(CNN) In 2017, a team of experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security published a scenario as part of a training exercise that they believed could happen in the not-so-distant future. If experts predicted a coronavirus pandemic, or performed scenario training exercise, how should that be interpreted?
The SPARS Pandemic Scenario
The year is 2025. A few American travelers returning from Asia die of an unknown, influenza-like illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the victims were infected with a novel coronavirus, SPARS-CoV. Nothing is known about this novel coronavirus. There is no rapid diagnostic test. There are no known treatments. And there is no vaccine.
Reading the SPARS Pandemic Scenario is like reading an account of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the scenario wasn’t an attempt to predict the future.
It’s not long before the SPARS outbreak erupts into a global pandemic. The CDC finds SPARS is transmitted through respiratory droplets and recommends that everyone practice hand hygiene and frequently disinfect surfaces.
Experts learn that SPARS has a long incubation period– 7 to 10 days– and that it can be spread by asymptomatic carriers. Pregnant women and those with underlying conditions like asthma and emphysema are at a higher risk for complications and death.
Social distancing, isolation, narratives in experts predicted pandemic
The WHO begins to recommend social distancing and isolation of suspected cases. There is hope that an existing antiviral drug could help treat SPARS, but there have been no randomized controlled trials. The US Food and Drug Administration issues an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug to treat SPARS patients.
Soon, there is high public demand for the drug and millions of doses are dispensed from the Strategic National Stockpile. However, it soon becomes apparent that the drug can cause serious side effects.
Things become political. Republicans voice their support of the drug while Democrats express doubt. America is more connected yet more divided than ever. Rumors and misinformation regarding the virus and potential treatments circulate on social media.
The economy takes a hit as the pandemic drags on. Within a year, a potential vaccine begins expedited review. And, there are promises that tens of millions of doses will be available within a few months. But of the hundreds of millions of people living in the US, who will get the vaccine first?
Communication in the time of Covid-19
Reading the SPARS Pandemic Scenario is like reading an account of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the scenario wasn’t an attempt to predict the future.
Rather, it was meant to illustrate a broad range of serious challenges that public health communicators might face. The hope was that by working through these challenges as part of a training exercise, federal, state and local agencies would be well prepared to respond to a similar scenario in the future.
If experts predicted a coronavirus pandemic years ago, as something that can happen in the future. That future is now. But many of the public health pitfalls meant to serve as teaching tools seem to have played out before our eyes.
FILE PHOTO: A child gestures in a classroom at Watlington Primary School during the last day of school, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Watlington , Britain, July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/ Missing school is greater risk to kids than Covid-19
LONDON (Reuters) – The chief medical officers of the United Kingdom have said children should return to school after the summer holidays. They warn that missing out on their education, by missing school is greater risk, much bigger risks to them than catching COVID-19.
The rare joint statement came from the top health advisers to the governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It represents a boost for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister had said, getting children back to school is a national priority. He now calls on parents to send their children back to school next month.
If Missing School Is Greater Risk To Kids Than Covid. Balancing Governance (Public Safety, Economic Recovery etc) Is A Risk With People’s Confidence
Confidence in the government’s approach to schooling during the coronavirus pandemic took a hit last week. This was when education minister, Gavin Williamson was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over examination results.
“Very few, if any, children or teenagers will come to long term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school,” they said. “This has to be set against a certainty of long-term harm to many children and young people from not attending school,” the CMOs said in a joint statement published late on Saturday.
“Missing school is greater risk not only to kids, but also to their parents. When kids return back to school, it brings some sense of normality to working parents.”
Evidence showed that a lack of schooling increased inequalities, reduced opportunities and could exacerbate physical and mental health issues, the statement said.
By contrast there was clear evidence of a very low rate of severe disease in children, even if they caught COVID-19, and an exceptionally low risk of dying.
What Hospitalisation Statistics Indicate
“The percentage of symptomatic cases requiring hospitalisation is estimated to be 0.1% for children aged 0-9 and 0.3% among those aged 10-19; compared to a hospitalisation rate of over 4% in the UK for the general population,” the statement said.
