subsidies, their income minus the fees means it’s not worth it.
A survey conducted by The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), found that 80 per cent of parents said they face “substantial problems” with childcare when it comes to access, quality or cost. This is why, for so many Australian families the only option is to choose informal care, with around 35% of families with children aged 2-4 having to rely on care from grandparents or other family members and friends. With the drastic levels of unemployment rising since March 2020, you would therefore expect even more families forced to rely on informal care due to impracticable fees. However, whilst Morrison’s childcare subsidy was in place, less that 1 percent of childcare centers were forced to shut doors.
Campaigners have since argued that we cannot simply revert to the way things were before, with mammoth fees, dependence on informal childcare, and families struggling to make ends meet. A survey was conducted in May that confirms this, finding that 42% of families were suffering from income loss due to the pandemic, making the soaring childcare fees impossible to meet without government assistance. Researchers predict that up to 2 thirds of those families will consequently need to lessen the days their children spend in childcare or take their children out altogether, which effectively bars parents from returning to the workforce thereafter.
So, it is pivotal that something changes. But slashing these costs wont only benefit the domestic balance of work and childcare, in fact, it has been argued that making childcare more affordable may actually be the key to lifting us out of this unprecedented recession. Making childcare less expensive means more parents can enter and return to the workforce, thus more money is being earned per household, followed by more spending, and a stronger economy. Currently the percentage of subsidy a family is entitled to is based on their combined annual income, with more support available to families with a lower income. A family who earns up to $69,390 per year is entitled to the full subsidy percentage of 85%, which as mentioned before still isn’t enough. Modelling by the Grattan institute has argued that by raising the Child Care Subsidy for families with low-income from 85 per cent to 95 per cent, would boost the GDP by $11 billion per year, at a cost of only $5 billion to the federal budget.
It is clear why childcare is so important for both parents and for a child’s development, as the saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child”. Australia could potentially learn a lot from Sweden, who have been praised for their ‘gold standard’ childcare system named “EDUCARE”. A system built on the firm belief of high-quality care for children as well as providing them with the best possible start to their lives. It’s more than a child-minding service, all teachers need to complete a 3.5-year degree in order to be qualified to be a teach for EDUCARE. The curriculum is based around “goals to strive for” and assessments are not ‘top-down’ instead growth is looked at by teachers, parents, and children’s valuable opinions and experiences. These centers open from 6:30am – 6:00pm year-round (with many now offering extended hours to accommodate night shift workers). The fee is 2-3% of a family’s income before tax for the first child, and less for each child following, with a maximum fee equivalent to less than $200AU a month. This is an enormous difference to Australian fees which are about 31.1% of a couples average earning.
Gender equality was the driving feature in cultivating EDUCARE. After decades of struggling, a call for change occurred when women wanted to guarantee access to the labor industry and full-time work. This created a mission to design a stimulating childcare system that would be affordable, and accessible, and importantly where mothers would feel comfortable leaving their children. The issue of childcare became more than the plight of working women but ensuring quality care and education for all Swedish children, not just those of working women. Thus, the birth of EDUCARE.
In order for Australian families to be able to have the access to childcare that they deserve, and to help lift our economy out of recession, it’s obvious the government needs to alter the system and make it more affordable. Whether that’s raising the subsidy to 95% or working towards creating a similar system to Sweden’s, parents shouldn’t have to turn down an extra work because they would earn less than what a day of childcare would cost, the fact that this is an issue simply doesn’t make sense!
Valued at $1.43 billion per year, the Victorian live entertainment industry has long been a creative and economic force to be reckoned with. Figures show that Melbourne’s iconic performance venues housed an astounding 100,000 attendees every Friday & Saturday night alone in 2019. Live shows were as synonymous with Melbourne culture as a well-made single-origin long black. However, as the pandemic proved itself to be more forbidding than the average flu, our beloved entertainment industry was doomed to be one of the first to be shut down, and one of the last to reopen. The restrictions around opening under our new health & safety guidelines mean the already-struggling industry will be unconventional for a long time yet. But do not fear, there are plenty of drum solos and sweet riffs at the end of the tunnel!
