Creatives are wired to take a different view of the world but so are the Danes. We pioneered the shorter working week, we love the outdoors, we prioritise our fitness and wellbeing and studies always claim that this all adds up to us being the happiest country in the world. But, above all, I think we value the freedom to create our own way of life.
This year, as my – and everyone’s – sense of freedom seemed to disappear overnight, I was left thinking about what the future of freedom and leisure in our lives might look like? But, first, I found myself simply asking, ‘What do we actually mean when we talk about leisure?’
Leisure is an increasingly subjective and ambiguous term that constantly morphs and takes on a new entity as we all buy into the next thing. In recent years, our leisure culture has been feeding off fast-paced and seemingly endless new sources of entertainment and frantic consumerism. It gave us instant escape, stopped us feeling unfulfilled, wasting our time or going unnoticed. But, suddenly, the pandemic forced us to stop, to take time to reflect, be still, sit in the presence of our immediate surroundings and question how we really seek fulfilment in life.
We may have all felt frustrated and bored being forced to stay at home. But, doing nothing and being bored is far from pointless because creativity often comes from boredom and dissatisfaction. As Jenny Odell writes in her book ‘How to Do Nothing’, “Nothing is neither a luxury or a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech.”
We need time and space to think and to allow new ideas and experiences in. The last six months has been uncomfortable and challenging but we need to look at the huge opportunity it has given us to refocus on leisure and our freedoms.
Do we really want a more showy and status-driven lifestyle or are we actually striving for a better and more fulfilled life?
In the height of the pandemic, some brands reacted quickly with innovative suggestions to show us just how we could make the most of more leisure time spent at home. IKEA released a series of instruction manuals that encouraged people to use what they had in their homes to build castles and wigwams, recognising the need to transform classrooms and offices back into living places. While sexual wellness brand Maude launched an online platform called Staycation, giving visitors access to brands and platforms built around the simple and cosy joy of staying in.
Now, as we start to gradually and cautiously integrate back into work and social spheres, just how leisure and our working environment could look in our new normal is being questioned even further.
A new Dettol ad on the London Underground offers a monologue about working life pre-pandemic in a bid to get people excited about the return to work. Criticised by commuters, the ad was quickly parodied by the Green Party who released an alternative vision for the future of work: “Hearing an alarm. Hitting snooze if you need to. Real plants. Absolutely no buzzwords, boss jokes or office bants. A quick walk in the sun whenever you like.” At the end of the ad, the copy reads “the future of work can be better than the past.”
As our work and play lives inevitably continue to blur, and as we continue to battle with the complexities of the world we are living in today, it will be up to us to decide what leisure means for us and how we can access new moments of liberty throughout the day. Ultimately, we need to look at how we unlock and create a new idea and quality experience of leisure, built on freedom and life fulfillment, in ways that are not simply confined to non-working hours.
I believe that the most sought-after and sustainable future of leisure, will be one that isn’t compartmentalised but one that, across many sectors and industries – and not just the ones we traditionally think of as leisure – can offer original ways of curating or enabling a new quality of experience.
Do we now, finally, have the liberty to design a new idea of leisure?