Work in the Time of Corona Virus

I love how this conversation begins with coping with work and evolves into a hunt for board games.


Also a good time to read that really long novel you’ve wanted to read but never found the time. I do this to get away from the endless bombardment of news, most of which is either inaccurate, speculative or both.

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Since none of us really know how the events of the day are going to play out, I think it useful to take on a futurists way of looking at things. This is from the Institute for the Future on learning to think like a futurist:

In 2019, IFTF’s executive director Marina Gorbis wrote “Five Principles for Thinking Like a Futurist,” which lays out five actions you can take to better prepare your organization for the post-pandemic world. They are:

1) Forget about predictions

Instead of trying to make a crystal ball prediction about a single event in the future, pay attention to “the interconnection between technologies and society and economics and organizations” as a way to comprehend “big, complex transformations.”

Try this today:

Look at trend data directly and indirectly relevant to you or your organization. Imagine scenarios in which these trends are disrupted for one reason or another. What kind of plan could you put into place to adapt to these futures?

2) Focus on signals

Keep an eye out for signals of the future. Signals are “things or developments that are on the margins. They may look weird or strange. They are the kind of things that grab your attention and make you ask: ‘Why is this happening? What is going on here?’”

Try this today:

As you read, watch, and listen to information ask yourself, “Is this a signal from the future?” If you do this everyday, it will turn into a useful habit.

3) Look back to see forward

“While we cannot fully rely on past data to help us see the future, there are larger patterns in history that we tend to repeat over and over again.” Read about how people responded to previous economic downturns and pandemics and think about how you can apply past data to the present and the future.

Try this today:

Reading suggestions:

4) Uncover patterns

Former IFTF president Ian Morrison “argues that in any period of large transformation—which I think we’re going through now—we are simultaneously living along two curves.” The first curve represents today’s way of doing things, which will descend and be subsumed by a curve that represents an ascending new pattern.

Try this today:

Look at the signals that you collected from Principle #2 that could indicate the beginning of an ascending curve.

5) Create a community

“Thinking about the future is a collaborative and highly communal affair. It requires a diversity of views. We need to involve experts from many different domains.”

Try this today:

Use your social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, to connect with people from diverse backgrounds that share a common interest. Arrange physical meetings through Meetup, or communicate via Slack or Zoom.

By putting these core principles into action, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an effective long-term futures thinker.

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My youth, relived.


yeah we need to just drop Zoom . Can we do something else @noemi @MariaEuler @kajafarszky @hires ? @felix.wolfsteller mentioned some alternatives that can work well even where people have suboptimal internet connection…

We have to have a dedicated team call with @noemi, @owen and @matthias (maybe ask @felix.wolfsteller to consult) to discuss that I think. And experiments with the new tool should happen in the team before we push for the new tool. I would not want to ask participants to change multi times in a few weeks.

no agreed - I would like to fully develop and use it ourselves. The question I was really asking is how do we need to additionally develop it for it to be our own default to replace zoom.

We’d just need a way of access-protected rooms. Since already integrates with ones account, that account should simply be used to filter which rooms a user can see and join.

ping @owen see :point_up_2:

We can implement this fairly quickly, if it means access to rooms via user ID. I’ll see what I can do today. The other priority is to improve the chat (basic notifications and platform export).

I’ll also clean up the code a bit and put it on GitHub

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I propose you can use the Discourse groups feature for that. During the login process, you get notified about the group membership of users on Then there could be one video call room for each such group.

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:point_up_2: is exactly how right now feels workwise.

The endless stream of video chats, on zoom no less - leakers of private information and forwarders of racist blog posts.

Am finding a significant chunk of my days sitting through the one call after the other.
Today someone tried to push for yet another loooooooooooong meeting on zoom (over 4hrs, in a row). Like, NO.


From the LA Times:
More than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California. Shelter-in-place orders in California exempt the estimated 420,000 farmworkers as essential employees. But many are undocumented, lack health insurance and don’t qualify for unemployment insurance or federal COVID-19 relief.

For workers on the Central Coast, this could be the worst possible time to face a health crisis. With peak strawberry season next month, pay switches from hourly to piece rate, and pickers are incentivized to work hard and fast. And as one farmworker advocate says, “You can’t pick strawberries over Zoom.”

In the USA as of today ten million jobs lost. In 2 weeks. Before last week the record for people filing for unemployment insurance was 695,000. Last week there were 6.6 million.


I would like to also raise the issue of people experiencing a lack of self-worth or guilt due to not feeling like they are able to contribute enough. Of course the existential thread of lacking the means to finance yourself is much more pressing, but even those who are in steady and not at all endangered jobs but now are either unable to do their work or have to work differently from home have very emotional reactions to that.

A friend of mine told me yesterday that she felt guilty in the first week of working from home because she felt like not working enough. Because processes are different and she would have waiting times or short stops while being at home she felt guilty. She is now using some of her overtime to shorten her hours while working from home to alleviate that feeling.
In a group with some other friends the question was carefully raised by another how they feel the amount of work they get done compares to what they usually get done. Obviously also inspired by the fear of not being able to get done enough in this form of work. The same person had just moments before told about how she was exhausted after working from a screen for 7 hours.

I think we also have to discuss the loss of self value perception as is still connected to work in our society.

My mother is in early retirement for about 2 years now due to many health issues. Her 5 siblings have been making her feel guilty about that for most of it. She lives a very low cost live on the countryside and can come by with her retirement amount and does some volunteer work to stay busy. Yet I am sure quite often she still feels guilty to not continue working a badly paid shift job in the health sector that would hurt her health even more. Because “one has to work”. The perceived default state of a human being is “working”. And for some reason volunteer work or social and emotional work are never counted in this way. If you are not officially working in a classical sense, you are not contributing in the mind of many…and especially in the mind of many themselves.
I have come to believe that people are most judgemental towards themselves in this way. That friend of mine who felt guilty about the perceived “not proper work” during her home-office would never question the “realness” of my work, which is often a collection of odd jobs and art projects, and more often than not in a “home” or distributed office somewhere. But for herself she would not give herself the “freedom” she gives me. And when I was searching for a “proper job” for an extended time after my masters degree while for the first time being unable to call myself a student the feeling of “not contributing enough” also drove me into a depressed state. I am trying actively to free myself from such “proper job” value assertions now. People can contribute in many many different ways and value of a human being should not even been connected to that.

I would never judge my friends for not having"proper jobs" and not contributing. I know my friends, I know they are wonderful people and that they make the world better by being in it. And I want to give the same to myself. It is sad that my mothers siblings can not give that to her, but maybe we can try to make each new generation a bit less dependent on these harmful connection between self-worth and work.

We need to address and try to change this intrinsic (self)value attribution that is still so much connected to classical work models, which are increasingly going away either way.

Are you, or have you heard from people who are now, even so they technically still have “work” but different work that they do not perceive as “propper” in the same way, suffering from self value issues?


Some of that is just a misperception. If I remember the numbers correctly, in management science, they calculate with 15-25% of non-productive but still paid employee time for on-site jobs, depending on the type of position and work. It’s for stuff like toilet breaks, coffee machine chats, waiting for a meeting to start etc… People are often not aware of this when switching to home office work and try to clock full eight hours of screen work per day. That’s especially true when they do detailed time tracking with software, because then even the smallest breaks are excluded. Instead, 8 h × 80% = 6:24 h of screen worktime per day would be a rough equivalent of 8 hours at the office.

(I guess this should also go into the Distributed Collaboration Manual …)


There is a meme going around in US culture that says “stop trying to be productive.” Good advice.

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