I’m with my kids quarantining with extended family away from home. My wife, an Emergency Physician, will be working a tremendous amount in the Seattle area over the next few weeks and will certainly be seeing COVID-19 patients. This time apart seems like the most expedient way to prevent virus spread within our family and possibly to others. It is a stressful time for our family as we try to continue with our lives while worrying about mom’s safety, so I permit myself to daydream a bit about some hopeful changes this pandemic might effect in my personal life and the world at large.
Since moving to Seattle last summer I have gotten sick much more than at any other time in my adult life. A conversation with my wife a few weeks ago clued me in to one possible reason. I spend a lot of the time on the bus every day. I love public transit, but I spend 2+ hours a day in a metal petri dish. Busses are likely one of the places where COVID-19 spread in the Seattle area over the last few months.
So, before returning to work in the office, I am 100% buying an e-bike for my commute. The distance is about 17 miles each way and I’ve had the habit of cycling home 2–3 times a week. I don’t currently cycle to the office (I throw my bike on the rack at the front of the bus) because the shower situation isn’t suitable. I recently test-rode an e-bike and think it will work well. I am fairly confident I can get to work without needing a shower. I may be able to get to work and home as fast or possibly faster on an e-bike than I currently do on the bus, while having a lot more fun.
Many organizations in the working world are having a forced trial run of working from home. Having freelanced from home in the past, I can tell you that this current situation isn’t really a fair way to judge working from home in general. It is a global pandemic and our lives have been disrupted in many ways and I’m sure many organizations are feeling a drop in productivity (even remote-only ones). Even so, many excuses against working from home will seem more ludicrous in organizations where they were conventional wisdom before. In addition, I imagine more companies will take the leap into remote-only when they realize how much rent they are paying for offices that are empty for months on end.
I have had a bad habit in the past of going into work with the sniffles or mild illnesses. I’m sure I am not alone in this. Part of it is due to the relative rarity of illness in my twenties and early thirties and part of it is pressure, external or internal, to power through for the good of the team. Nobody likes to feel like they are letting people down. It is even common for some to continue working while home sick. I am hoping that this pandemic will move the culture to a more caring and self-conscious posture when it comes to personal and public health. Companies can help move things in this direction by revisiting their PTO policies, especially regarding sick days. Unlimited paid sick days seems like a no brainer. If you have people taking advantage and being dishonest about their sick days you likely have larger problems in your culture which should be addressed rather than subtly implying or overtly saying that people should work, or come into the office while ill. Make it easy for people to do the right thing.
The lack of preparation by most institutions and governments is painfully obvious. Few healthcare systems seem to have much overhead for sudden surges. Even with weeks or months of warning, it seems like human nature does not like to deal with problems until they are staring them in the face. I am grateful for my church’s focus on food storage, rainy day funds, and example of preparation in general. At times, this emphasis has been unfairly and inaccurately mocked by outsiders as doomsday prepping.1 However, I feel grateful for this example and I hope that more organizations and individuals take it to heart. Saving some durable foods, funds, and supplies can help individuals, families, and institutions ride out rough seas and, if practiced broadly enough, reduce the rushed hoarding that have led to the tragic shortages of medical supplies that we are witnessing today.
It seems clear that the government stimulus under consideration by the United States Congress will include some cash for most, if not all individuals and families. The goal behind this is to provide short term relief and stimulate the economy through consumer activity, but I won’t begrudge anyone who has awoken to the precariousness of their situation and, if able, sets it aside for the future. Being prepared and saving for a rainy day go against the way many think about our consumerist economy, but I hope that we see a better balance going forward, even if only in the lives of individuals.
Stronger Ties and Well Rounded Lives
It seems insensitive to hope for improved relationships due to this tragedy when there are people suffering, dying, or not able to work from home. However, rough roads can help us come together. I hope that we can connect more deeply with those in our homes and with those who we can only see virtually. I know that not even having the possibility of meeting friends in person has made me feel like reaching out to them even more.
Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have some grain, water, canned goods, etc. set aside, but I personally don’t know anybody with a bunker. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I am saying it is far from the norm. ↩