Johnson has said reopening schools in September is a social, economic and moral imperative. Insisting, they would be able to operate safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vaccines To The Risk? Not So Fast
Separately, England’s Chief Medical Officer was quoted as saying, it would be foolish to count on a coronavirus vaccine being ready for use this year.
“I think if we look forward a year. I think the chances are much greater than if we look forward six months. We need to have that sort of timescale in mind,” Chris Whitty told Sky News.
Nigeria and West Africa ‘Exit’ Examinations Continues in Full Swing
In Nigeria, the National Examinations Council (NECO) examination for students in year 9, started today across the country. Across West Africa, the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) commenced on August 17. The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) had earlier released the timetable for the examination.
Missing school is greater risk not only to kids, but also to their parents. When kids return back to school, it brings some sense of normality to working parents. The pressures of staying safe in a pandemic, balancing worklife or searching for complementary home school support tech startups eases out. And so also, the risk on mental health and economic productivity.
How Remote-Home Work Help: SAINT JOHN – Many people have been working remotely since Covid-19 shut down office spaces, but for Hilary Smith, working from home is not new. In the last three years, the arrangement has allowed her to travel the world, and later, return to live in New Brunswick while maintaining […]
“It was an amazing experience and I certainly wouldn’t trade it,”
Work-life balance for me is no longer about the descriptive term or if it is achievable. Call it work-life effectiveness or work-life blending, the challenge and opportunities remain the same. If you are looking for how to turn around your organisation’s work-life balance initiatives and ideas, you just hit a gold mine.
Sometimes, the challenge is not about an imbalance that we see in the organisation where we work. But the opportunities for a ‘better’ life that we observe in the routines of those we love and care about; our friends, colleagues or relations. Choosing to look out for others with empathy, will ensure that any work-life balance initiatives and ideas that we come across is cherished and shared like a life saving device.
Every month, Prairie Business asks several regional business leaders a question or two about a relevant business topic. The question for August is: “What initiatives has your company implemented to help build a work-life balance for its employees?” Below is how four regional leaders replied.
Work-Life Balance Initiatives And Ideas For Success At Work And At Home
Noah Fischer, human resources and organizational development manager, EAPC Architects Engineers, Fargo, N.D.
We are proud of our culture at EAPC and continuously look for ways to improve it for the health and well-being of our employees. We recognize that our employees’ lives outside of work is incredibly important to them, whether it is their family, pets, hobby, life circumstances, or the need to just recharge.
“The challenge with work-life balance is that rarely anything in life is in balance, but rather intertwined as a constant push-pull.”
Our leadership recognizes that production, performance, and employee retention improve when we make concerted efforts to support our employees and what is important to them outside of work.
Some specific work-life balance initiatives and ideas that we have implemented include;
deploying an action team to review programs and processes on how we on-board and assimilate new employees,
surveying current employees on our corporate culture on what we do well and how we can improve, and
requiring each manager work with their employees to create a career development plan.
These initiatives are creating conversations, building rapport, and informing managers on what our employees need to be supported both at work and at home. Our goal is that the cumulative effect will position both the employee and the firm to be successful.
‘Life’ Happens – But Work-Life Balance Initiatives And Ideas Don’t Just ‘Happen’ Into Existence
Steve Schmitz, president/CEO, First Community Credit Union, Jamestown, N.D.
At FCCU, we think of our staff as family. As such, our company culture puts family first because we understand how important a work-life balance is for the overall health and well-being of our staff.
The following are ‘normal’ initiatives and additional ideas that came up with the outbreak of COVID-19, especially with school closures.
Generous Paid Time Off (PTO) is one of the normal. But employees with limited PTO accruals were allowed to go up to 80 hours negative during COVID to ensure that no one missed a paycheck.
Another is flexible schedule whenever possible to accommodate appointments, kids’ activities, family time, etc. where staff can make up time later.
There is full access to Extended Illness Bank (EIB) so staff can be with their family during COVID. This is alleviate their concerns about lack of daycare, home schooling, underlying health conditions, etc.
