Australians, like cats, generally do not appreciate being confined. Some of us are seemingly as creative as cats in finding ways to break out or ignore the current restraints placed upon us. Climbing barriers to surf on closed beaches, drinking cold ones on rooftops away from the prying eyes of all but police helicopters. For those charged to keep order, it is a case of herding cats.
Confinement is of course our most serious form of punishment, with solitary confinement sitting at the apex. If ever we needed a reminder that work serves not only as a means to earning a crust but also a critical social function bringing us together, it is the current lockdown.
Our social needs from work have been lost to many who have lost their jobs, but even for those lucky ones able to carry on working from home, the intensity of the communication options tends to preclude much of the gossip and small-talk. The elevator conversations, or jokes at the water fountain or water closet are lost. Only the reckless put such thoughts into the possibly permanent record of an email. Levity leavens the burdens of work. It is easily lost in social isolation.
Many of us are experiencing the mental demands of using video-mediated communications such as Zoom and Skype. We have our colleagues literally in our faces. This reduces the opportunity to read social cues for instance from posture, positioning, from where people choose to sit and near whom. This means we need to concentrate far more on our interlocutors than we would normally do. This is tiring. The close-up culture of these meetings also makes it harder for us surreptitiously to nod off or do other tasks because we are being watched.
Slowly we adapt. The cat and I stare with mutual antipathy, each chock full of plans of escape and confinement. Each day, a day closer to our freedom.
Jim Bright, FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright