2020-11-27

A Reminder about Remote White-Collar Work and Loss during this Pandemic

As always, please note that I have no expertise in public health, and please follow relevant guidelines from public health officials regarding this pandemic.

This is a short post about the effects of this pandemic on white-collar workers, although the needs of essential blue-collar & service workers during this pandemic should not be ignored either. Over the last several months, I have read many op-eds about how the huge shift to remote work for white-collar jobs may or may not last after this pandemic, and on the whole, those op-eds basically saw this shift as a giant social experiment to see how well people could work in white-collar jobs when physically separated from each other, with very little mention of the broader context of this pandemic (beyond narrow questions of hygiene & safety in offices). It was tempting for me to think about this pandemic in such abstract terms too. However, I recently experienced a death in my family due to this coronavirus, and especially as I was very close to that person, it reminded me of a more basic fact, as follows.

This coronavirus is killing many people, and it is irreparably damaging the health of many others; in turn, it is severely damaging the mental (and in some cases physical) well-being of people whose loved ones are directly affected. Thus, white-collar workers aren't simply working from home in a giant social experiment; many of them are dealing with these tragedies among their relatives & friends. Given this, even though it might be tempting for employers, managers, and supervisors to think that workers are accustomed to the situation, I hope that many of them start (if they haven't done so thus far) or continue to be empathetic to the problems that many of their workers face outside of work, giving those workers time & space as appropriate to deal with those problems; of course, many white-collar workers had to deal with caregiving responsibilities as well as illnesses among family members & friends before this pandemic, but this pandemic has drastically increased the number of such people dealing with such problems at any given time, the magnitude of such problems, and the uncertain course of such problems (as the disease itself has such an uncertain course).

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