From our Board of Directors and throughout our company, we constantly try to be understanding that ‘life’ happens. And we know that happy employees are the ones with a healthy work-life balance.
Technology And Flexible Work Schedules Creates Collaborative And Productive Environment
Sarah Aldinger, principal architect, Architecture Incorporated, Sioux Falls, S.D.
“The challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.” – Stephen Covey
At Architecture Incorporated, we strive to create an office environment that allows our firm to interact with each other in a collaborative and productive way.
We take advantage of the latest technology, which allows us to provide flexibility in how we work as a team.
We also believe that family comes first. Offering a flexible work schedule allows our staff to make adjustments as needed, especially during these unprecedented times.
By supporting our staff in their personal lives, we in turn have staff who are vested in the success of the firm.
Leadership Driven Wellness, Employee Assistance And Fun Family-Oriented Ideas
Jeremy Elbert, senior vice president, financial advisor and branch manager, D.A. Davidson, West Fargo, N.D.
D.A. Davidson’s have always had tools in place for strengthening work-life balance. The leadership is however especially cognizant of the importance of balance during the pandemic, when people are more isolated and face additional stress and health threats.
A major tool is the wellness program, which encourages associates to care for themselves physically and emotionally and the company provides helpful direction. The program includes fitness challenges, a health-information newsletter, and incentives for personal improvement. Many offices have designated wellness champions who help others with work-life balance.
An Employee Assistance Program that covers a range of mental health issues, such as abuse, depression, grief, stress, relationship and parenting problems, workplace issues and more. In addition, employees can be connected to professionals to discuss financial and legal issues.
Generous vacation, and scheduled family-oriented events focuses on having fun; from holiday events to celebrating milestones.
Generous leaves of absence allows time off for children’s school activities, adoptions, maternity and paternity leaves and more.
Probably most effective, however, is a leadership environment that encourages everyone to take time for themselves. We work to assure everyone that it’s critical to take time away from work responsibilities.
Photo credit: Pool – Getty Images/Yahoo/ Michelle Obama’s Quarantine Note
All over the world, the effect of COVID-19 is daunting. But how did Michelle Obama navigated family life during the quarantine? In a new podcast, Michelle Obama shares how she and her family are spending time at home as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The former First Lady shared that she and her family are having regular family dinners and doing group activities like puzzles and card games.
But, like many of us, Michelle has had low moments in the monotonous stay-at-home era. This was made even bleaker by the growing number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States.
Michelle Obama’s Quarantine Note Describes Way’s of Deepening The Bonds
After featuring an insightful and intimate conversation with former President Barack Obama in its debut episode, The Michelle Obama Podcast continues with a reflective conversation between the former First Lady and award-winning journalist Michele Norris.
The two discussed their relationships with themselves, especially amid an unprecedented global pandemic and movement of racial unrest.
Michelle knows from her experience in the White House that operating under a routine is necessary “in order to stay sane, and to feel like the human that you once were,” she told Norris. That means waking up around six or seven o’clock and working out.
Then, during the day, she, her husband, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, usually do their work in separate parts of the house before gathering at around five o’clock for a group activity and family dinner.
“I’m finding that in quarantine, we look forward to that,” she said. They usually do a puzzle, chat, and play games. “So Barack has taught the girls spades, so now, there’s this vicious competition. They wouldn’t have sat down but for this quarantine, to learn how to play a card came with their dad,” she added.
Is The Demonstration Of Love Intentional In Michelle Obama’s Quarantine Note?
Michelle Obama spoke about how she knew she had fallen in love with Barack Obama. The Obamas took a fond look back at the beginning of their relationship, having first met in 1989 while both where working at a law firm in Chicago.
Michelle explained that the reason she fell in love with Barack was due to the way in which he perceived other people.
She began by saying, “You know at the core of everything you have done politically, what I know about you as a person and one of the reasons why I fell in love with you is…” You know what, don’t look for the reason she gave or what Barack Obama said.
