Musings in a Time of Coronavirus

I write this sitting in the warmth of a bright April sun in February. I have just come back from the outdoor Monza market, which was packed. So, I ask myself, what is all the fuss about? 

For those of you reading this from abroad, as a precautionary measure against the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus in our town, Monza has been categorized as a yellow zone. This means that schools and universities are closed, all public places are shut, restaurants, bars and pubs have a curfew between 6pm and 6am, and any form of public or private assembly is discouraged.

Initially people panicked, but now most are settling down and getting on with it. After the raid on supermarkets on Sunday, resulting in bare/empty shelves, things are stabilizing and stores have re-stocked. Hand sterilizer and masks have sold out, but we have our tangerine scented sterilizers from CVS, so we’re OK!

To be honest, it feels like a really long snow day.

But I have been reflecting:

  • How much a crisis brings out the best/worst in people. It really is amazing to see how people react – it’s completely our choice how we gather information and think about our actions.
  • How different Leadership styles come out in a crisis – and how communicating is the gamechanger (or the cause of chaos). From government authorities, to health authorities and “experts”, to fake news – it’s all out there. It gets so hard to differentiate experience and knowledge from the rest. How do we, as leaders, get better prepared for this?  But also, how do we, as individuals, react and behave?
  • How clients who have implemented smart-working are really benefiting from the flexibility of already knowing how to work/collaborate/move forward without all having to be in the office. Other companies are struggling to understand how to handle/categorize employees, particularly those with little kids who are home from school. For the first time, many companies are seeing first-hand how technology really can support humans.
  • The world, in the face of uncertainty, disengages fast. I am seeing this first hand: I have been very excited to moderate and be on the panel of two International events taking place here in Milan. However, they have both been cancelled, because organisations are wary of scheduling major events in Milan, even for April/May. I have had several business trips and one much needed vacation cancelled/postponed because of the uncertainty of quarantining. While flights, buses and trains are still coming and going (in an increasingly limited manner), everyday more countries are imposing restrictions on Italian travelers, and the last thing I would want to do is carry/spread anything or be quarantined outside my home.I feel enormously grateful that I have the resources to withstand the negative economic impact of these semi shut-downs – I worry about all the hourly wage workers who will have to survive weeks of not earning. Italy is a country of small businesses who will feel this hit drastically.

It’s easy to be scared with all the hyperbolic media coverage surrounding us. AND the contagiousness of this coronavirus means we have to take the spread seriously.  It’s a matter of mathematics.  But really, who do we want to be in a time of crisis?  This too, shall pass.


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