We took a slightly different angle to humans at work this week – focusing on essential workers and what it is like at the moment. Let us introduce you to:
- Stefan – undertakes high voltage testing and fault locating for an electricity distribution network
- Rebecca – Primary School teacher in the north west of Sydney
- Emma B – Player Development Manager – Adelaide Crows Football Club
- Emma F – Principal Change Consultant, No 8 Consulting and long term mwah. subscriber
Lots of people are talking about how they are coping without work. You have work – How are you coping with going to work everyday?
In a way, I feel lucky as I still get to leave my house and maintain a relatively normal schedule, although schools have changed dramatically in the last 3 weeks, which all staff are finding difficult to adjust to. However, when you are out – even for work – you do get a sense that you should be at home as that is what the health advice is saying. We are all still required to be at work for at least 1-2 days a week. I am extremely grateful that I still have a job and receive an income and do not take that for granted.
It feels like business as usual for me. There’s lots of changes at work and we’ve had to deal with those changes, but we work in a high-risk industry so having strict procedures with controls in place is not a foreign concept for us. I expect to have to come to work at all times, the power needs to be on – even more so in times of crisis.
I’m often required to respond to emergencies, so I’m used to the concept of having to respond despite what is going on around us, so people can keep cooking, working from home and doing what they need to do.
I work in welfare in an elite sporting environment. Currently I am working with a lot of players via zoom/face time and phone discussing wellbeing and how they are progressing in this space.
It’s not lost on me that I’m in a more fortunate position than a lot of people at this point in time. I have my health, I have a home, and I’m afforded an occupation that allows me to work from anywhere. I’m ever conscious that this could change any day so just grateful for each day as it arises.
What are your main concerns?
I think in times like this the main thing that concerns me is the uncertainty of it all. At this point, we don’t have an end date for ‘isolation’ and in terms of my job and thinking for the long term, it is a big adjustment in terms of my skills and capabilities to still support and educate my students remotely and effectively. Another concern is what I may be unknowingly ‘bringing home’ with me as I am still around people and small children, who seem to be the ‘carriers’ of this disease. It is something all teachers are on edge about – what we are exposed to and then consequently bringing home to our families.
The single biggest concern is if I get sick, I could bring it home – for my son and my partner – and any other immediate family I have contact with.
After that my concerns are of a worst-case scenario in my business – if we have COVID-19 sweep through our business with less people being able to come to work – the state of the world as we know it could be quite devastating. I’ve seen the panic buying – even while things are relatively under control – I’d hate to think how people will respond if there’s a storm and no power workers and people are without power for weeks – what would Sydney look like if that was widespread?
There are four things I can see at the moment
i) The mental health of people during this time is so very important and that we look out for each other
ii) Domestic violence increases due to people being restricted at home more
iii) Boredom for those not working – a day can feel very long if you’re alone and with nothing to occupy yourself
iv) Social interactions for children and lack of ability to play with other kids their age – I worry this will have longer term consequences and how we integrate our children back into ‘normal’
More holistically I’m deeply concerned by the media’s lack of accountability in all of this. I’m pretty bloody cross that the whole world has been tipped on its head yet journalists seem to be the only occupation that are not pivoting. Still reporting sensationalist, inaccurate, and out of touch information that is scaring and scarring people. It has to stop.
What is it like going to work as usual when so many are staying home – what are your observations?
Going to work as usual while others stay at home can tend to leave the impression that the budgetary impact of shutting schools is more important for the government than the people within the schools – even though this is not what they intend to convey. It can tend to make you feel like a ‘lamb to the slaughter’ for lack of a better phrase.
Traffic is great! That is the biggest change day to each day. It’s a bit confronting seeing food store shelves empty – cafés closed, things aren’t normal, but I’m used to responding out of hours – so it’s a bit par for the course for me.
To me it still feels early days. People are still in reactive mode, doing trial/ error on what they need to do, think, feel next; there’s no real rhythm or pattern yet.
Do you feel that your job is important to keep society going?
I think teaching has and always will be an important job within society, as many jobs are and continue to be. Schools are a safe haven for a lot of students and schools become communities of their own that nurture and support people within them – staff and students.
I feel my job is vital – I think sport is imperative for society and the quicker we can get it going again the better to provide people something to look forward to on the weekends and something to chat about. In the absence of work many people have no individual purpose or meaning (despite the financial aspect).
Yes. Disruptions call for turnarounds and repositioning to which I hold deep, deep expertise – be it restructuring, downsizing, redesigning or redirecting expertise and market offerings to better service the needs of customers, or improve margins.
There are many moving parts to this work but the two big highlights – is careful and thoughtful analysis of options where it impacts large cohorts of employees. And second, creating transition approaches that are human and kind even if this comes at a cost. Integrity and reputation is everything during a recession or at any stage where companies are making seismic shifts.
What are your hopes for the future when we come out the other side of this crisis?
I hope that on the other side of this crisis, the ‘realisation’ that teachers do more than some think will remain and not digress back to where we came from before all this. I have many friends and family within education who are working overtime to ensure our students are still receiving the best possible education in these circumstances. I hope that on the other side of this crisis, people no longer use the phrase ’those that can’t do, teach’, because there are many teachers going above and beyond their duty.
Because this will go on for so long, with the amount of people suddenly able to work from home, I expect that this change will be ongoing. You don’t just go back to everything being the way it was. There will be plenty of people who’ll want to keep working from home at least some of the time. We’ve proven that it works.
The financial world will see impacts for a long time – it will take a long time to recover. There could be permanent changes to industries like hospitality and travel – some may not recover at all.
With any major event like this, people use times like this as a catalyst for reflection. We may see people’s attitudes change. It will cause some people to re-evaluate their life choices – maybe change industries. People might look for different roles that have more meaning for them.
I’d like to see continued social connection and us all valuing those things we have previously taken for granted. We have a huge opportunity to decrease waste and increase family time and the importance of it.
At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna I’m really buoyed by the innovation that comes from downturns. I remember being in Athens a few years back post their recession – the city was a glorious yin-yang of grit and grime but also magnetic; alive with creativity and joy. People had to do what they could to make the best of a shitty situation. I can’t wait to see what people come up with. I think the pivots we’ve seen in the last month aren’t even the half of what’s still to come.
The non-work version of Emma is quietly helping people more than ever. Yesterday I sold 155 doz oysters for my friends who are Oyster growers in Smoky Bay and lost all their restaurant trade, 3 weeks ago I helped my Personal Trainer set up her business online so she could still take on clients, donating blood for the sick, babysitting my nieces so my sister and bro-in-law can get some work done, coaching my friends online boutique on how to get the supply of her stock out of Hong Kong and keep trading, connecting people with each other so they can help each other out from all walks of life and occupations.
All of this is to say care, connection, creativity and big picture thinking is my true self! I feel a shift, and I see a shift within my circle of friends, clients, family and community. My hope for the future is that we finally move into the Age of Love. Move over Internet 4.0 or whatever they call that – there’s a new era in town! x