Reflect on your first crush, your current date, your spouse, why did you fell in love with the person? Oh, no wait, why did you break up? In my view, Michelle wasn’t just talking about love to fill in the minutes. Especially her private love life. You need to connect to her narrative and answer the question, where is your friend who makes you smile?
Two Questions For You To Go Tackle And Come Back Stronger
Why should how you succeed be of concern to others?
Speaking of the values that she holds dear in her life, Michelle said that she believes “it is not enough that I succeed on my own”, highlighting the importance of wishing success and happiness for others as well.
This is a question that raised serious concern about, making money, accumulating wealth and ‘what next, after having it all?’. The race is scheduled in such a way that, you don’t willingly step aside, except forced out by misfortune.
There is always an earnestness to make more money. An insatiable hunger not to be ‘foolish’ and leave monetary ‘value’ at the table. An uncontrollable desperation to pursue something higher, be the first, and ahead of the next special ‘class’ or ranking. And as a member of the new ‘top group’, start a new race.
What shaped your world view, what is determining your values and how are you living it?
“I can say that my family, my neighborhood, my notions of community growing up shaped that view. And shaped the choices that I made in life as I felt your experiences shaped yours,” Michelle said to Barack.
The concept of family is currently in trouble, not just in definition, but how it holds together. An African proverb says, it takes a village to raise a child. This means that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.
This is why Pandemic Pods, Nano schools and Micro schools are gaining momentum as parents try to solve the pandemic induced education crisis on their own. Many parents have realized the agonizing truth about school this fall.
If it happens in person, it might not feel safe. And if it happens remotely, it will be inadequate, isolating and unable to allows kids to have fun and build social skills. The ‘village community’ will be left out in the development of the children.
Who Is Family In The Debut Episode Of The Michelle Obama’s Podcast?
During their sit-down conversation, the former residents of the White House also touched upon how they would like to leave the world for their daughters, 22-year-old Malia and 19-year-old Sasha.
This yet again pressured the question of who is ‘family’? Should it just be you, your partner, the child or children under your care if you have them? Can it be limited to you, your parents and siblings if you have one? Maybe if we can define ‘family’, it will help us to see the other person on the street, in our work-life community for who they are. Not the way prejudice or stereotype defines them.
The Obama’s expressed their hope that their daughters will live “in a country that respects everybody and looks after everybody. Celebrates and sees everybody”.
A lot of people live their life, less concerned about what happens to the next generation after them. No matter the safety net that you create, good or bad, the next generation, will impact your offspring. It is in your enlightened best interest to take a closer look across the hedge. Perhaps, even further away, a drive from your privileged and secured community. To slow down and taste life, and find purpose from unexpected circumstances of life.
“They’ll be fine. Right?”
“They’ll be fine. Right?” Barack said, to which Michelle replied: “Yeah. That’s absolutely right.”
Michelle Obama says that she has been suffering from “low-grade depression” because of the pandemic, racial injustice in America and the “hypocrisy” of the Trump administration.
The former first lady, 56, said she had been managing “emotional highs and lows” in response to the lockdown and political situation in the US.
“When you and I think about what’s the inheritance that we would like to leave Malia and Sasha, more than anything. What it would be is that, they are living in a country that respects everybody and looks after everybody. Celebrates and sees everybody. Cause we know that if we’re not around, that those girls are in a society like that“. — President Barack Obama
Going through Michelle Obama’s quarantine note, a columnist wondered how the Obamas are so preposterously well adjusted? How they could have spent almost a decade at the pinnacle of global power and then produce such a nice podcast? Why aren’t they all demented or power crazed?
These questions and many similar ones may also occur to you, listening to The Michelle Obama Podcast. It is available exclusively on Spotify.
When it comes to HR legal issues these days, it’s all coronavirus all the time. COVID-19 legal HR questions that people can and will ask, should therefore be welcomed.
For the HR professional, navigating this seemingly endless and ever-changing legal maze can be quite daunting. Which issues are most important? What questions must I get answered? Where should my primary attention be?
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has advised that employers excluding employees from the workplace on the basis of age are in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.”
