Exploring life under lockdown in Britain’s households: ‘how was your weekend’

We’re a fortnight in to our ‘Through The Keyhole’ research – an in-depth qualitative study of 15 UK households. We are focussing on the societal impact of the nationwide lockdown – exploring the British public’s lived experiences of these unprecedented events.

We’ve checked in with our households who are scattered throughout the UK and reflect a wide cross section of society. This week we focused on how people are getting on with their lives at home. It’s now the school holidays, we’ve had the long bank holiday Easter weekend and an extraordinary spell of warm weather. So what’s the mood?

It’s up and down…but a bit more up

In the words of one respondent: ‘we’re optimistic in these grave times’ – and there’s certainly lots of positivity where families and friends are connecting more; communities are rallying; and those with a bit more time on their hands are enjoying pastimes such as painting eggs with children, gardening, Netflix, exercise and reading more. But the media backdrop – the daily death toll topping 900 during the week and coverage of NHS pressures – is creating real worry. Those in our sample feeling it hardest this week are either the youngest: those who’ve lost income, students and singles isolated from friends; or the oldest: living alone and ‘high risk’ – feeling stuck indoors and resentful about seeing people (not social distancing) enjoying the sun.

Coping strategies

Perhaps tellingly, as well as this positive spirit we are hearing concerns about the impact of the lockdown on the mental health of the population. Without attributing any of these things to managing their own mental wellbeing, we can see many ways that people are building mental resilience:

  • Observing nature at close quarters by watching Spring (or seed boxes) unfold day by day
  • Appreciating the release from ‘FOMO’: no one is missing out…because no one is going out!
  • Finding escapism though creative pursuits: making and baking
  • Keeping daily exercise routines – including a surprising amount of yoga
  • Anticipating treats – like the weekly family ‘House party’ call – or the new Killing Eve series
  • Preparing for the long haul: all predicting normality will return in the Autumn at the earliest

So did Easter happen?

Well partly, it seems, for most people (though the towers of unsold chocolate eggs in supermarkets might suggest otherwise). Indoor egg hunts featured, as did virtual church services and virtual family get-togethers. Some report feeling more connected to their communities and families than in previous years. Those working from home made a real point of stepping away from it (because the lines between home and work have become blurred). But plans were also cancelled – including a 40th birthday trip abroad; the annual Easter break in Wales; and a 99th birthday party. Instead of disappointment however, our respondents are sanguine, saying there’s nothing to be done – and that others have much worse things to deal with at the moment. At a time when doing nothing is all many of us can do to ‘do our bit’, perhaps there’s something positive in doing less than nothing…

We are also beginning to learn how people are reflecting on the crisis and how life is changing – perhaps permanently. We’ll be exploring this in the coming weeks including changing expectations of the government; the financial consequences of lockdown; and what life after coronavirus might look like.

16th April 2020