What a difference a week makes

Working from home just isn’t the same when it’s because of a menacing virus

What a difference a week makes

I’m somewhat reluctant to write this. For one, I can only contemplate COVID-19 to a certain extent before it all becomes rather overwhelming. I take it in small doses, reading a Guardian story about Italy or the U.K., then returning to Canada for a CBC or Toronto Star coverage. Then it’s onto Facebook for the latest from neighbourhood groups.

But then I have to back away and get back to my regular life. And I definitely can’t read about it before bed. That’s when I take in lighter fare on Netflix or Crave so I can temporarily forget the world’s woes and ease into sleep.

It’s all rather surreal. I’ll wake up in the morning and immediately remember that, oh yes, there’s a virus impacting pretty much every corner of the globe. And every country is doing its darndest to stem the tide.

I’m also reluctant to write this because just last week, I said many workplaces weren’t really affected by the virus, aside from providing additional hand sanitizer and allowing more people to work from home.

Well, today, I’m working from home along with many of my colleagues at Key Media in London, U.K., Denver, Sydney, Manila, Auckland and Seoul. And offices around the world are encouraging if not mandating workers to stay home to do their work. Social media is filled with people sharing stories of their new home-based workplace.

While I know Canada has been doing relatively well compared to parts of Europe and the United States, it’s still a daunting experience. Just today, Toronto was told its bars and restaurants were to close, after schools were closed for three weeks starting last week. We’re not in a total shutdown but officials are definitely closing the gates a bit more each day, which makes a lot of sense.

It’s amazing how fast it’s all transpired. And for a lot of employers, and HR, you have to wonder how they’re coping with such major disruption. Of course, for sectors such as retail or hospitality, it’s meant full-on closures or major drops in customer traffic and sales, and work hours. It raises questions around a slew of HR issues such as pay, temporary layoffs, scheduling, health and safety and remote work.

For many office professionals like myself, it might be just another day working from home, as we’ve done many times before. But it’s not, at least for me. Knowing that this is a necessary move to combat the spread of the coronavirus, to keep more people healthy and alive, and to keep our health-care system from becoming overwhelmed, makes working from home different this time.

It’s also different because that menacing disease spreading around the world is hard to ignore, and thinking about this inevitably lowers my productivity levels -- despite looming deadlines.

And knowing that so many people are doing this at the same time also makes a difference. There’s a certain comradery that wasn’t there before, along with an acknowledgement, I hope, that we’re very lucky to be able to do this, to keep on working and keep the income coming in, while many, many others are not so fortunate.

Let’s hope it doesn’t last too, too long…

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