Jathan Janove asked prominent employment law attorneys from around the United States to share their “favorite” COVID-19-related legal HR question. He also asked them to offer a suggestion or two on how to address it. Here’s what they had to say.
1. We’ve provided telework to our employees in response to COVID-19. Willthat set a precedent for the future when an employee seeks telework as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
According to Mark Tolman, an attorney with Jones Waldo in Salt Lake City, “it depends.”
Tolman explained that it is entirely plausible. That in post-pandemic times, an employee seeking telework as an ADA accommodation will point to the effectiveness of remote work during the pandemic.
The employee will point to this as evidence that onsite work is not essential or that telework does not impose an undue hardship.
“As a practical matter, if your recent experience with telework is that it has been effective. That teleworkers have been able to productively accomplish all essential job duties. Such evidence likely will be used in the future to show that telework should be provided for an employee when necessary to accommodate a disability.”
However, you could have provided telework strictly out of pandemic necessity, and at the sacrifice of some essential duties.
“Good communication can go a long way toward reducing anxiety and finding creative solutions that enable employees to remain productive while taking on the added role of at-home educator.”
Tolman said the mere provision of telework now, should not prevent you from arguing later. For example, that onsite work is essential or that telework imposes a hardship.
Three Key Actions to Support Employer’s Position
He suggested three actions HR professionals should take to better support an employer’s position that onsite work is required in the future:
When providing telework in response to COVID-19 concerns, notify employees in writing that telework is provided only in response to the pandemic. And that the company understands that its employees will not be able to perform all of the essential functions of their jobs while working remotely.
When employees return to onsite work, notify them in writing that the company looks forward to the resumption of all their essential job functions.
Review and revise job descriptions for onsite employees. If onsite work really is essential to a particular job, explain why such work is essential in the job description.
2. If schools don’t reopen in the fall or follow a hybrid model with in-person and remote learning, what leave will employees be entitled to?
There are uncertainty regarding whether and in what manner schools will reopen in the fall.
The opinion of Attorneys Rita Kanno and Diane Waters of Lewis Brisbois, in San Diego and Dallas comes handy. Respectively, they believe it is critical for employers to understand the evolving leave entitlements under federal, state and local law.
“Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act [FFCRA]—which applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees—there are two ‘buckets’ of leave available for school or place-of-care closures or child care unavailability related to COVID-19: emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. An employee can use both buckets for this type of leave, but only for up to a total of 12 weeks of leave.”
Kanno and Waters noted other applicable conditions to be eligible for this leave. Another “suitable individual,” such as a co-parent, co-guardian or the “usual child care provider” must not be available to provide the care the child needs.
If a school opens for in-person instruction, but an employee voluntarily chooses the remote learning option for his or her child, is FFCRA leave available?
According to Kanno and Waters, generally speaking, no.
Eligibility For FFCRA Leave – Role of Physical Location Of Where The Child Receives Instruction
“In order to be eligible for FFCRA leave, the physical location where the child receives instruction or care must be closed. If, however, the school is operating at reduced capacity to comply with social-distancing guidelines, such that the employee’s child has no choice but to receive remote learning, or if the school uses a hybrid model where in-person instruction is only provided on certain days of the week, FFCRA may be available.”
Kanno and Waters recommended that employers plan ahead by facilitating discussions with their employees. This is to learn how school reopening plans may impact their work schedules.
Whether remote work is or remains an option. And whether any added flexibility to their schedules, such as working around the school day or taking intermittent leave, may provide adequate solutions.
“Good communication can go a long way toward reducing anxiety and finding creative solutions that enable employees to remain productive while taking on the added role of at-home educator.”
3. Our company has adopted a mandatory work-from-home policy in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. What are best practices for compensating employees for the expenses they have incurred as a result of working from home?
The shift to remote work, which for many employees is a requirement rather than an employer-offered convenience, presents some questions. For example, the question of whether employers must reimburse employees for expenses incurred while working at home.
According to Eric Mackie, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Chicago, some states require employers to reimburse employees for expenditures. This includes expenditures incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her employment duties.
