Pandemic or productivity contest?

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By Lydia Skerritt


  • COVID-19
  • Nielsen McAllister news
  • PR
News of the coronavirus pandemic is dominating every inch of the media – which is understandable. After all, millions of lives across the globe are at risk. Equally inescapable throughout our media are the words ‘home workout’ – but are we being put under too much pressure to improve ourselves when we have so many other things to worry about?

Are you feeling the pressure to become the ultimate version of yourself during lockdown? Super fit, super organised, full of energy, ready to learn new talents and just, well, be amazing? Yeah, me too. In fact, so much so that it’s everywhere I turn. I almost have to remind myself that we are, in actual fact, in the middle of a pandemic and not a productivity contest.

Improve yourself or…

From mainstream news and daytime TV to social media, pressures to be productive and ‘improve yourself’ during lockdown are unavoidable. And it seems to be working! Two-thirds of people wish to achieve something during this period and more than 60 per cent of people were planning – or had already started – a regime of self-improvement while forced to stay at home. Yet among these pledges of self-improvement is one that is undoubtedly making the biggest noise – the aim to get fit.

Across the world, people are turning whatever space they have at home into a make-shift gym. Many have scrambled to the dark corners of the garage to dust the cobwebs off their neglected workout equipment. Or even better yet, tins of baked beans and laundry bottles are being turned into weights as people follow the ‘home workouts’ that are being plastered across social media. It almost seems that anyone and everyone, including your old PE teacher, has decided they’re a personal trainer during this time.

A better you!

Yet we’re lapping it up, all in a frantic attempt to keep up with the overwhelming expectation to better yourself during lockdown. Almost to the point where it seems as if people are matching their fear of catching coronavirus with that of putting on a few pounds – worried they may emerge from this crisis as a worse version of themselves.


I must confess that I’ve been sucked into the trap myself. I gave yoga my first shot the other day, and my dining room table – which is my work space during the day – soon turns into a table tennis table at night. And, amazingly, I go running now. Who’d have thought? But some have gone to the extreme to prove you can maintain an active lifestyle during lockdown – one man in France even ran a marathon on his seven-metre-long balcony. And you don’t need me to tell you about the impact that 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore has had on the world by walking 100 laps of his garden. Feeling lazy yet?

And that’s without even mentioning the long list of other pressures we are being put under. Learn a new skill, write a novel, learn a language, bake banana bread, paint your house, colour code your wardrobe, transform your garden – the list goes on.

Lockdown pressure

It seems that, without ticking off at least one, you have failed your time during lockdown. And this all comes down to the idea that, since we are stuck at home, we should be doing something productive. So, why are we worrying about this stuff?

I think it’s about time we remind ourselves that we haven’t been put into some form of boot camp – this is a global pandemic. You are literally being forced to stay home, so don’t feel bad about it!

Deal with it how you want to deal with it. If working out or learning a new language helps you through this, then that’s great. Equally, if you want to continue to be the same coach potato you were before the pandemic, do that. Just be true to yourself! If you’re feeling coerced by the multitude of pressures and ultimately feeling worse about yourself for not competing with expectations, then actively shield yourself from it. Social media can be a wonderful place to connect with family and friends during this time, but it can also be an extremely damaging sinkhole of self-doubt, comparison and competition.

Focus on what’s important

Take comfort in the knowledge that this situation is temporary. Use this time to slow down and check-in with your family and friends – really check in – and appreciate the little things you may have previously taken for granted. And, most importantly, just survive. After all, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

When we look back on this unprecedented time in our world’s history, will we really care or even remember how much we weighed? Will we think about the time our garden looked particularly trim or the kitchen became a new shade of off-white?

This is a confusing time for us all. But as a PR agency, we are experienced in navigating our way through the modern minefield of news and social media. We are here to help if you want support or guidance for your business and its stakeholders during this difficult time. One thing we can’t promise, though, is to help you get abs.

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