This week marked the point where the threat of coronavirus causing significant day-to-day impact for the entire country went from being a threat to a new reality for us all to adjust to.
Whilst the impact on me personally is small compared to most in society, this remains an important event for us all and something we'll likely remember for the rest of our lives. As this is likely to last a while, I'm going to be writting about the impact I'm facing at work as we adjust to these changes.
In previous weeks we'd started to get an indication that something major was on the way, but it was still quite hard to feel personally impacted by it. We'd been told to take our laptops home each night incase the office needed to close, and was giving the news increasing attention but otherwise carrying on as normal.
Heading into work on Monday it was clear that things were already stepping up a gear. A couple of teams had already started working from home after suspected COVID-19 cases, with an unsettling atmosphere of unease among everyone else as this virus started getting everyone a bit more concerned. Some people opted to leave to work from home, whilst rumours started spreading about a wider work from home policy. By the end of the day, the business announced an acceleration of their working from home plans, with all colleagues who were able to work from home being encouraged to do so.
That evening, government advise also encouraged working from home. By the end of the week we're now seeing pubs and restaurants closing, as well as schools.
I'm incredibly fortunate to be working in a job where working from home is both possible and readily accommodated. In normal circumstances I'll frequently work from home once a week as a "focus" day – a chance to reduce the number of meetings and get my head down without interuption. That focus has been the hardest thing to replicate when moving from occassional to continuous working from home.
Something that I've found can't be underestimated is the impact of this not just being a change of work location, but also a reduction in social interaction and increase in anxiety when world events are never far from our minds.
There have been inevitable teething issues getting used to mass work from home, especially around communication. It's taken time to find the right tooling, with Slack and Zoom calls easily beating our usual Skype for Business default choice. Working remotely has lead to an increase in time spent on communication, making sure we're all ok and know what is going on is crucial right now. Within Immediate, we are a month away from delivering a massive project so this time was always going to be hectic as we hit the final stretch – which is now going to be increasingly challenging.
Being stuck inside all day isn't great for our well-being, so we're trying to make sure we head out each evening for a walk to get a little bit of exercise and fresh air. Such a little thing now feels like a huge luxury, and something to look forward to each day. Going forward, I feel like this little bit of outdoor time along with planning balanced meals are going to be incredibly important.
Outside of this, a number of evenings this week have been spent understanding how coronovirus will change our travel plans for this year. We've already got a few trips lined up – Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia in April being the first with Canada later in the summer. Over the week each country has begun improving stricter isolation requirements on entry, until the FCO advised against all but essential travel meaning we've now had to cancel our April trip with Canada still an unknown at this point – only time will tell.
Quite what will happen over the next few weeks is anyones guess, with the next few days feeling crucial to how well our country and planet can respond to this pandemic.