Weeknotes #64–65 — Pandemic

A week in which I…

  • Like everyone else, entered the waking nightmare of the coronavirus spreading all over the globe. If I’m being honest, it’s been tough to cope with even though as yet I don’t personally know anyone with a diagnosis. Even if I decide to ignore the news updates and do something more mentally healthy, I then find myself running or contributing to meetings where it is the number one topic. We were already running daily discussions to try and help those from our Beijing office who have been in lockdown for weeks, and now that continuity planning has spread everywhere. You go to sleep, wake up and then realise that it hasn’t all been a dream. Days are spent watching The Guardian’s Liveblog and the Coronavirus Worldometer, waiting for the UK to report its daily infection and death totals at 2pm. It’s a hideous double-whammy of being concerned about how we could all be contributing to the demise of loved ones whilst knowing that if activity seizes up, we could be in for an economic shock that puts the 2008 financial crisis in the shade. When the first crash happened a week ago I immediately turned to FT’s Alphaville blog, somewhere that I used to hang out all those years ago. My timing was excellent as I found that they had restarted their ‘Markets Live’ chat on Telegram. The Telegram feed is an excellent resource to follow what’s happening in the broad financial world in real time.
  • Went to see Marika Hackman play at the Kentish Town Forum. I’d bought tickets last year and had been looking forward to the gig for ages. She didn’t disappoint, and the friends I had brought along who were less familiar with her work thought she was great too. As we left, glowing, I realised that part of my enjoyment had been that I hadn’t thought about the coronavirus for a couple of hours. We’ll all need some distractions over the coming weeks and months, albeit from home. How quickly will gigs move online?

  • Wrestled with friends and colleagues that think that the UK government is doing a good job and we should just trust what they say. But these are the same awful, lying, incompetent and criminal clowns that were in government two weeks ago. I would like to think that if they were doing a good job I would be able to swallow my pride and say it. But a policy where we all get and share the virus because we would then develop ‘herd immunity’ and we are forced to lose loved ones, I can’t get behind. People didn’t stop getting all of the hideous viral diseases in history because we developed immunity. This article is the best thing I’ve read as a riposte to the government position.
  • Had so many discussions about what to do in response. My client still has staff going to the office and I’m not prepared to start working from home full time until that’s the expectation for everyone in our team. We’ve moved to ‘split working’ for the coming week where there is one team in one week, and another the next, but given the rate of spread of the disease I can’t see this lasting for too long. (UPDATE: It lasted for one day, and we’ll all now be working from home.) The programme I have been running for my client for the past few years has delivered a technology platform that allows staff to work from anywhere. However, I need to temper my enthusiasm for home working for everyone with the understanding that:
    • Not everyone would be happy to work from home — being a geek it’s fine for me, but for others being at home alone and trying to get their IT to work, no matter how good it is, may be a very daunting prospect.
    • Not everyone can work from home. Not everything is completely digital. What do you do about those that still need access to the office?
    • Not everyone has a great home working environment that lets them be productive.
    • There is a mental health tax associated with being at home and not socialising, which could also have serious long-term impacts on people.
  • My concern doesn’t really lie with my family or I getting the disease myself, more that we are contributing to the overall spread of the thing in society. I was meant to have my friends over on Saturday night but cancelled, much to their surprise. I weighed this up and didn’t think it was the right thing to do. I do feel like I’m living a hypocritical life at the moment, as I write this from the train heading into London for a day at the office. We replaced an evening together in person with an evening of them beating me at Forza on the Xbox. Something tells me that will be the first of many evenings spent virtually with friends.
  • Discussed with my children whether they should go to school or not. Yes, it’s up to my wife and I from a legal perspective but it doesn’t sit well with me, particularly with my eldest son who is about to become a teenager. How much control over his life should he have? I can’t dismiss his fears of being irrational, particularly when he tells me he worries about spreading it as opposed to getting it. We’ll take it day by day. As I write this, #Covid19Walkout is trending on Twitter, encouraging pupils to stay home.
  • Managed to get some work done in between all of the coronavirus drama, but still not all of it was planned. I gave a little bit of help to a colleague who was managing the process of a mobile phone refresh, arranging for some additional staffing to help with migrating people from their old iPhones to new ones.
  • Ran our monthly steering committee, where I presented a view of the size and shape of the project portfolio. It was great that the committee could see it and grasp the problem of trying to do too many things at once. The next step is to work out what the priorities are that we will commit to.
  • Celebrated my wife’s birthday with dinner at a local Turkish restaurant. It’s not the typical place we would go; our boys, like me when I was a child, aren’t exactly adventurous. Somehow I ended up offering them a small cash incentive for everything that they tried that they had never tasted before, and it was enough to get them diving in. It ended up being a lovely evening with everyone having been part of the food experience.

  • Finished a couple of graphic novels — Hostage by Guy DeLisle and They Called Us Enemy by George Takei. Both were very good, but I preferred the style of the DeLisle book. At one point the hostage of the title starts dreaming of ‘normal’ things he could be doing if he was at home, and this image stuck with me: I’d generally like to be doing that too!

Next week: The great working from home marathon begins.

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