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Scared To Go To Work

March 6, 2020

The explosions came in rapid succession, two that sounded nearly simultainiously. The crowd froze. Trying to figure out which way to run. Which direction was the threat coming from?

I along with about 5,000 fellow Microsoft employees were gathered inside Safeco Field, the Seattle Mariners’ ballpark in Seattle. The season was over and this was our company meeting. It was October, 2001.

This was the first public gathering many of us had been to since the horrific day of September 11, 2001. The country was still recovering. Many of us had never heard of Osama bin Laden, or Al Queda. But, and we were not sure who the enemy was or when they would strike again.

Our fear lasted for only a few seconds.

Welcome to the Microsoft company meeting!

And with that our company meeting started. Someone had the great idea of setting off fireworks to start the meeting. Fireworks, that looked, smelled and worse, sounded like a bomb!

In those days after September 11, many companies struggled with how to protect against potential physical threats. Microsoft was no different. And yes, some of us were a little anxious about going to work.

Today we face another threat. The Coronavirus has companies, including ours, struggling with how to protect our empoloyees from the virus.

My lovely wife went to the store today. It wasn’t an emergency trip. With five kids still at home, we go through stuff. Food, water and toilet paper.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has encouraged its members to have food storage set aside for a rainy day. We have a storeroom full of canned goods, buckets of flour and rice and a pantry full of peanut butter, crackers, taco shells and the various other things that a family needs to eat. But, we still run out of certain perishables; fresh fruit, bread, milk and yes, toilet paper.

You see where this is going? We weren’t hourding toilet paper, it was just the normal time to buy more.

Costco was out. She asked them when more was coming.

We don’t have an ETA. Apparently the drivers are scared to make delivery for fear of the virus.

My company is a call center. We have a lot of people in a single room. And we have centers all across the country. Naturally we are concerned with the potential for infection. We have had meetings to plan for best case, worst case and most likely case.

The biggest difference between today’s crisis and the situation 19 years ago, is the rise of telcommuting. When I worked for Microsoft all those years ago, I had dial-up internet access. Hardly sufficient to do much more than send email.

Today, I can be equally effective from home or from the office. In fact, my home office is equipped with many of the same tools I have at the office, VOIP phone, docking station, dual monitors, high-speed internet. Using my company’s VPN I have complete access to all my online tools, email, Teams, network shares, internal databases.

I won’t say I’m afraid to go to work. But, it’s also about being careful. My lovely wife had a doctor’s appointment today. I had to meet her there to pick up some paperwork for our son. Even though Utah has no known cases of the virus, I was consious of every door knob I touched, every chair arm, I rested my hand on. And when I left, I made sure to first search the waiting room for the hand sanitizer.

Oh, and tried to remember to not touch my face afterward. Maybe I am just a little concerned.

(Oh, and Walmart had some toilet paper, but not much left. No word on when they are getting more.)

Is your office making plans to deal with the virus? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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