Isolation heightens detail – Sophie Thomas

Founding Director of Thomas Matthews, living in London

At the moment I am struggling with a desire to have some time to myself. It seems that working from home and having all my meetings online means I often miss my lunch break. I look up from my laptop and suddenly it is 6pm and I haven’t even gone outside for some air. I feel more responsible. I worry about my team who are now scattered in flats and shared houses across London and the south-east. I worry about the isolation of those that live alone. I worry about my clients continuing our contracts. So many things to grapple with when you run a small studio remotely. And that is not even taking into account the other worries about family.

My main issue is one of hyper-connectivity. Over a two-hour time period this morning I had four calls, each on different platforms: Microsoft Teams, Google hangouts, Zoom and Skype (it’s clear to see who are the winners in this lockdown!). I have communications coming in through email, teams chat, MSG, Slack and have multiple channels on WhatsApp. It’s hard to get a grip.

I have made my weekends more sacred. They need to be different and whereas before I would do work on a Sunday, now there is definitely no laptop interaction. However they too are also very busy. I have now done all my jobs around the house that I had not completed. Shelves have been put up, doors repaired and seeds are sown.

So what am I learning? 

I understand that all news is not good. My brain cannot take an overload of all the newsfeed information coming at me. It’s on  a need to know basis, I don’t need to read everything about COVID-19 on twitter, it’s not good for my mental health.

I now need to adjust and prioritise myself and my family. This time is really quite extraordinary. My kids are teenagers and so it’s possible that I will not have such concentrated time with them after this. And it is a pleasure to always eat together, we even started to do family yoga in the mornings (though my kids stopped after a few days). We all watch a movie after dinner, each person deciding on what it will be (my choice last night was Amelie) and I go for a walk with my husband to catch the end of the day, see the big sky (even in north London) and listen to the birds. The important lesson is to be calm and relaxed with each other and with the scenario.


I am a tactile creature and I miss touch. I like to see and hug my friends, and in business I am an enthusiastic handshaker. I am worried that once we emerge from our self-isolation and social distancing rules where contact is actively avoided, we will be too afraid to go back to this comforting tactility. 


I am empowered by community. I have become a community NHS volunteer, available to help those that cannot get their medicine or need a chat. I am deeply protective of my family and my team and worry about their mental wellbeing.

I realise we are social beings. We live for the interaction, we go for a drink, meet for a coffee, watch films en masse. In London our travel and infrastructure systems are built for mass. How will we feel about this once lockdown is lifted? Will we always worry about the unseen dangers or will we go back to how it was? 


As a creative/magpie I am always observing the smaller and often overlooked things; unusual, quirky, beautiful things. Isolation has highlighted the importance of the detail and I revel in this. I aim to take more time to be still and find the space to just be.

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