Today was Day One of our quarantine. I spent the day mostly talking to jittery clients, and planning new campaigns, given new digital consumption patterns of the quarantined masses.
My company decided to work from home for a few days, despite the Telangana government not making it mandatory on companies to do so. All malls, cinema theatres, and educational institutions have been ordered by the government to shut shop until the 31st of March. However, they made it optional for companies and workplaces to work from home if they deem fit.
In my opinion, they should have closed down everything, including workplaces, because the spread of the virus is only going to get worse in the next week, especially in a country as densely populated. The economy is already going to suffer from the impending recession, we might as well do a good job of restricting people’s movements while we can (and try to ”flatten the curve”). Sometimes you need courage to take difficult decisions.
In my company’s case, it was a step I had been considering for about 2 weeks before I finally made the announcement to the team. I didn’t have to watch Contagion 10+ times to know the power of the exponential function (but it happens to be one of my favourite movies). At this point, it is about doing your part to minimise the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable groups of people. You might have some crazy, flu-resistant immunity in yourself, but the stranger(s) you might pass it on to might not be able to fight it. It is not about whether you’re brave enough to go out in these troubled times, it is about the morality and ethics of getting others around you into danger. It is about being brave enough to think about the bigger picture, and staying at home when you can.
Being able to work from home is a privilege and a luxury that most people in our country do not have. If you are one of the lucky few who can exercise it, accept this gift with gratitude. At the same time, I also think about the millions of people who cannot afford to miss work even for a day because they live pay check to pay check. What are they going to do in the face of this emerging recession? Most of them are going to lose their jobs. They might have to go to work now, while they still can, even in the face of a pandemic. The least we can do to not make matters worse is be a reason why they might catch COVID-19.
I think it is now more important than ever before to check our privileges: do you have the ability to stay at home and not worry about how you’re going to survive this new reality? It is going to be painful and all of us are going to have to make sacrifices, but at least some of us can afford to stay at home while having enough food to survive for at least a few weeks. I think those of us who can, have the moral imperative to do so.