The comforts of home, the gift of good health, and the security of a paycheck have become the trappings of the truly fortunate in our COVID-19 reality. Beyond those essentials, COVID-19 is a great equalizer. It doesn’t discern between prime ministers and postal workers, and when it comes to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, it puts millions of us in pretty much the same Purell-scented boat.
While everyone is experiencing this pandemic differently, for many of us there is a common pattern to how we respond and adapt. I’ve felt it myself and have seen it among my friends, colleagues, and community.
Five phases of response
Phase one is about immediate safety. Will my family and I be safe, and how can we stay healthy? That’s when we close the doors, stock up on supplies, say no to playdates and monitor closely every tiny cough and rosy cheek.
Phase two for those shifting to remote work is about figuring out the practicalities of getting productive from home. That means carving out space and privacy, getting systems and gear in place, harmonizing work schedules with care and supervision of children, and mastering Zoom calls. It’s also about embracing new norms when attempting to balance “work” with the realities of “home,” including interruptions. Hassles, yes, but how fortunate we are in the tech world to be able to maintain business continuity in a safe space.
Phase three is about financial stability. On a personal level, questions such as “Is my job secure, my bank balance adequate, or my credit limit high enough to get through this?” come to the forefront. On a more macro level, the concern is for long-term financial sustainability. For example, with so many businesses shuttered, what does this mean for the economy worldwide? Some companies, including tech companies, have had to delay plans and contemplate what it means for their survival. For those businesses still operating, they have to make essential decisions about how to best weather the storm and preserve as many jobs as possible.
Phase four is about self-care and maintaining good mental health. The enormous pressure of this crisis, the anxiety of uncertainty, the spectre of serious illness and/or financial devastation are all exacerbated by being cooped up in our homes. Tensions are high, tempers are short, and our social and physical outlets are few. The emotional toll of this crisis on individuals and families is no joke.
Phase five is about wanting to help. As the impossible burden our first responders, healthcare workers, and hospitals now carry becomes heavier by the day, the urge to help and take action is strong. Some people are sewing face masks, buying gift cards from small businesses, raising money, and donating online to overwhelmed food banks. Although these efforts seem small, they are meaningful, and they are a good tool for combatting the anxiety and stress we all feel.
Coping on the business front
In my role as CEO of a business that employs more than 500 people, my experience as a leader during the crisis has had a parallel trajectory. In phase one, most important was to ensure our people stayed safe and healthy by encouraging (and then mandating as more information became available) a work-from-home policy. In phase two, we had to address how to keep the business operating, working with clients hit disproportionately by the crisis. In phase three, we revisited financials and reassured employees that the fundamentals of our business are strong, finding a way to be productive working from home and properly managing expenses ensuring that we don’t let our business itself get the coronavirus.
And now, we’re entering our own phase four and five, looking for the best ways we can help out our clients and partners. We’ve offered up some tips for keeping partnerships intact and will continue to share ideas and guidance. We’re also encouraging our staff and anyone stuck at home to consider “virtual volunteering.” Catch a Fire is an organization that facilitates remote volunteering opportunities — ways to donate time and professional skills to support nonprofit projects.
Phase six? Let’s hope it’s all about recovery and restoration, a wave of post-pandemic generosity, and innovation of Marshall Plan proportions. A little baseball might be nice, too.