I’m sitting at my work (from home) desk bawling my eyes out.
I was watching the news and a woman who hadn’t had the chance to hug her father, who was in a care home, was finally able to after months of waiting. This was all thanks to rapid testing now made available to care homes so that relatives can visit their elderly loved ones. I’m so glad that people are able to visit their parents now. I’m so envious that they’re all now able to hug their parents. I so miss my mum and my dad. But I can’t go home to pay them a visit yet. Not whilst cases are still high in the UK. Not while there is a risk that I might bring the virus home.
My parents (and aunties) are older and obviously very vulnerable and at risk, especially my dad, who has survived multiple strokes. As much as missing them is a physical ache, I am aware of the risks that visiting them presents.
Everyone, please. Please could you think of those of us who cannot go home because we run the risk of spreading infection? Please could you think of those of us who cannot hug our parents? Please could you think of those of us who cannot care for our parents physically, even though we are desperate to, because we cannot travel home. Please think of us. Please put yourselves in our places. it’s not only the daily freedoms that we miss. We miss our families too.
I’m making sure I do my part so that I don’t contribute to the possible infection transfer so that the restrictions come down. I hope others do their part so that we all are allowed to enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted, so that we are able to be with the ones we love, our families and our friends.
No man is an island.
Never has this been more true and more evident. We’re all in one massive pond. Whatever makes a ripple in the water that surrounds me, will make ripples in the water that surrounds you.
The beginning of the end started on 13 March 2020.
The situation relating to coronavirus hit the UK shores and it started to escalate (in late February, our building management team announced that one of the tenants tested positive for COVID-19 and, understandably, everyone was worried). The government started encouraging people to work from home if and when they can to avoid being in contact with the general public, to thin out the number of people out. At Drinkaware, we had decided that Friday, 13 March, was going to be the day that we were going to test our office systems and see if we were going to be capable of working from home. The week before that, we were told that we should start bringing our laptops home and our CEO, Finance Director and HR Manager were having daily catch ups and weekly catch ups with the committee that deals with risk. Our directors were expecting the government to suddenly declare a shutdown where people would not be allowed to travel. At the time, it was only a possibility. It didn’t actually dawn on me that the day was a Friday and the date was the 13th. Not that I’m THAT superstitious. It was just a bit ominous.
So we all came back to work on the Monday, the 16th. It was pretty much business as usual, except that of course the situation relating to the coronavirus infection was worsening as the government started learning more about COVID-19. I had a long list of things I wanted to finish, and as the day went on, as usual, I managed to tick some things off the list and some, I planned to finish the next day because I got carried away with other projects.
That evening though, we got a message from our CEO via WhatsApp and by email to say that the office was going to be closed for the foreseeable future. I felt a slight measure of relief because I was fully intending to leave my laptop at work and I had decided to bring my laptop anyway. After reading the email, I decided to still go to the office the following day because I needed to finish off a few things and accept the deliveries that were meant to be arriving on the Tuesday. Also, there was the office fridge that needed clearing of all perishables.
I managed to get a lot of things done and I went home slightly earlier than usual. I was fully intending, as I’d discussed with one of my line managers and my HR manager, to return to the office either on the Thursday or the Friday. To collect post, to check on the fridge and the milk that was left there. I also meant to start the asset tagging because there wouldn’t be anyone at work and I could go in, get my tags printed, zip through the office with my stickers and clipboard and go home and finish my other telephone calls and emails at home. That didn’t happen though. My bosses advised me to stay home, mostly because they were worried about me and how quick I seemed to be catching viruses (I’m diabetic and I’ve found that since I’ve moved here, I’ve been so sickly).
So for the next few weeks after that day, I worked from home. Prior to the pandemic, we’d all been flat out, everyone was busy doing something for some project. The office buzzed with activity and we were all putting in long hours working on various things. During a meeting our leadership team agreed that we would all go on a week-long holiday after Easter Monday. So we were all working towards that REALLY long weekend. It was a 10-day weekend (of course the extra 4 days came out of our holiday allowance, but no one objected)!
Whilst we all worked from home, it became more and more apparent that things wouldn’t be business as usual because we were cutting down on expenditure, writing to our suppliers saying we would be delaying payment for some big-ticket items, etc. People started to worry that we would lose our jobs (it didn’t help that there were several businesses that folded even before we started working from home because of the reduction of customers).
