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70 days later

May 20, 2020 - 1475 views

70 days later

It's been 10 weeks since the virus turned our lives upside down. Here are a few musings about the good and the bad of living and working – all from home.

Many of us have now been home for 10 weeks, due to the d-mn virus. I haven’t had this long a stretch without business travel for over 20 years. Here’s how I’m holding up, where I’m at and what we can learn from this almost surreal moment in time.

  • If you can work at home, thank your lucky stars. Apart from the hole in my schedule due to not traveling, everything else about my work is exactly as before. Email, calls, planning, writing. No change there. And Parkinson’s Law has quickly kicked in: emails, calls, planning, writing, etc. have expanded to fill the available time. But jeez – seeing the folks who can’t stay home, or who are adjusting to working at home (particularly those with young kids), makes me realize (yet again) that long-term work @ home is a rare privilege and not to be taken lightly.
  • Choose your window onto the world carefully. If you’ve been watching Devs during the lockdown (highly recommended) you’ll be au fait with the concept of the multiverse. (Fans of the philosopher Leibniz will probably already be living in their best possible world, bug notwithstanding). Check the news, and all you see is chaos, rancor and awfulness, filtered through media lenses driven by partisanship and profiteering. But look (or, suitably cautiously, walk) outside, and (at least where I am), the lilacs are blooming, the lambs are bleating, and the cardinals are tweeting (though they’re not on Facebook). Amid the challenges of our times it’s still, as Saint Louis put it, a wonderful world. If you care to see it.
  • The tough are really going right now. President Kennedy’s old man knew about the going getting tough (being the originator of the phrase) and wouldn’t be surprised to see the really tough stepping forward in the middle of this scheisse storm. My advice? This isn’t the time to sit back and duck for cover; it’s the moment to sprint toward the problem. People will remember in the years to come who went in which direction.
  • Looking good on a videoconference isn’t rocket science. It’s amazing how many people on TV (no names) and on work calls (absolutely no names) haven’t figured out how to hold and present themselves online. Bad lighting, skew-whiff camera angles, miserable backdrops, forgetting to “talk to the light” (er, that’s where the camera is, if you’re wondering) – the missteps are legion and funny/sad, depending on your POV. Perhaps there’s some sort of inverse snobbery going on that’s flipped over from tech’s “the-richer-I-am-the-worse-I-dress” vibe. If so, I guess that’s cool. But I’d hazard a guess it’s more that the work @ home newbies (and worse, some of the old-timers) are still figuring out their Zoom from their Webex. Or their a-s from their elbow.
  • The kids are alright. As regular readers may know, I’ve long referred to my two kids as my “at home future-of-work focus group.” I’ve learned a lot about tech from them in the last 10 or so years (probably more than they’ve learned from me), like how to multitask across three screens (the 70-inch TV with soccer on, the 20- inch screen with Netflix on, the five-inch screen with Twitter “on”), how to create a Bitmoji, how to create an awesome “Dad dance” on TikTok (only sort of joking). If school had been out when I was their age (back in the digital dark ages) and I’d been held hostage with my parents, I would have probably gone up the wall. But in 2020, every aspect of their lives (learning, socializing, chillin’) has been so online for so long that, though of course they’d love to leave their cribs, the mountain (the parties, the music, the shows, the food) comes to Muhammad. If the real world is done, no biggie.
  • I ain’t missing you at all. I hear and read some people are missing the water cooler and/or the pub, stuck inside their lonely eeries. Much as I like you – yes, you – we seem to be spending so much time on calls and exchanging so many emails that I can’t really say I feel isolated and alone. In fact, I’d probably say we’ve never been as “in touch” as we are right now. I guess we could have a virtual happy hour, but to be honest, I’ve got to get home for dinner … to walk the dog … to help with the kids’ homework (even though they haven’t got any – see above) … with the wallpapering … er, help … Oh, I forgot. I am home …
  • How long can this go on? Dipping into another oldy-timey music reference, I spend a fair bit of time (as I suspect do you) reading the tea leaves as to when I can get back to my old way of working. Or at least Dunkin’ Donuts. As of the time of writing, that’s still pretty much up in the air seemingly; unlike me. As a road warrior and someone who sort of likes soggy club sandwiches, heavenly beds and the charming smiles of my local TSA crew, I’m itching to pull out of here (not actually a town of losers) to start winning again. [Really? More 70’s music references? -Ed] Don’t get me wrong; being home for so long has been great. Despite all the stress and anxiety from seeing the damage the virus is wreaking, I’ve slept better than I have for years (no jet lag, time difference, strange unheavenly bed, odd noises from room next door), gotten plenty of exercise, caught up with my back-from-college daughter who I’d thought was a real gone kid. [Very, very obscure. -Ed] But you can have too much of a good thing (sorry darling!), and despite the reservations I’ll have (hopefully on the right plane and in the right hotel) about hitting the endless grey ribbon again, [That’s so obscure. Only about six people in the whole world will get that. -Ed] I’m looking forward to getting back on the road, [Please make it stop. -Ed] this time with some social distance, a Japanese-style mask and a protective bubble of Plexiglass.


Coda: Hope you got the suitably au courant reference in the title of my piece. Look here if you didn’t, and, "enjoy …"

Visit our COVID-19 resources page for additional insights and updates.

Digital Business & Technology coronavirus, COVID-19, work from home, pandemic, virus

Ben Pring

Ben Pring is the Head of Thought Leadership at Cognizant, and co-founded and leads Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work....


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