How It Was
Cancellations and postponements swept the country from March onwards, from big-name international acts to an assortment of festivals. All sectors of the business, from three-day extravaganzas to intimate local gigs were hit fast and hard. Hundreds of thousands of jobs vanished into thin air as production crews, event planners, hospitality assistants, artists and promoters were suddenly left jobless and without a clue as to how long it would be before they could return. Government support schemes such as Jobkeeper have helped for the meantime, but as The Tote’s owner, Jon Perring, has commented, “the protections are all going to drop off somewhere around October 1. After that, if we don’t get a lifeline from the Government, you’re going to see music venues just disappear en masse.” As well as the staggering loss in revenue, venue owners fear that their establishments may fall prey to large developers, who have been eyeing certain properties for several years. The impact that these extended closures will have on Melbourne’s music scene is unthinkable if venue owners indeed face no option but to hand over their keys.
Before the virus, most venues made the majority of their revenue not from ticket sales, but from alcohol purchases. This business model allowed many places the flexibility of charging $10 or even nothing for a performance, which not only opened up live music to all income brackets, but also made room for lesser-known artists. Unfortunately, most venues are not able to break even, let alone spin a profit, when they are not able to fill anywhere near capacity and generate the resulting alcohol sales. This means in order to adequately pay performers and crew, your average small-time gig may cost around $60 instead of $10, and for a lot of Melburnians this will be that bit too much out of pocket for some rando local band.
How It Is
In preparation of the return of live music, The Nightcat, a popular Fitzroy band room, has set the standard for a post-pandemic socially-distanced venue design. The dance floor has been replaced by tables meticulously 1.5m apart, black crosses mark the spots where performers must stand on the stage, and owner Justin Stanford has suggested running three back-to-back shows, for example at 7pm, 10pm & 1am. This could put enormous strain on an act performing three times in one evening, and a lot of punters will balk at the concept of sitting down for a show (especially metalheads like myself)! Music industry leaders are therefore reliant on the hope that their fanbase will be willing to abide the new norm in order to support this struggling industry.
The newly established Live Entertainment Industry Forum, led by former Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland, has brought together bigwigs & rivals from across the entertainment and sports industries to establish an across-the-board post-pandemic road map. Live Performance Australia has also just released a comprehensive document of Covid-safe guidelines to prepare the performance sector for reopening. These criteria offer suggestions such as; rigorous cleaning, hair & makeup to be done by performers themselves, close performers such as actors and orchestra players to wear face shields or use sneeze barriers, patrons to sign in at shows in case tracing is required, technical equipment such as microphones to be allocated and not shared, and tour venues & artists exchanging covid-safe plans, and outlining local covid testing locations.
How It Will Be
Although the state of the industry appears grim, there are many silver linings to be found. Having been locked inside for what feels like an eternity, there is an undeniable yearning across Melbourne to get out and about and have some good old-fashioned rollicking fun at a gig. After all, the roaring 20’s came right after the Spanish Influenza. Even though this was over a century ago the sentiment is still strong; if you can survive a pandemic then it’s time to party! Furthermore, with travel restrictions in place and many international stars unable to tour, this will give our homegrown heroes more opportunity to hit the stage and get their 5 minutes in the spotlight, earning recognition they may not have had otherwise. Similarly, if venues are forced to limit capacity or close entirely, we will most likely see a rise in house parties, warehouse raves, open-air events or the increasingly popular lounge room gig. Companies like Parlour Gig who help facilitate local in-house gigs will undoubtedly grow in popularity, so you may end up ditching The Corner for the Little Birdy concert happening on your very street!
At the end of the day, the live performance industry is inextricably part of the fabric of Melbourne and won’t go down without a fight. After so long in isolation it’s clear punters not only miss the shows themselves, but have developed a hankering for human connection; and what unites us more than the shared love of music? This is proven by the $890,000 raised by The Support Act Emergency Appeal who are offering crisis relief for music workers affected by the pandemic across the country, whilst many gig-goers continue to support artists by purchasing tickets to online performances. It is without a doubt our entertainment industry will survive; it might look a little different, might cost a bit more and you’ll have to make sure you’re headbanging a safe 1.5m distance from your fellow patrons, but we will survive. (And we’ll get to see some pretty fabulous performances to boot!)
