Meadhbh Hand shares with Sunday Times her experience during the lockdown and how Ireland Together offered her a supportive collaborative space
I find it hard to believe that it’s been six months since all of this lockdown started. Time has taken on a very different quality — in some ways it has felt as if it’s slowed down, and yet it also feels like the months are flying by.
Because some of the usual ways we mark time have been removed or postponed, it feels more elastic somehow — no monthly networking lunches, no gigs, or special occasions to look forward
to. Sometimes it feels as though every day is endless, and then all of a sudden it’s Friday again, or a whole new month. The strange feeling of time passing is one thing I’ll remember most about this period.
As someone who was already well accustomed to working from home and a bit of an introvert, I thought that I had a head start on other people in that regard. But under normal circumstances I would have been out and about a lot more, networking, meeting clients and just working away from home for a change of scenery. Adjusting to that sudden halt in outside distractions was harder than I
thought. I definitely had serious Zoom fatigue. All of a sudden people stopped picking up the phone and wanted to have Zoom meetings instead. Friends wanted to socialise on Zoom at the weekend.
My birthday was during lockdown and I took a proper day off. The restrictions had just changed from 2km to 5km, so I was able to meet my sister and family in a local park that was within both of our travel zones. The weather did not co-operate, but it was great to see people in real life and have
a completely laptop- free, zoom-free day. Unfortunately, it was also hug-free — but you can’t have everything.
The trading online voucher scheme, which helps businesses to trade online with a voucher ofupto €2,500, has been a mixed blessing for my business of copywriting, content writing and content design.
Because everyone was applying and looking for three quotes for their applications, I was really busy chatting to potential new clients and writing quotes and proposals. Some of them have converted to clients, but sometimes I was just there to meet the three-quote criteria.
I live with my parents, who were cocooning, so in some senses I wasn’t isolated, but I was trying to socially distance within the home to an extent. As the person doing the shopping for them and other older relatives, I felt a sense of responsibility not to bring any germs home with me.
I missed seeing my friends, other family members and business colleagues. Before I worked for myself, I did a PhD in English in Trinity over four years, and that has been excellent preparation both for self-employment and the pandemic: for years I’ve been structuring my own time, working alone, managing competing deadlines and dealing with financial insecurity — it’s just that under normal circumstances there would have been more trips to the cinema and coffees and drinks with friends to get through it. Ireland Together has been a great source of support, as a chance to have conversations with other people who get what it’s like doing business in lockdown.
I didn’t expect to expand my network during the past five months, but Ireland Together, an online business support community, has given me the chance to do that. It also feels like a very genuine space where you don’t always have to wear a super-positive social media mask. Hats off to the team: they’ve created a supportive collaborative space, which has enormous potential for building meaningful business relationships.
Be open with others about how you’re really feeling, good or bad. Celebrate the small wins and make time for things that you enjoy.