Living in Covid times | 1

Wednesday, Nov 25, 2020 - Posted by Monika GRUENWALD
Covid virus spreading

How do we live and work with Covid-19 in front of our (office) door? Spare a bit of your time and learn how we, at Amphinicy, experience this crisis.

The past 9 months have been quite a challenge for all of us, regardless of what we do and where we are. As an employer, we – like certainly many others – weren’t sure how our staff might handle this situation. Taking certain measures, how would people feel? How did they feel overall?
Thus, we let our colleagues have a say about how they have experienced this time. Some of them live far away from their families, and which makes the impact on their lives much more severe. I have started to work for Amphinicy in the middle of the outbreak, and which was quite something: in record time, I noticed how things around me change, and especially what is important for my colleagues, whom I do not see on a daily basis, and some of which I never meet at all.
In this mini-series alas, our developers and consultants - some of which spend a lot of time at client's premises - will voice their opinion, but the management will also have a place to speak up.

We all believe it's important to know you're not alone with your feelings, and which seem to be similar among the group - they speak of empathy, of loneliness, frustration and isolation, but also of hope, contentedness and optimism. Maybe you'll recognize yourself upon reading the thoughts of our colleagues. We’ll start with reactions from the developers’ group.

The first question I asked was about the biggest impact on their situation in general. Noticing how all of them struggle to adapt seemed to make it normal to ask this question, which is the essential one. What seriously hit them were the changes within the workplace and at home, and which happened at the same moment. "Social and travelling restrictions are too stressful sometimes. Also, the combination of working from home and being in lock-down has made the boundary between everyday life and work thinner”, says one of them. Another one mentions, "Time I spend at home has changed drastically and suddenly. I used to spend most of my weekdays outside of the apartment: at work, at the gym, having a beer with friends. But then all of a sudden, I found myself spending most of my time at home. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I still find myself struggling on some days.” Or you might hear, "The biggest impact was the paradigm shift, from face-to-face to remote. Even though everyone was well familiar with telcos and with working remotely, the Covid related permanent working from home took everyone by surprise, and we all needed some time to align.” Work-related, thus, the physical absence of colleagues and discussion partners, the social cohesion in the workplace as well as the need to find a quick solution seems a tough issue, while also adapting to new circumstances at home.
“I miss going to the office and having simple conversations and morning coffees”, or “as we are all social plants, I really do miss seeing people and all the social interactions we had in the 'old times' at the workplace” has been mentioned. Another one of them says, “I miss working with people, the feeling of belonging to a team is not as strong as in a normal working environment.” The feeling of togetherness is missed strongly – the word appeared several times - and it’s interesting to read that rather on-site work life is considered ‘normal’.

home office

I work in a different situation and probably see my colleagues more often than they see their team members, given that I’m at the office most days and in various very small groups of people. I also have the advantage of a family nearby, as opposed to colleagues who have moved here from other countries, and now, with high restrictions on a number of things, have even more difficulties keeping close to their loved ones. What if something happens to them? To myself? The emotional impact seems to be at least as strong as the work-related one. "I miss that I can't schedule ahead of time when I can travel to see my family and to travel in general, and I keep worrying about getting sick", was one of the lines I read, and the other "I miss human contact the most, I miss being able to hug someone if I feel like it. I miss visiting my family without worrying that I might be the reason something bad happens to them."

Still, negative experiences may still lead to positive side effects. During all the time, I learned that a lot of colleagues appreciate doing something creative and worthwhile, unrelated to work, at home, and there is a strong exchange of ideas. We have become photographers, dressmakers, painters, and in particular bakers, it seems. “It’s nice to spend some more time at home. I even found some new hobbies that allow me to go out without taking the risks", says one of my colleagues.

Frane's bread

Another question was related to obstacles and benefits that have come up with the changes in the workplace. Reading the answers was quite inspirational, as missing something gives room for improvement thinking. Contact has already been relayed to other channels, and WhatsApp has become a tool for both quick work information (“I’m ill today”) as well as the odd, silly chat in the evening. "Communication has improved a lot”, one says. “Before, most people worked from the office, whereas I was working remotely half of the week. Those days I was missing out on some discussions, and it was harder to contact people as they were not online. Now that everyone works from home, it is easier and faster to communicate." Also, the overall flexibility seems to be appreciated, with less commuting and more time in between to do household chores if necessary or to whip up a nice lunch.
Workwise, though, it looks that an impact to one company is like a piece of a domino on the others, and triggers adaptation for all: “The perception of working from home has changed since, for both companies and employees. […] Companies have realized that working from home really works - even full time. We see those challenges only in a small subset of activities, and honestly, I think these will never be the same as face-to-face. But we are getting better at working this way, and also getting used to it." Still, your environment may not always be adapted to your suddenly working at home. You may have children around, a partner who’s also working from home and in the same room, or simply inadequate furniture. “Unfortunately, we can't expect companies to provide us with better/bigger housing, or to hire nannies. But then again, I would be glad to see more incentive from the companies to improve working conditions, i.e., work desks, good quality chairs, computer peripheral devices like monitors, wireless keyboards/mice etc. Basically, anything that an employee would identify as potential improvement of the working conditions." Now that’s an interesting thought!

I’d like to end this article with the hopes I heard from my colleagues. "I hope the whole situation will only be a bad memory in a couple of years and the current situation not the 'new normal' for years to come.” "Going back to work ASAP.” "My greatest hope is that the pandemic will be brought under control sometime soon. And I hope we will get to keep the possibility of partially working from home, while also being able to work from the office a couple of days per week. That would be the best of both worlds."

These hopes feel like a common denominator: please let it be over soon so that we can go on with a normal life’. This will still take a while, but there’s a light at the horizon in the middle of a strong, second wave, with a vaccine being developed.

In the next part, you’ll find out how our director has experienced the situation – his perspective again being different from the employee one.