An Open Letter to the Virtual Workforce of COVID-19
More compassion and less cynicism is required of all of us right now
I sit here at my makeshift “Rona Rig” workstation nestled not so neatly on my kitchen counter while my wife takes a conference call at our actual workstation (welcome to marriage) 15 feet behind me, I realize something deeply precious about this moment. The experience of being in a place that is familiar, yet outside my comfort zone, compelled me to pen an open letter to every person who has the extreme fortune of a job that allows them to work remotely. It is my hope that after reading this letter compassion becomes your weapon of choice for any mishaps sprinkled throughout your day. It is my hope that you elevate your thinking beyond emails or meetings and search inward to be more human in each moment that presents itself. It is my hope that you do not snicker at someone who has never used Zoom, but with patience you show them how to connect to what might be their new virtual normal. What defines us as humans are the times we put our desires secondary to the greater good.
The moment I saw on CNN that the San Francisco Bay Area was required to “shelter-in-place”, it became evident that this was not a charged headline that would disappear in a few days. This led me to conduct my own research to see how dire this “global pandemic” had really become. After a fair amount of homework I felt ashamed. Up until that point in time I would breeze past the statistics of infection rates and death tolls as mere numbers scrolling through my feed. Those were not, are not, and will not ever be just a number. Each number represents a person who will never sit at another dinner table, share a quiet moment with a loved one, or watch another sunrise. It made me think about the most precious gift we have, to be alive.
As I wrestled through my unconscious apathy, compassion eventually emerged as the best tool to move forward. For the millions of people around the world that are not infected by this disease but are undoubtedly sick with worry about jobs that have been put on hold indefinitely, how does that measure up against your issue of the day? If you’re struggling to manage co-working space with your partner in a one bedroom apartment, distraught over a delayed hair appointment, or rife with cabin fever — I challenge you to put those problems in perspective. For every inconvenience that plagues your brain or distorts your attitude there is a nurse with no mask tending to a sick patient, a waiter who has no idea how he will pay rent this week, or a child who was told their parent breathed their final breath.
Each number represents a person who will never sit at another dinner table, share a quiet moment with a loved one, or watch another sunrise. It made me think about the most precious gift we have, to be alive.
It is not my intention to be overly somber, it is my desire for us to reorganize our thinking and heart posture to be of service to our fellow human. This is a time that requires new and exciting levels of altruism and kindness at work. If you are uncertain how to join this burgeoning movement of prosocial behavior, look no further than your phone. Order delivery (while practicing social distancing) and give your driver a nice tip. Set up a videoconference dinner for the elderly who aren’t tech savvy. Donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund.
In the last week there were countless times where we’ve been frustrated by our new working arrangement or by contradicting headlines from the news. While I am an advocate for self-expression, what happens if we turn that energy towards something that is beyond the zip code of our personal circumstances? This is the time to show up for each other. If you manage a team, check in on your direct reports to make sure that they’re adjusting well. If you discovered a life hack that helps make life more manageable, share it with your team. If this if your first time working remotely, here’s a reminder, YOU GOT THIS!
I wholeheartedly believe that on the other side of this pandemic we can produce a new normal of elevated corporate and individual compassion. This compassion doesn’t furrow its brow at the working mother whose child interrupts a video call. This compassion exudes empathy and grace so effortlessly that it shocks our peers. It is up to us to remain vigilant about our humanity, to prioritize the needs of others, and to be humble enough to help without recognition or reward.
We have the capacity to be superhuman when we put our hearts ahead of our minds.
Let’s see the incredible transformation that happens when we do.
Chad J. Thomas