Mackie also noted that under the Fair Labor Standards Act and its implementing regulations, employers are generally required to reimburse expenses incurred if those expenses would result in compensation below the federal minimum wage.
To minimize litigation exposure, Mackie said, employers should evaluate their employee expense reimbursement practices and refine or develop legally compliant policies.
“Such policies could include, for example, a requirement for advance approval for any expenses over a specified amount. In all cases, effective communication and clear guidelines are key.”
4. Can I tell employees who are over age 65 to stay home from work for their own protection?
According to Jacqueline Cookerly Aguilera, an attorney with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Los Angeles, the answer is no.
She noted that initially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people over age 65 were at high risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19.
Now, the CDC uses an age gradient. Meaning that the risk for severe illness increases with age. The older the person, the greater the risk. For example, those in their 70s are at greater risk than those in their 50s.
Employee Exclusion Base on Greater Risk Of Contracting Serious Illness
“Regardless, an employer should not exclude an older employee from the workplace merely because the employee is at a greater risk for serious illness than a younger employee. Even if the reason is to protect the employee.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has advised that employers excluding employees from the workplace on the basis of age are in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
However, certain state and local sick-leave laws may require an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee who requests an accommodation for COVID-19 reasons based on age.
“But even absent state or city laws,” Cookerly Aguilera said, “I nonetheless recommend that employers offer to accommodate any employee who may be more susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19. Either by allowing them to telework or, if that’s not possible, providing them unpaid leave.”
The above is a reformatted version of the original. The original write up is by Jathan Janove, J.D. and it is available on the SHRM Weblink below.
SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, provides content as a service to its readers and members. It does not offer legal advice, and cannot guarantee the accuracy or suitability of its content for a particular purpose.Disclaimer. Access to some SHRM resources may be limited by membership.
(Photo: nyt. An intensive care bed at University Hospital Dresden in Germany. To the right of the bed is a ventilator and infusion equipment.Credit…Ronald Bonss/Picture Alliance. Career Trajectory On Ventilator)
Career ambitions are in different battle zones, mostly uncharted, just like the new normal. Working from home has changed the location and size of the trenches.
Fighting in hand to hand combats, and shooting at close range in the office for superiority has stopped. But punching the screen during zoom meetings are the new normal for some.
‘Hit the break’, furlough shout out.
‘Take the retrenchment pill and stop the pain’, another senior officer ordered. ‘We may lose more men and women, but not this battle front’.
‘Where is my career, it was on a fast lane trajectory, few months ago.’
A young officer stumbled out of a heap of rubble. He has five stars on his jacket shoulder. And a super high flyer-duper CEO potential tag on his helmet.
COVID-19 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft just dropped Coronavirus GBU-39 Small diameter virus bomb, a 250-pound, GPS-guided munition.
“I embraced the rat race before I knew I was a rat.”
He survived furlough, a sack, pay cut, and work from home. As a super essential staff, he still goes to the office everyday. He staggers, trying to hold the air to stabilize himself, finding it difficult to escape the survivor guilt.
‘Sit down now’, commander work life balance ordered.
‘You cannot escape the smoke, dust and flying rubble splinters. The impact of the dropped Coronavirus GBU-39 Small diameter virus bomb is deadly. It is already all over you. Your career trajectory is on a ventilator’.
‘Career trajectory on ventilator, help,’ he cries out.
Video Game – Super Mario Career Trajectory On Ventilator
In the video game Super Mario, the goal is to get coins, and hit blocks. Get sharp eyes to look for shortcuts, and importantly, run whenever possible to level up.
“Unless absolutely necessary, never stop running. Remember, you have a time limit to finish the level, and the faster you get through, the better your score will be,” states the WikiHow page on the game.
It is an ominous warning. For as long as I can remember, this was eerily analogous to my career trajectory which began way before entering the workforce.
“Never mind that my goalposts shifted as soon as I reached them. The overall goal was to keep running. Whether that meant hitting the next promotion, getting a salary increase, or doubling down on ambition.”
