The Pandemic..

Bassem Elhawary
7 min readMay 2, 2020
The picture is taken by me, and the face mask is an elaboration of my world-class photoshop skills 😉😂

I have been thinking for some days actually before deciding to write on this topic. COVID-19 has a huge impact on the world, nobody can ignore this. While most of that impact is sad and bad news, I see that COVID-19 also revealed some positives that we can learn and benefit from, and adopt for the future.

In this post, I’m trying to reflect on it from my perspective.

During the last two months a lot of companies have told their employees to stay at home, which indeed was a great sign of showing that they care about their employees and the community. Some of these companies didn't give days of notice. For some people they were told on a Friday not to come to the office starting from Next Monday.

I was one of the people who were told to stay at home, luckily my company gave a few days of notice so myself and other colleagues were able to pick up some stuff from the office to make ourselves more comfortable working remotely from our homes. Although people focused on the physical and materialistic preparations, I think a lot of people were not prepared from the psychological or emotional side. It was a learning, it was a new experience for most of us.

Seeing supermarkets running out of the basic human needs like bread, toilet paper, sugar, flour, and almost all of the stuff the people consume every day for breakfast or dinner were disappearing. People were doing that kind of “Hamster shopping” as the Germans called it, buying a lot of stuff and storing them in fear of the pandemic effects, leaving a lot of other people suffering to find what would cover their needs for the next few days.

Some examples of the early days of COVID19 supermarket shopping frenzy. Graffiti is by eme_freethinker

At these times FEAR was the real pandemic, and it infected everyone of us!

People were -and still are- worried about their own safety, the wellbeing of their beloved ones, and the economical impact of the pandemic on all of us.

Coming back to the work life..

Before COVID-19, a LOT of companies had restrictions on home office and mobile office, because a lot of them believed that office is the best place to get work done. Although this might be valid for some businesses, it was proved invalid for a lot of businesses, especially in the the software development and IT sectors.

Luckily in our software industry, you can get work done from literally anywhere. You just need to have some basic conditions like internet access, a device (smart phone/computer) and you are able to get work done. If you add to them a proper headphone, an additional screen, a back-friendly chair, and proper lighting, then you have achieved something comparable to your setup at the office.

Your mind, your device, and your internet access. You can work wherever & whenever they are available combined.

Right now, in these times of huge uncertainty and fear, a good amount of people are able to work productively, and achieve on the same level before the pandemic. Some teams productivity even improved. For people who have kids at home it was slightly different because they had to take care of the kids during the day, but for people who had grown up children, or people who are single or couples who have no kids yet, they were able to achieve on the same level or even more.

I see a lot of benefits from working remotely

They were most visible during the time of this pandemic cause everyone had to work from home, but I believe they can be generalized and applied when this is over..

Saving the daily commute time

A lot of us take transportation to work, and before that they get ready to leave home. Given that you can join a meeting 10 minutes after waking up, now this is gone. A LOT of time and effort saved for you.

Seeing the human factor of my colleagues

I got to see sides about my colleagues that I haven’t seen before.
People’s kids, pets, their creativity selecting virtual backgrounds for zoom, their cooking skills, what they are preparing for lunch/dinner today. Their new cool wallpaper when they share the screen and the story behind it, their plants, their plans for the evening.

I see that people became more tolerant and accepting for the imperfections. They don’t have to look perfect or to wear full makeup. It’s pretty normal now during business calls to hear kids crying/shouting, kitchen noises, door bell ringing, or a neighbour drilling in the wall. I find this really nice from the human relationships perspective.

My team has even created a meeting that we call the bullshit meeting, where we meet to talk about anything except work, and it works! ✌🏼😄 .. People said you can’t make team off-sites remotely, they won’t be effective. Well, apparently these people are WRONG!

More focus, less interruptions

For introverts, working remotely is heaven. Less interruptions mean that you can have better chunks of attention dedicated to creating meaningful outcome. You are able to produce quality work. You feel happier and more satisfied about your work, and you feel more useful. I can claim that the sense of achievement is much better when you are given more time without interruptions.

It’s asynchronous, man

You find out that you are able to work according to your creative schedule rather than being confined in 9–5 environment. This ensures higher quality output per individual, but what about teams?

The good learning about it is that people started to realize that most of what they need might not be urgent actually. Instead of coming to your desk, tapping your shoulder about a non-urgent matter that popped in their mind, they can just send you a message and you will check it at your convenience.

You still need some order, you need some clarity about when you are not reachable, you need some synchronous slots, but the point is that these slots are now more planned rather than unplanned, and that’s very effective for you and the people you work with.

It’s not all roses

One can easily have the boundaries between their working time and private time collapsing. This is not good, it has a bad impact on you as a person and can easily lead to depression.

You can sit for the whole day, and have your back pain killing you in the evening. Also you have to cook more frequently now. For some people it might be fun, for others it might not 😄

But COVID-19 days are a special case

In general, people can go out and have lunch or take a walk with their beloved ones.. They can travel and work remotely from other parts of the world that they wanted to visit, they can visit family and friends in the evenings. Now all of that is almost impossible. Yes, people try to connect using technology, but still not being able to visit someone or take care of your elders, not being able to travel, feeling like being under house arrest where you can’t be there for people you care about, these are the worst things about COVID-19 stay-at-home situation.

When it’s over, I hope soon, All of these emotional burdens would be lifted, and working remotely should be even better.

AND people are adapting

An anonymous poll on working from home vs going back to the office

I believe a lot of companies should change their mind about remote work policies after the pandemic hype is over. It’s a great learning for all of us - especially old school people- that work can really happen outside of the office, and that people can achieve on the same or even higher level, when they are given trust and flexibility.

To wrap it up

COVID-19 would not leave the world the way it was, a lot of areas have been impacted negatively and positively. I hope we manage to keep the positives and recover from the negatives.

I hope and pray that all of us, and our beloved ones, stay healthy and learn something positive out of this ❤️

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Bassem Elhawary

I’m passionate about working with awesome teams on building kickass products. I write about my learnings & other stuff. https://www.linkedin.com/in/belhawary