Is that a long time? Short?
Everyone has marked this pandemic in their own time, but over the last few days, I realized that I hit the 18 month mark since I left work one morning not knowing when I would really be back.
For me, it’s been both a long and short time.
Yesterday, I came into my Hartford office (I have a Stamford one too) as I’ve tried to do once a week for these last few months. Downtown Hartford remains mostly quiet. The major employers have all stayed mostly remote and as a result, lunch hour still just feels…weird. Not to mention rush hour which, yesterday, didn’t exist on my ride home.
That’s not to blame anyone or be critical of the decisions to remain remote or hybrid where possible. This Delta variant has done enough to scare businesses into putting their reopening plans on hold for the umpteenth time.
But this also led me to thinking: Do we even remember what normal was or what we expect normal to be anymore?
It was easy, at the start of this pandemic to think about coming back in a few weeks, or even months.
But we’re way way past that now. Many companies have new employees that know nothing of the “before” time, the office culture, the coffee machine quirks, or which elevator is the best to take.
Depending on your business, many of them may even like this new normal of working from home or in a hybrid fashion. The lack of a commute, or having a pet nearby may be the most unexpected benefits of this pandemic. (For me, I’ve kinda liked my new repainted office and making good coffee in the a.m.)
The longer this continues, the more it just feels like we’re all chasing something that — let’s be honest with ourselves now — happened a long time ago.
18 months is a long time.
And even going back to the office now is hard at times too. People work on a sporadic basis and interactions are kept to a minimum, lest we spread the virus unwittingly to others.
All of this is to say that I’m more convinced than ever that the next year is still going to look far different than how we imagine it will be. Mandatory vaccination policies are an important part to get businesses to a more “normal” state. But what then?
To be sure, some businesses have continued to operate as normal throughout, particular those in “essential” businesses. But for many offices, this “life on hold” approach has been anything but normal.
I’ve started to think more in terms of what workplaces will look like going forward — rather than keep looking back to life “before” the pandemic. What does that workplace look like? What does it feel like? Will there be less socialization? Or, if the pandemic finally subsides, will there be more?
I’m grateful that my family has made it through this pandemic. Not unscathed or unscarred. None of our lives have been perfect. But we have survived.
I’m just hoping that being a “pandemic lawyer” as others have started to joke that I’ve become will be back to being a niche specialty and not a full-time job for another 18 months.