Along with many Singaporean millennials, I learnt the importance of dreaming big, being passionate and giving my all from young. I firmly believed hard work and passion were the two unicorn coins I had to grab and hold to proceed to the next level in life.
In school, this translated into zealous goal-setting and over achievement. Every milestone was a fleeting but significant dopamine hit that left me wanting more. Running to get more and more, even as I got to all the “coins” and “blocks” I was supposed to.
Type A Person, Rate Race and Halted Career Trajectory
I embraced the rat race before I knew I was a rat. This made my first few years in the workforce relatively breezy.
Like any self-respecting Type A person, my body was chronically attuned to ambition. Never mind that my goalposts shifted as soon as I reached them. The overall goal was to keep running. Whether that meant hitting the next promotion, getting a salary increase, or doubling down on ambition.
Then my video game was short circuited by, well, the circuit breaker.
When I was made to slow down, I realised many of my old habits were unsustainable. Not least my relationship with career and ambition. The hamster wheel was all I knew, but it could not continue.
AN UNHEALTHY DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
Unless you’re one of the psychotic few who’s managed to be productive during a pandemic, COVID-19 has forced most of us to reconsider our somewhat acceptable working cultures.
Stuck at home, the performative aspects of work have fallen away. Joined in the same locker room like normal staff, you no longer feel the need to dress up for work or engage in office politics. The new normal superiority contest trenches has no room yet, for keeping tabs on which colleagues are getting plum assignments.
Many have long gathered their core sense of identity from professional accomplishments, turbocharged by social norms and cultural expectations.
A New Normal For Ambition And Super Charged Career Trajectory
When we are this focused on constantly striving for more, the enforced slower pace of life can be more uncomfortable than expected. This is the time to rethink our idea of ambition, even if it can be disorienting. Start early, because it requires a shift in perspective for what we’ve been told is a fundamental part of our identity.
On one hand, not everyone has the luxury to use this down time to reflect on broader values and beliefs. That is no excuse, even though you’re stressing over financial fallout or have to deal with retrenchment.
But while grappling with uncertainty can make you more determined to hold onto any remaining semblance of control over your lives, now is the time for change.
Start now, by meticulously planning your ‘rebirth’ career trajectory in the new normal. The need to redefine professional ambition isn’t a bad thing.
For our ever changing worklife – Work from Anywhere (WFA) has taken over from Working from Home (WFH). That is my fun work life shaping out, a new convenience (office) store offering just by the corner. Remote working came up earlier, but majority where working from home.
Before the pandemic, it was not unusual to connect with work at a coffee shop. I take work home, work into the night and work while on vacation. Working from home was COVID-19 lock-in scenario.
As businesses adapt to living with COVID-19 and beyond, new formal work structures are evolving. Working from anywhere – from home, remotely, or a park is expected to take up normal part of worklife.
Policy shifts and new work products are emerging
The post pandemic work from anywhere is already changing government and corporate policies. It will also trigger changes in other significant structural and worklife supply value chain.
In Asia Pacific, Chubb, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company has launch a Work from Home (WFH) Insurance. The product offers coverage for employees who take their work outside or are on the move and are injured. Worklife from anywhere is covered, but still require some extensions.
OAKLAND, Calif. – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District along with Santa Clara County asked Bay Area employers to sign the “Cut the Commute Pledge”. This is to extend teleworking for 25 percent of employees if their work allows it.
Employers would also vow to include a formal work-from-home policy as part of the employee benefits package. These are attempts to improve both the air quality and quality of life for Bay Area residents after shelter-in-place orders are eased.
Benefits of working from anywhere are adding up
In the first seven weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bay Area saw a 32 percent reduction to CO2 emissions. This is in large part due to the significant decrease in vehicle traffic, as transportation is the top source of air pollution in the region.
“The pandemic has shown us that remote work is possible and productive for many. It offers an alternative to traffic gridlock and mega commutes – leading to open roads, healthier air and happier employees,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the BAAQMD.