When choosing an office space, there is a lot to think about and many different options, usually boiling down to traditional longer term leases vs more flexible coworking arrangements. Traditional leases offer stability and customisation, whilst coworking offers super competitive pricing (when you factor in everything that goes into a traditional lease) and flexibility.
Here at The Cluster, Australia’s first professional coworking space, we get to speak to people regularly about their office and business needs and what would work best for their team. For them, it’s essential to understand if a turn-key workspace solution or a more traditional office lease (a total blank canvas) works best for their brand and team. There is a lot to consider, and here we highlight the key differences!
Many companies choose a traditional lease as they feel it can give their business the most professional and personalised aesthetic possible. A commercial office lease allows you the total autonomy to customise and operate exactly how you would like to. You can choose your operating hours, floorplan and carefully curate the first impression when visitors walk through the door. Whether you desire ridiculously enormous desks, a slippery slide between floors or a velvet-laden feature wall, the possibilities are endless & completely yours to decide.
Moving a large or established business to a coworking space sometimes comes with the worry that the business may lose a sense of brand identity. This however is not necessarily the case. Here at The Cluster, you will not find our branding anywhere, and this is very much on purpose; we want your clients to have the impression that this is your office, and only yours!
Coworking has also become immensely popular in recent years with large enterprises, including tech giants, Facebook and Microsoft. A global coworking provider recently reported that nearly 40% of their client base hails from enterprise companies. Business such as these have utilised the option to customise the private office exactly how they like, or completely take over an enterprise suite over an entire floor! This alone shows the magic of coworking and why more enterprise customers are turning to it for office solutions.
Today’s marketplace is a dynamic, fluid and competitive, meaning flexibility is on offer which may be important for companies who are unsure of growth or even market conditions.
A typical office rental in Melbourne’s CBD, (according to realcommercial.com.au), averages between $15,000 to $80,000 per annum depending on size and desired location While a traditional lease may appear to be significantly cheaper when compared to coworking, committing to a 5 or 10 year fixed term can be a huge financial risk. Lock-in contracts also offer little adaptability for a company, especially in times of financial turmoil and uncertainty. If your business doesn’t scale at the pace you predicted, you may end up paying for space you have no use for. On the other hand, if your business scales up more quickly than expected, you can end up starting the process all over again while trying to negotiate a release from your long-term contract.
One of co-working’s bestselling points is adaptability. If you’re a start-up or freelancer, workspace flexibility gives you the control of when and how you work. This ensures that you’re only paying for what you need & what you use. Even mammoth international enterprises are jumping on the coworking bandwagon, and not just to save a pretty penny! Whether they just need a short-term space to get a project team or even a more permanent arrangement, coworking offers all the wiggle room needed, without the enormous lock-in commitments. At The Cluster, rapidly growing teams such as Impact Traffic have outgrown a singular desk and now occupy a small army of them! The range of rental space available, from casual hot-desk areas to large private offices, means you have the freedom to hire the perfect space for your needs, with the luxury of changing your requirements with short notice periods.
With the impact of Covid on the economy, businesses and workers, many are now turning to coworking for everything that it offers, which seems fitting for a post-covid world. Employees now want more flexibility to work from home and the office, and business owners can see that the social aspect of coworking and flexibility will play an important role in the future.
DOLLAR DOLLAR BILLS
Traditional leases generally seem to be a lower cost option when compared to coworking, when comparing the base rents per square meter. However even with incentives from landlords, there is still the cost and headache of set up costs around fit outs, furniture, plus significantly higher legal expenses. These costs can set you back tens of thousands of dollars in initial set up on top of your base rent. On-going costs like a receptionist can cost a company $50,000 a year on average (as reported by indeed). In addition, electricity, water, internet, regular cleaning & maintenance staff, all add up. Once you factor these “other” costs in, your initial commitment has snowballed into a figure much larger than you were expecting – yikes!