On Monday, 6 April, after an emergency board meeting on the weekend, we were advised, during our Start of the Week meeting, that the board has had to make the difficult decision to furlough some of the staff, in order to protect the trust and prevent job loss. Our board wanted to avoid having to to make any member of staff redundant. The government had already announced the Job Retention Scheme. So our directors had to make the difficult calls to half of the office, to tell members of staff that they would have to be furloughed. Our super HR manager prepared an FAQs document for all our questions and she let everyone have her number so that if we were worried about anything and needed to talk.
I can’t say I was surprised that I got the furlough call. I mean, apart from being EA to the CEO and the Finance Director, I was also office manager. How do you work as an office manager without an office to manage? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job. I love my bosses. I love our senior leadership team and I love my colleagues. Working for Drinkaware is more pleasure and privilege than a job. Mostly because the environment is so different. It’s so collaborative, and there is genuine love for everyone. It’s nice when the environment is like that; less territorial, more inclusive.
To be fair, I am actually better off being on furlough, even if my salary is about a fifth less. Factoring in how astronomic train fares now are, even with 20% less, I’m still much better.
I can’t deny that I am worried about the future, that I am thinking about whether there will be any redundancies. However, right now, I am confident that we will be told with enough notice, if this was the case. Because the communication lines are always open at Drinkaware. Whatever the future holds, right now, I am best placed staying in, away from the general public.
We’re in this for the long haul. We’re literally held hostage by this microscopic collection of nuclei acid, proteins and lipids. It’s not even an organism. It’s not even alive!
I’ve never been unaware of the risk. I know the consequences and the reality of things. But when a family friend dies, he was a gifted cardiologist working the front lines in Manila, and a dear friend from my call centre days falls ill enough to be put on a ventilator in a hospital in New York, it hits home. It hits home in the hardest way.
Please everyone, I beg you, stay home. Keep away from people. If only to protect yourself from catching it and giving it to someone else. Wash your hands so you don’t get the virus and spread it. Please don’t think you’re invincible. We’re all at risk, others at a higher risk that the rest. I beg you to think of how your actions will affect everyone else. We’re all in this pond together. No matter what everyone says, we’re all inextricably linked.
Hi there! Thanks for dropping by. How are you? It’s been quite an intense few days in the UK. So, like a lot of people, I’m feeling a little ambivalent about…everything.
On Friday, 13 March, our offices closed for a dry run and to test whether our systems were robust enough to handle everyone working from home. Everything worked. Of course there were little hiccups, but nothing a call to our IT support company couldn’t deal with via telephone and by accessing our computers remotely. So the working from home experiment worked.
On Monday, we returned to the office but it was a quiet Monday. I have several colleagues who don’t work Mondays and a few were working off-site that day. We’re a small organisation anyway, but without a full house, the office felt empty-ish. The day was busy, as it usually is for me. But spirits were high and there was a lot of happy chatter in the office. We were, of course, worried about the coronavirus but we were taking precautions, trying to be clean, trying not to touch our faces, sneezing/coughing into tissue and binning it, washing our hands, looking after each other, and listening to the news updates.
That evening, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced the newest measures that the government were taking to prevent the spread of the virus. If people could work from home, they should. There shouldn’t be any unnecessary travel. People should follow social distancing. Avoid gathering in large groups. All sensible and necessary advice that should, if followed, prevent the spread of illness. So our senior leadership team at work decided it was time to close our doors and allow everyone to work from the relative safety of their homes.
So the following Tuesday, off I went to the office, did office managery things: checked the air-conditioning temperature in the server room, made sure the faucets weren’t leaking, emptied the fridge of perishables and made sure things, supplies were put away as appropriate. I wasn’t alone though. Our Finance director and HR manager also had the same idea as me. I ended up working a full day anyway and went home loaded like a pack mule
It’s now Day 8 of fully working from home. I’m exhausted, physically and mentally. Properly working from home is quite the intense experience. I think I feel overwrought because I’m constantly on”Go”, if that makes any sense and although I take regular breaks, I still don’t switch off. The phone will ring and I pick up. An email comes in, I address it as soon as possible.
They say you need to follow a routine, a schedule, that you need to take breaks. I have done that. But I’m going to go a few things further: I’m going to pack my bag up with my laptop and I will be switching off my office mobile and not switching it on until late Sunday evening. I need to properly switch off.
We’re all in this together, and in it for the long haul. We don’t know how long this epidemic will last. I just hope people will heed the request from the authorities and practice social distancing. It’s apparent that that’s quite necessary. I hope people understand that if they don’t follow these guidelines, people WILL die. It’s no longer a case of if, it’s the case of when.