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Covid Lockdown Cameo: Joan Withers

What did you find hardest about lockdown?

As a professional non-executive director, I generally spend a lot of time working from home in preparation for board meetings. So the transition wasn’t as profound as it was for many others. What surprised me was how exhausting it was spending 8 hours or longer on Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls. Most boards moved immediately to more frequent interactions so often I was in front of the screen most of the day.

The truly gruelling dimension of the lockdown for me was grocery shopping. I wouldn’t let my husband go to the supermarket because I knew he wouldn’t be rigorous with the hand sanitiser, mask etc regime. In the early days of the lockdown, standing in a queue for 20 minutes to get into the supermarket then trying to manoeuvre around without breaching distance requirements in a futile search for out of stock items was an absolute pain.

But the very hardest part was not being able to see and cuddle our grandkids. Thanks to FaceTime they didn’t forget us, but the physical reconnection, when it happened, was joyous.

What issues did Covid-19 expose or exacerbate that we need to focus on in New Zealand?

Standing in those supermarket queues and hearing the dismay as the store manager came into the carpark to tell shoppers they would not be accepting cash, reinforced the fact that things many of us take for granted are not the norm in some areas of our community.

The fiscal stimulus that the government has provided has created an essential buffer. But as unemployment levels rise and other temporary measures such as mortgage deferrals roll off, we are going to have to find ways as a society to ensure those not fortunate enough to have been able to create a nest egg for the sort of situation we are now in, are protected from the harshest potential impacts of the economic downturn.

What silver lining have you taken from the Covid-19 experience?

Not driving on the Southern Motorway for seven weeks was a definite silver lining. Also being able to “dress down” a little for a Zoom call compared to the full business kit expected for a physical meeting, made getting ready easier in the morning.

My husband worked from home during the lockdown and it was fantastic knowing I could text him if I needed a coffee when I was stuck on a long vidcon. Early each morning we scheduled times when we could eat together or go outside for a break. We talked more than we normally get a chance to and I think that is a defining benefit from the lockdown that I hear from people. More time to think and communicate. My sisters introduced me to House Party and catching up with the wider family in that way was great.

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