Life in the Time of COVID

I can see a point–maybe 2-4 years from now–where I’ll need to put out an updated version of the Heroic Technical Writing book because it was written with the pre-COVID world in mind. As we creep up on the beginning of the third year of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been forced to question a lot of assumptions about how we live and work. I’ll talk about a few of those questions today.

What We Do Hasn’t Changed, Where We Do It Has

One of the reasons I decided to break down and buy a condominium after years of apartment living is that it became clear to me after 2020 that I was in no danger of being offered a cool job out of state. Most of what I do can be done from anywhere (except space stuff–that needs to be done in the U.S. or not at all). If I can be anywhere, I might as well stay in Florida, enjoy the warm weather, and get some equity out of it.

The good news is that while many of us might not be in a physical office, our jobs are still needed. If you’re an introvert–and many of the writers I know tend to be like that–you get the advantage of working from the quiet of your own home, plus get to enjoy the added bonus of not being exposed to a lot of people potentially carrying the virus.

Uncertainty Has Become Part of the “New Normal”

Will we get to attend a class in person? Will we get to attend any work-related social gatherings? Will we get to take vacations somewhere? These sorts of questions are likely to be answered with a big MAYBE. New variants of the virus keep appearing, and–at least in this rambunctious homeland of mine–there are strongly diverging opinions about the efficacy of vaccines and how much authority the government or our employers have to mandate that people get them.

As a result of all of the above, it’s become nearly impossible to nail down what “victory” in the battle against this virus looks like. And, concurrently, the increasingly mythical “return to normal” is slipping farther from our grasp. You have to adjust to what today’s normal is because some incident or new medical development could come out of nowhere and change the rules again.

In a work context, this means that hiring might not take place; events might be canceled; funding for X project might be withheld; travel budgets or approvals might be withdrawn; or a job posting might disappear. You can be angry or disappointed, but you can’t control most of it. If you’re used to exercising a lot of authority over your work environment, this will be a character test. You might decide to seek employment elsewhere. You might sulk. You might make the best of a bad situation. Regardless of the path you take, you’ll have to accept–perhaps you already have accepted–the fact that a lot of events around you will be beyond your control. How you respond will affect how you move forward.

It’s Possible You’ll Forget Your Social Graces

While an update to the book is probably inevitable, I will probably leave in any sections regarding in-person interviews, in-person meetings, networking, and conference. I do have confidence that such things will return again in greater frequency, albeit with more behavioral restrictions than we’re used to. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to stay in touch with other people via video conferencing or even talking to your neighbors across the hall or across the yard. Interacting with other people requires little things like politeness, minding how you say certain things, being considerate about other people’s time, and occasionally apologies. Just because you’re remote doesn’t mean you can forget how to be a pleasant person. We’ll need more of them when the next crisis hits.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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