What can I do if I can’t work?

What can I do if I can’t work? In a time when everything feels out of control, thanks to covid-19, this is a question many people are asking themselves on a daily basis. So much of our sense of purpose is tied up in in the work we do and in the career that we’ve chosen for ourselves. It’s quite natural really when we spend at least 40 hours a week at work.  It’s also quite natural to feel a bit lost when there seems to be so much chaos around and so many things happening that are so beyond our control. As humans we have an instinctive need to be able to contribute, do something that has a purpose, and in modern times that has been defined by work. What can you do when that gets taken away? There’s evidence that the feelings many people have are closely linked to those we experience when grieving.

You can still have a purpose

You may no longer have a job or your usual daily routine, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to be able to contribute to society. Even in the most adverse times opportunity still exists and that’s no different now in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic. While the majority of commerce and industry is in lockdown, a few small sectors are being hugely overburdened by the pandemic. Health workers, hospitals, medical supply companies, communications infrastructure, retail, food production, waste management, to name a few. So if you can’t do your usual job, how can you help ease the burden on these sectors?

Here are a few initiatives that are already happening around the world:

In many countries distilleries that usually produce gin, whiskey, brandy or other spirits have switched their production to making hygiene products such as hand sanitiser and disinfectant spray. This is helping to meet the overwhelming demand for these products and increase the capacity for production.

In the USA, outdoor gear manufacturer Sylvan Sport, amongst others, has switched their production to creating facemasks and similar essential items for health workers. They are funding this through an industry co-operative and keeping their online store open so that people can purchase their usual outdoor gear online – and make a contribution to the project at the same time.

Mercedes F1 is one of many organisations that is creating inexpensive simple designs for ventilators that can be easily replicated and mass produced to meet the increased demand. With digital design technology the blueprints can easily be shared to locations where they can be produced. In less than 100 hours, the team from UCL and Mercedes have developed a production ready system.

Instead of disposing of plastic in recycling bins, people are challenging one another to create eco-bricks by filling plastic bottles with plastic packaging. This is not only reducing the burden on the recycling sector, but also helps to create a product that can be used for building in the future.

In South Africa, a country that relies heavily on tourism and that has been severely impacted by travel bans, a community initiative called Ubuntu beds has been started. This has seen small guesthouses offer empty rooms to health workers for free. Giving them a place to sleep and recharge without having to go home and place their family at risk of exposure. There may still be no revenue flowing in for the guesthouses, but they are using what they have to help those who need it most.

What do you have to offer?

Now you may not have the facilities to mass produce hygiene products or face masks, but you do have skills that could be of use if you can identify an opportunity. Whether you’re an industrial engineer, Chemist, or recycling operator, you can still make a contribution. Think about how you can transfer your expertise to help industry sectors that are being overburdened. What can you do online or remotely? How can you help solve a problem currently being faced? It’s time to start thinking out of the box and finding out what communities need, because there is a great deal of need.  We’re really fortunate that employment has, in the main, been protected via the furloughing scheme.  This does provide opportunities for community engagement in volunteering projects.

Additionally, there’s no reason to restrict yourself to the career or industry sector you operated in before. Can you tutor? Perhaps there’s an opportunity to help school or university students online. If you have a vehicle, does your local grocery store need people to help make deliveries to households? Do you have a talent for writing or creating engaging social media content? You could help share accurate, uplifting and useful community information. Are you a natural people’s person? How about setting up a community Facebook page where people or organisations in your area can post needs and others can respond to help out as they’re able to. Are you a creative person? Share ideas on creative and stimulating activities to keep kids entertained while at home, or simple DIY projects – who knows, a successful You Tube channel could be your next earning opportunity.

It all starts with looking around you and being able to identify what people need right now. Then looking at what you can do, because you can always do something! The covid-19 pandemic is affecting everyone and it’s making us realise how little control we have in reality. But you don’t need to be able to control things to have a purpose, you just need to be able to contribute. What will you do? We’d love to hear your stories and ideas for how we can help each other get through this.