Coworking’s best feature, by far, is its all-inclusive pricing. If you’re a start-up who only needs a desk one day a week, or an established organisation who needs room to grow, you get the most bang for your minimal buck. Depending on your package, co-working space can cost anywhere from $3,000 a year for a casual desk (with a lot more than a desk included in that price) to over $100,000 a year for a luxurious enterprise suite with a private kitchen, meeting rooms and all the bells and whistles you could imagine!
For example, here at The Cluster, having any sort of membership means the following are yours for the using: stunning, thoughtfully designed workspaces and meeting rooms over 3 floors, multiple receptionists, utilities, IT support, cleaning, amenities such as snacks and beverages, plus social & networking events such as breakfast clubs or Friday night drinks! These are all services that can quickly become costly when integrating them with a more traditional lease.
With all the fabulousness that goes with an all-inclusive office, do be careful and mindful when looking around at coworking spaces. Some spaces (usually the larger ones), have lots of add-ons and hidden costs, meaning that your monthly expectations of costs are not always met. It is important to check the fine print and understand that not all spaces are as inclusive as The Cluster when it comes to pricing. Make sure you are comparing apples with apples when making your decision!
Community is key to coworking and can work in your favor if you want it too. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Coworking can deliver enormous value with access to networking and social interactions, often resulting in business development opportunities or just great friendships.
Whilst a traditional lease can mean your team stays cohesive and close-knit, it leaves little room to organically expand and connect with businesses around you. It is certainly possible to arrange your own networking and social events but these will take up additional time & energy out of the day-to-day running of your business, so why not leave that to us!
An enormous benefit to coworking is the immediate ability to socialise, network and collaborate. If you’re an accounting freelancer and need some help with website development, chances are you can do some quid-pro-quo with another business in your space to share expertise and cut outsourcing costs. There is also instant access to a variety of events that are organised and run without you having to lift a finger or dip into the company budget. Anything can happen at these events……maybe you will run into an old colleague during the office’s Breakfast Club and reminisce over a coffee. Or maybe you will just come up with a wild and innovative business idea with a fellow coworker over some Friday night Furphys.
THINK ABOUT IT
When deciding what office space is best for your business, it is worth understanding the pros and cons of traditional leases vs coworking. If long term leases and digging into your pockets to pay for extra unknown costs doesn’t sound up your alley, then join the coworking revolution where the only thing you’ll be digging into is the 3pm snacks!
The COVID-19 crisis has left the co-working industry on unsteady ground as computers and desks have been hastily assembled in homes across the land. In a time of national uncertainty, it’s helpful to find how your favourite co-working space can continue to support your business while you are away from the office, and when it’s time to come back.
- Social Sanity
Chances are your co-working staff are feeling very lonely without getting to see your smiling chatting selves every day! Our industry revolves around community, collaboration, and stress-relieving lunchtime chats, or Friday night drinks. Maintaining your social sanity is still very possible (and very much needed) in times of crisis! Here at The Cluster we have been busy updating our blog, keeping tabs on our community, and sending out newsletters to make sure you guys know we are here if you need some virtual company! If you’re feeling sick of your home office or just want to have a chat feel free to drop us a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Work Together
Co-working has always been about supporting one another, and as the future of so many businesses hang in the balance, this has proven true now more than ever. The Cluster itself is a small business with a tight-knit team of employees here to make sure your company has all the tools it needs to succeed. It’s not just us though, if you need advice on government grants, have started a contactless delivery cupcake business, or just need some virtual webinar tips, chances are there is a member in our community our team can introduce you to who would be more than happy to help! (If not, we will still definitely order some cupcakes)
- Take a Load Off
So you’re working from home now which means now all sales calls go straight to your mobile and company bills come to your home; it can become near impossible to separate work from home lives, especially when your toddler gleefully runs away with your latest sales report and a handful of crayons. Reach out to us to see if The Cluster can help ease the WFH workload. Whether you need a receptionist to help with your phone calls, a business address to advertise, administrative assistance or mail processing support, see how coworking can help you, so you have more time to protect your walls from those rogue crayons!