“Without the congestion on the freeways and bumper-to-bumper traffic, we see the surroundings of our mountains, we see more animals, and have more opportunities to engage with our families. The air is fresh, and our eyes and our lungs are not burning,” said Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
Benefits of cutting the mega commute includes cost savings for employers and employees, improved employee recruitment and retention, improved work-life balance as well as the increased ability to adjust business as part of a disaster recovery or emergency plan.
India companies are making the change despite logistical and infrastructural issues. Physical work space in large families is a challenge.
C K Ranganathan, chairman of CavinKare and all his staff now work remotely. “This will now allow me to hire people from smaller towns. My cost of hiring and attrition goes down, giving savings per employee per month,” he says.
Sambandam of Kissflow has also rolled out remote+, a new worklife model that allows employees to work from anywhere. Employees are encouraged to move back to their hometown to reduce expenses and strengthen local bonds. They can work remotely three out of four weeks, and spend the fourth in Chennai. For those who move to remote locations, the company’s benefit scheme will cover travel and accommodation bill in Chennai.
Harith is also exploring a similar plan.
“The silver lining in this pandemic is cleaner skies and clearer roadways. We don’t want to lose that as treatments and cures are discovered for COVID,” said President of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Carl Guardino.
Millions of Americans have been working from home for months. Most will be going about this with inadequate workspace ergonomics. Quite frankly, no one can be blamed. Most home offices were quick set ups following the pandemic induced lock-down. And with Covid-19 cases rising in many states, there is no clear end in sight for when many will return back to city offices.
Delivering outstanding work result that enhances careers and improve company productivity should not come at a huge price. Employees deserve a comfy worklife, wellness and a ‘feel’ of the office they were used to, even while working from home.
People are managing work life stress adjusting to the new normal, workspace ergonomics should not add to this. An ergonomic compliant home workspace is very important when employees have to put in extra hours to meet deadlines. Extra hours that will be breaking into set buffers meant to protect from work request tension.
Even while working a normal 9 – 5 hours, and using a standard ergonomic chair, it is wrong to sit for too long without observing intermittent breaks.
Not a few are happy to be free from the stress of daily commuting and the cost. However, the not so important steps that we take before we get to our office seat, are now lost. At best, steps count is now limited to movements from the bed room, to the kitchen and then to a working table. That is where a product like ‘under the desk mini-bike comes very useful.
Nine ergonomics products to choose from
Can coronavirus end office working, definitely not. But for the new normal, and before some offices fully open, we must get working from home right. If you’ve decided it’s time to invest in improving your home office setup, here are nine products — from ergonomic tools to a cold brew coffee-maker — that will make your working from home days more comfortable.
Left: Michelle Brenner cooking her sauce; A load of Michelle’s lasagnas ready to donate/ Finding Purpose during a Furlough
When Michelle Brenner moved to Gig Harbor, Washington, about six years ago, she did not realise that her new abode will open a mix bag and different chapters in her life. She was furloughed from her job at a menswear store after Covid-19 pandemic hit. She was not looking at finding purpose during a furlough.
Booted out of a normal routine, locked in like everyone else, she quickly realized that she is not very good at sitting around. She decided to use her extra time and a family lasagna recipe to create a free food movement in her Washington community.
So far, she has made more than 1,275 pans of lasagna for friends, neighbors, first responders, and anyone in need of a good fresh meal — without charging anyone.
For Brenner, this is a labor of love, and she has no plans to stop.
Is It Possible Finding Purpose During A Tough Time?
“I knew it was my time in my life to give back to the people who paved life’s path for me to have the 45 years of life that I’ve had,” she said. She decided she wanted to help elderly members of her community and those who could not get out and shop for themselves because of the pandemic. So, she signed up to work as a shopper for Instacart.
She only spent two days working with the grocery delivery app — but during that time she noticed one item her customers kept asking for: frozen lasagna. One of those customers was a man in his nineties. Brenner said when she delivered the frozen lasagna and other items to him, he confessed to her that he had not had any fresh food in nearly a month and a half.
That moment inspired Brenner to do some grocery shopping of her own and pick up the ingredients to make her family a fresh lasagna based on her grandmother’s recipe.
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