It's hard to feel positive right now. It's a once-in-a-lifetime scary moment. I am not often accused of being overly optimistic (I think I'm too pragmatic for that and cautious by nature), but I do think there are some potentially game-changing life improvements that could result from this crisis.
Work from home may become the new normal. Your generation has let it be known that flexibility is paramount. When I have worked on filling jobs that are alternative—largely remote, lower billables/lower pay—I get a tremendous response. We're all the canaries in the coal mines now; flexible working is the only option at the moment as our offices gather dust. Could the revolution of remote work be a result of this pandemic? It feels like, at the very least, the way we work will look mighty different for the next year (if not longer). At some point, does some sort of adverse-possession concept take hold and the new models stick? I think it might.
We're asking each other real questions, and our humanity is at the forefront. There's a crying baby on almost every Zoom call. Your boss is as harried as you are, if not more. Almost every work conversation I've had (and the ones I hear my husband having) start with a much deeper, more honest exchange than your typical pleasantries. We are all brought down to the fundamentals right now—this is not the moment for "Fine, thanks, and you?" It would be disingenuous. People are answering more honestly when they're asked how they're holding up. Why does this matter? Both clients and partners alike have to see you as a human being, not a cog in the wheel. That isn't going to disappear when things slowly turn back to something resembling normal. It's hard to imagine going back to feeling like Associate #4 after this. Your work isn't happening in a vacuum; it's happening in the middle of a global pandemic, and it's forcing everyone to band together in a way that's much more personal.
The Bay Area has made the right call at almost every turn. I have high hopes that our strong efforts to flatten the curve—and the laudable, early calls by our local government and public health officials—will mean more of a return to our typical life sooner than other urban centers that may have hesitated at the jump. All indicators are that the Bay Area has weathered this storm admirably thus far. Most importantly, the region remains statistically healthier, but also real estate hasn't depreciated a shocking amount and our new unemployment claims are lower than other similarly sized areas of the country. These are not the things that matter the most, but they suggest that we're more stable than other regions. We're not out of the woods, of course; nobody is. But I do think that we're fairly well-positioned so far, and I expect that to continue.
It can pretty much only get easier from here. We are IN IT right now. People are working from home without any childcare or are working from home in total social isolation. We're hearing about salary cuts and layoffs. Much is still unknown about this virus and that causes anxiety. As I see it, this is the hardest, scariest part. At some point in the near term, I hope, we'll be able to have childcare again, to potentially meet up with friends and family members in small gatherings, and to do the things that will help us work better and stay sane. We're in for a long road, certainly, but I think that the restrictions will wane, at least for a while. We'll catch a break.
I have no desire to be saccharine about this crisis or how you might be feeling right now. I am with you. This absolutely sucks. I miss my parents, my sister, my friends, my colleagues, the quiet of my office. But I do think it helps to take a thousand foot view to see the ways in which we might come out of this with a better sense of what the future of work looks like and of who we are as PEOPLE in the office, not just producers. We can't go back, so we may as well endeavor to see what light can come from this.