- Be Supported
The latest Stage 4 Restrictions have drawn a tough line in the sand for going to the office; here at The Cluster we have had to shut our doors to most members to ensure everyone stays as safe and healthy as possible. Our wonderful team member Clare, however, is still holding down the fort to make sure your mail gets to where it needs to be, and our WFH team are still here to answer and direct your calls. If you’re in an essential industry that’s keeping cogs turning and need an emergency workspace, or you need us to forward you a file from your office, we are still on-site and at your service.
- Get Flexible
The Coronavirus Crisis has been a confusing and consistently unpredictable time as individuals and businesses around the world have adapted and innovated to keep their heads above water. When things swing back around (whenever that may be), your co-working space is there for you. With thorough cleaning schedules, social distancing measures in place and flexible membership and hot-desking options, The Cluster is here to design a bespoke solution to your post-apocalyptic office needs.
We are here to support you in and out of the office, so don’t be a stranger! We are looking forward to having all your beautiful souls back in the office soon
- Have a heading-to-work routine
When working from home, it’s vital that your day starts like any other. This might seem simple, but it is crucial in making sure you’re as late, stressed and overwhelmed as you typically would be. Being away from the office is no excuse to pretend you have the luxury of arriving early to work, well dressed, and just off the back of a 10km run. Snooze your alarm, spill your coffee on your crisp white shirt and swear profusely at your car’s dead battery even if you’re not leaving the driveway.
- Create a schedule & stick to it
Find when you work best and stick to it. Not an early bird? Start your day at 11:30pm! Have lunch at 3am! Don’t work well ever? Clock off as soon as you’ve clocked on! Your laziness will thank you!
- Define boundaries between home space and workspace
Struggling to separate your work and home lives? Strategically arrange Police / Crime Scene tape around your study to make sure your partner and children are too terrified to come anywhere near you! Wipe tomato sauce all over the walls with your hands for an even better effect. Don’t have a study? Build a super cool fort out of binders and dividers and pretend you are the king of your own post-it kingdom.
- Look after yourself
Don’t forget to look after yourself by maintaining self-care habits. Exercise (you’re right to eat an entire packet of Tim-Tams). Get adequate rest (digest said packet of Tim-Tams). Have a bath (in water, not in Tim-Tams. That would be gross).
- Take regular breaks
Finally, a reason to get cracking into that sourdough recipe; procrastination! Need to get work done but plain old just don’t want to do it? Spend 3 hours making a sandwich and call it a lunch break! The incentive of KPI’s have nothing on RNB’s (Really Nice Breads).
- Go outside
Finding the noise of screaming home-schooled children and your now unemployed partner’s Stan binges are hindering your ability to get anything done? Venture outdoors and try replacing said distractions with new and inspiring distractions. Go to Starbucks! Realise they are takeaway-only! Be that random weirdo sipping an extra-foam-extra-hot-caramel-1/4 shot-latte writing his bestselling novel sitting on the footpath outside! Be soothed by the deluge of Karens hollering at the staff that they’re not allowed to sit down inside and discuss Eat Pray Love at length! You’ll be amazed how much you’ll feel like banging your head against a wall like you usually do at the office.
- Pump the tunes
Can’t concentrate from the sound of the neighbour’s incessant leaf-blowing and whipper-snippering? Put on a playlist! Some may suggest a Hans Zimmer marathon or maybe the classic death metal / jazz fusion. You may however just need the stimulating sounds of document sorting, keyboard tapping and printer jamming to truly get yourself into the corporate mindset. If the endless ‘Office Ambience’ YouTube videos aren’t enough you can always clog the kitchen tap for a cheap and convenient dripping-water-cooler imitation.
- Use the right tools & equipment
Finding yourself squirming in your ergonomic office chair? Get some more blood to your brain by strapping your feet to the roof and hanging like a bat. Duct tape your keyboard to the floor. Sticky tape your phone to the wall. Watch productivity (and the size of the veins on your head) triple!
- Stay away from social media
Although it may be the only platform that lets us pretend we are outside, your social media feeds are probably only going to be depressing drivel about how the world is falling apart anyway. Why look at memes about how hard it is to get any work done from home when you yourself have become a living breathing meme thanks to your inability to concentrate on anything for more than 5 minutes? It is far too tempting to watch the neighbour trim her exquisite roses, or the poor postie trying to jam your enormous Amazon parcel into your little letterbox. Hilarious! Wait, what was I saying?
