Despite dire warnings, work life goes on as usual

Outbreaks of COVID-19 have yet to impact many workplaces in a big way

Despite dire warnings, work life goes on as usual

Despite it being more than a month since my last blog on the topic, I still find it difficult to gain perspective when it comes to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Maybe that’s because, for a variety of possible reasons, Canada has been somewhat sheltered from intense breakouts, though our numbers are slowly climbing (77 confirmed cases as of today).

I had one friend say it’s because we’re so far apart here, there’s so much room in Canada. He was partly joking. While cities such as Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto see people packed in tightly when it comes to commuting or accommodation, our density numbers do not approach those of China, Korea or even Italy, so that has to help.

And despite being a country built on heavy immigration, the expected onslaught of cases flying in from Iran or China has not occurred. Possibly people are self-quarantining, as recommended, or possibly people have cut way back on travel from those hard-hit regions.

But we can’t forget our public health officials and health-care workers, who are among the world’s best in working to track and contain the spread of infection. They act with caution, reason and a dedication that is truly impressive, and comforting.

And it’s very hard not to be concerned when an entire country — Italy — shuts down in order to contain the spread.

As I read the headlines each morning, highlighting rising numbers and stranded cruise ships, I find myself sinking into a hole of alarm: Will the schools close? How will my teenage son finish his year? Will my elderly parents be OK? Will the economy sink and threaten our jobs? Will the health-care system collapse under the weight of demand? Will we run out of basic supplies?

But once I go about my day and stop reading too much of the news, that weight lifts. And the everyday becomes normal again.

And for the most part, I think that’s what many employers are doing. Here at Key Media, we’ve been given individual hand sanitizer, they’ve placed disinfecting wipes strategically around the office, and we’ve been encouraged to work from home when sick. And that’s about it. Because — knock on wood — that’s all that’s needed at this point.

Yes, we’re now using elbows instead of handshakes when a new employee joins the office. And there’s the odd joke about possible contagions, but work in our open office goes on as usual.

Of course, some employers such as Twitter and Google have encouraged employees to work remotely. But this is in harder-hit regions and makes a lot of sense. At our office, we’re well-positioned to work from home if needed, but any employers not yet in that situation may be scrambling — and rightly so. For COVID-19 or any other unexpected event, remote work just makes sense and these days, it’s easily done in many industries.

Despite the odd shopping frenzy when it comes to things like toilet paper and canned goods, judging by the supplies at my local stores, and the cancellations of some events, life goes on as usual.

I have never seen anyone wearing a face mask on my daily bus ride to and from work. I rarely see people out on the streets downtown wearing a mask. Perhaps people realize it’s not terribly effective, but I think for the most part people are feeling pretty comfortable sticking with the status quo.

So, until there’s a ramp-up of locally transmitted COVID-19, everyday lives can go on as before, with some caution. And if not, hopefully employers are prepared.

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