In the world of Coronavirus every cough counts

Today is the first day of tightening restrictions – we’re not yet being ordered to stay at home. Being strongly advised to work from home and avoid social contact is where we are – it’s a far cry from the full lockdown approach we are seeing in other countries with loudhailer announcements and police patrolling the streets to keep people indoors. They are weeks ahead of us in terms of the infection curve, so this could just be a sign of things to come…

As I type this I can hear the busy main road outside the front of my house; it’s still busy with cars up and down, and this morning as I took my girls to their grandmother’s house the traffic along Batten’s Drive was just as long as always with white vans and people carriers in the usual fashion. We may have been asked to work from home wherever possible, but it doesn’t look like many people got the message to me – but how can anyone really measure these things?!

Yesterday, when I was at work in Kenilworth, the picture was the same as I looked out the window to see just as many cars passing the office as always. When I walked to Argos during lunch to buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone to act as an office phone for redirected calls in the event we’ve got to close the office the streets were full with people who were clearly over the age of 70 going about their ordinary business. Right now it doesn’t feel like anything different is going on. If you were to measure the crisis by what you see out of your window your natural reaction would be ‘what crisis?’.

My only real hint of something out of the ordinary was the shelves at the supermarket this morning. Almost entirely devoid of bread bar a few bags of pitta breads. The chicken aisle also empty as if ransacked; yet the beef aisle well-stocked. Funny that. In a crisis people turn to chicken and reject beef. How odd.

There was a man, in his mid-50s wearing blue jeans and a stained t-shirt rushing around with a loaf of bread under each arm. I wasn’t sure quite how he obtained them given the shelves were empty, but he was charging around like a bull in a panic, grasping these loaves like someone was trying to take them from him. It was quite sad to see really – the poor bloke must have been in a mental state of panic bordering distress.

I went past a lady who had 3 big bags of potatoes in her trolley. Hanging out by the fish counter was a bloke wearing a face mask. Unlike the road network, there was a feel inside here that something different is going on. When you stand here you can see a crisis unfolding.

Back to working from home and I’m sat in my box room surrounded by piles of papers I’ve brought home and squashed in amongst my various wires and bits of kit that have sprouted over the course of time. We really should have sorted this room out a long time ago, but what was once a dumping ground is now my workplace.

I could be here a while. But first I need to buy a new charger for my laptop. When the IT department provided the laptop they only gave us a powered docking station – and the cable for the docking station doesn’t fit the laptop itself. Another glimpse of the crisis: short stock on Amazon and delayed delivery times.

On the upside, though…

The technological revolution in working practices I’ve been pushing for years is finally coming about. People who previously avoided meeting over web-based conference services are embracing them. Those who were reluctant to use email are now learning to adapt to a new way of working. Could this Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic be the catalyst that ushers in a very different way of working for the long-term? What’s to say there won’t be another outbreak of something else in future years. Besides, the Income Tax was only suppose to be temporary and that stuck around. Maybe it’ll be the same for telecommuting. Who knows…

Even though this whole thing doesn’t feel terribly real just yet, there is a feeling of a something big is coming – a sense of ‘bracing for impact’. It will be hard to keep bracing for weeks, maybe even months, especially if symptoms don’t develop in our house. It will feel all very false, but then again we could all get ill and really experience this. It all just feels so strange in a way I can’t quite describe. I feel like an observer rather than a participant.