- Have excessive amounts of meetings
Thought working from home meant finally having a break from your incessantly petulant colleagues and co-workers? Think again! Introducing the Working 2, Zoom Boogaloo! Featuring the original cacophony of deadlines and terms such as ‘as per my last email’, you can now enjoy the added features of ear-shattering microphone static, 90s-paced internet speed and awkward apologising as five people perpetually start talking at once, then stop, then start again. Who’s even running this bloody meeting?!
His alarm goes off. This can’t be right, he thinks, as he glares at the darkness outside. The chill has sheathed his window in a forbidding white frost. The sun hasn’t even bothered to make an appearance and yet the boss has decreed he must! How did he ever do this, 5 days a week, EVERY week?! Why are pants obligatory?! How does one wash one’s hair? Why must his exercise extend from simple walks between the fridge and the couch?
Gone are the somewhat amusing days of enforced Netflix binges, sourdough-making, questionable drinking habits and occasional working. Throwing himself into the shower, he curiously examines the hairs he forgot he must pluck and trim into submission. He rummages through the laundry basket, searching for the least offensive-smelling thing. Black blazer? Bingo! Hastily attempting to brush crusted 3-day-old Bolognese from the sleeve, without much success, he decides to stop questioning why food ends up where it does anymore.
Slurping down yesterday’s leftover coffee, he drags himself to the tram stop. Man, it’s cold! he thinks. Has it always been this cold? Did the walk to the tram stop always take 9 minutes? Seems excessive. I could have been to the fridge and back 3 times by now! He boards with caution. The vibe is tense. Some cling to their gloves and masks with unyielding fervor, 1.5m-marked tape measures in hand. Others lounge and touch their faces and press buttons with reckless abandon.
He arrives at the office, where the painfully cheery receptionist greets him with more pizazz than he can handle right now. She mentions something about ‘Casual Monday, hey?’. He looks down. Bugger! Pyjama pants (printed with pictures of his dog of course) and bear-foot slippers; he knew he forgot something! At least his dog is dapper as hell. Dumping his things down on one of the Flexi desks, he attempts to sit in his fancy ergonomic seat, only to crumple to the floor. Seems months of lounging around on the couch have impeded his ability to use a chair. Hmm. Wait, you know this, he says to himself, just try to remember. Something about bending the knees? Ah, there we are! Someone is talking softly on the opposite side of the office floor; it’s infuriating. He pines for the sound of his cats demanding their 3rd breakfast and parkour-ing around the apartment; how can he possibly concentrate without them?
A well-meaning co-worker approaches for some casual small talk; he rapidly blathers about Tiger King and how long his personalised Thigh Master 3000 is taking to arrive. Confused co-worker leaves without a word. Human interaction is more difficult than expected. He opens his laptop for his weekly Zoom meeting; it takes a surprising amount of effort to break the keyboard-to-screen adhesive of red wine spills & old pizza crumbs. His colleague says, ‘Hi hello I’m right opposite you, you don’t need to use Zoom we can just talk in person’. Staring menacingly at the screen while stroking his impressive Covid beard, he glares at his insistent colleague who is waffling on about all sorts of numbers and KPI’s that pillage his mushy sleepy brain. This meeting is definitely something he could have been half-watching while catching up on the latest murder docuseries from the couch. He just wants to know if Carole Baskin did it or not! Casually he bashes the mute button, but this is ineffective. Pesky colleague shoots him a look from across the desk. Surely there’s some sort of technology to bring muting to the workplace. Or at the very least a funky background like a pug in space or a tranquil beach in the Maldives? The ability to leave the country; weren’t those the golden days.
It slips into the afternoon. He has already missed two naptimes and is not happy that he is getting far too much work done – the bar was satisfyingly lower at home. Apparently snack time has been banished for the health and safety of the members – but who’s looking out for the health and safety of his 3pm grumblies? Usually he’d be working on his Covid procrastination project by now, attempting to turn his cats into dogs, but it’s taking a lot more work than expected. All he wants is for them to walk placidly in a harness and fetch the newspaper and maybe a can of VB when so instructed. They hate him for it but at least the aggressive hissing keeps other walkers 1.5m away!
