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How to work during a Pandemic

The world is bracing for the seemingly inevitable proliferation of COVID-19 and coronavirus, which has already paralyzed cities and isolated millions. In Canada and U.S., especially the nonstop work culture in startups, we all were tending to think that we’re immune to such things and carry on business as usual. We are not only deluding ourselves but putting others in danger — so here are a few ground rules to make sure you don’t make this difficult period any harder for yourself or the people you work with.

If you are looking for the latest news on the health crisis or want to learn more about the virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization‘s dedicated sites.

Take reasonable precautions and be transparent

The CDC says that good self hygiene and frequent hand-washing are the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus. If you’re coughing and sneezing, you should probably wear a mask right now, but if not, a poorly fitted mask you’re frequently adjusting with potentially contaminated hands is worse than nothing.

You’re also only at risk of being affected by people you come into contact with. To minimize risk, stay home if you can. This may mean canceling meetings, working remotely, or skipping a conference.

If you are not feeling well in any way, just stay home; Now is not the time to be going into work saying you’re “just a little under the weather,” or “it’s probably just allergies.” Wash your hands frequently or carry hand sanitizer.

When you do something that could affect others, it might be good to explain that you’re doing it because the threat of infection. Choose your words carefully, but be clear about it: “Can we do a video call instead? I’m trying to minimize my exposure right now” is fine.

To be clear, the world isn’t a death trap right now. But because the virus can be asymptomatic and still spread, it’s not obvious where it is and isn’t dangerous to be. So you should do what makes you feel comfortable and minimizes the risk of exposure in general.

Don’t question precautions taken by others

A lot of things are going wrong over this few weeks. Major events have already been canceled and no doubt many face-to-face meetings are being skipped out on. That sucks — but limit your judgment of the people making those decisions.

No more shaking hands and that’s OK. Meeting by video instead of the coffee shop, that’s OK. If someone leaves work early because they get freaked out, that’s OK.

Even in ordinary circumstances we never really know what other people’s motivations and limitations are, and in this situation we know even less than usual. Individuals or companies may be under pressures you’re not aware of — family, financial, religious, and personal— and their decisions, even if they cause serious inconvenience to you, have to be accepted without question right now.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

It’s not easy to work outside in these moments or to work from home and being forced to do so by a pandemic is not an ideal way to start. If you get any work done at all, you are doing really well. The most important thing is that you are happy and healthy and, if you are not, there is no shame in asking for help. Your family, friends, colleagues and health-care professionals are just a phone call away. You might be in isolation, but you are not alone.

Practice Social Distancing

Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. To practice social or physical distancing:

Stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people

Do not gather in groups

Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

In addition to everyday steps to prevent Covid-19,keeping space between you and others is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to this virus and slowing its spread locally and across the country and world.

Remember to exercise and get fresh air

If you are not able to go outside, just open your windows and try your best to do some light exercise at home. A pandemic is not a good time to start a strenuous new form of exercise — you don’t want to have to see a doctor — but it is important to do something appropriate to your current fitness level. There are a lot of free resources online. I also enjoy following yoga classes on YouTube.

Remember that it’s not just you

What’s happening right now is a global issue of great complexity and with far-reaching effects. The things happening to you and your company are a very small part of it. You’re not the only one being affected, and chances are if you’re reading this that you’ve got it better than most.

At the same time, if you’re feeling frustrated or scared or pent in, knowing that it’s not just you can be helpful — others are dealing with this too and will understand.

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