The sun leaves before he does, and now again he must embark on his bothersome commute home. Finally, he plods down his cul-de-sac, the front porch light a beacon of squalid comfort and lazy times so thoroughly enjoyed in the recent months. He opens the door and is greeted not by the luxury he remembers but a house in shambles; coffee cups piled in a mouldy steeple, cat hair on the roof, half-drunk wine bottles in the bathroom and Netflix asking if he is still there. Maybe home wasn’t all he remembered it to be? Sure, his crochet and beer homebrewing skills have never been better but having a shower and talking to actual humans in the flesh can be nice sometimes too. The receptionist was certainly happy to see him! Thank goodness lockdown restrictions are easing at last. Looks like returning to life as we used to know it might just be in sight.
26 minutes later: Actually, scratch that. 6 weeks more of stage 3 lockdown. Showering and socialising have nothing on 6 weeks in bed re-watching ‘You’. The self-indulgence continues.
8:32 – Arrive to work 28 minutes early due to an unsettling, yet very convenient, lack of traffic. Appearing super committed has never been easier than during a crisis.
8:34 – Elevator doors part. There is already a gentleman inside. We stare at each other trying to figure out if I get in or he gets out or we both just commit and risk it for the ‘Rona. I’ve forgotten how to socialise so do the polite thing and hide in the corner until the door closes.
8:45 – Discuss the weekend news with the coffee machine. He can be a little hot-headed.
9:12 – Not a single member is in sight or earshot. Nearly leap over the desk at a member coming in to collect his mail. Try to say hello to realise I have forgotten how to talk. Manage to mumble a mouthful of absolute nonsense. He takes his envelopes and slowly backs out the door.
9:44 – This absolute silence is very distracting. I put on a YouTube video of people chewing loudly and making repetitive sales calls to concentrate.
10:23 – Sneeze loudly to see if anyone says ‘bless you’. Its echo reminds me of my solitude
11:30 – Burst into tears when I see the postie. Try to coax her to stay with various compliments of how dashing she looks in high-vis. She hands me the letters individually so she can soothe my deprived extrovert nerves.
11:35 – Postie leaves. Again I am alone with only envelopes to talk to.
12:17 – Lunch time. Heat up salmon in the microwave, hoping someone materialises to quietly huff about the smell. Nothing but delicious fish. Stare longingly out at the city from my lonely but beautiful clear prison.
12:29 – There were 43 red cars today.
13:03 – Phone rings. Have an in-depth, 45-minute conversation about free LED lights. She was disappointed when I finally said we already had them but sent my best wishes to her sister for the upcoming wedding and to her uncle for his ear problems.
13:45 – Stick post-it notes in the shape of a face and torso on the chair next to me. It’s just nice to have someone there. Rowena is a great listener.
14:27 – It’s been an hour and half since the phone rang. I book a courier to deliver something to myself. He is pleased for the short commute. I’m pleased for a small morsel of conversation. I tip him in jellybeans.
15:00 – Decide keeping a normal routine is crucial to maintaining sanity, therefore, we cannot afford to sacrifice 3pm snack time! Demolish entire bag of chips (its simply unhygienic to share and there’s no one here to judge me anyway).
15:04 – Wish I’d had fruit instead.
15:49 – Get checkmate’d by my own hand in chess. Morning Eva definitely has more strategy than post-Doritos Eva. I wish the postie would come back
16:12 – Walk around to tidy – search for signs of intelligent life – an abandoned glass, desktop coffee stains, a mysteriously small and tidy pile of peanuts, anything. There is nothing. I carry my broom in vain.
16:31 – My keyboard is 22 almonds long. Who knew?
16:49 – Ask The Cluster gods to please, please deliver me a human to talk to tomorrow. Gods say ‘no there is a virus and that’s very dangerous and haven’t you heard the news’
16:56 – The phone rings. It’s a member. She’s coming in tomorrow. Hope returns.
17:02 – Leave with a skip in my step. It’s going to be a good week.
Moral of the story: When you are good and ready to return, please come and say hello to reception. I still have some jellybeans you can have!