Coronavirus 2020 Kicks off as a Time of Empathy

Shh…it’s upon us.

A week ago we were told that we’d be fine. That is, if you were actually listening. As it turned out, that assessment may have been a tad off. Schools are closed, professional sports are suspended, restaurants and bars are now closing, stores…you get the point. Heck you’re living it so there’s no real point to be made.

Although, here’s one theme that has been thrust upon my world: while we’re all going to suffer, specific friends and colleagues are really going to struggle.

Yes, this is a pandemic, so at the heart of it is the medical emergency. Today was the highest death toll in the EU since this all started. The virus bears down on the U.S. with our only saving grace being the fact that, despite the incredibly late start in preparations, drastic measures are being taken to enforce the now inescapable “social distancing.”

And yet, what I’ve personally been experiencing so far is an incredible sense of dread from a work perspective, and not necessarily for me, but rather for many of my closest friends, as well as some of my company’s best clients. True, from the mention of that second group you may infer that I too will confront challenges, but by no means to the extent of some of those around me.

Looking for specific examples? How about my sister’s fiancee who operates 3 restaurants here in the Boston area? News delivered less than 3 hours ago was that as of Tuesday the only food they (meaning all bars and restaurants) will serve will be picked up or delivered.

Or, how about one of my best pals whose entire business has been centered on 3 annual technology conferences, the first of which, expected to be held in London, was already canceled at the very last minute.

Then there’s the client and associated colleague whose business is squarely centered on the cruise industry. Literally, they have employees on the Princess, the boat that was held off the coast of San Francisco while an outbreak spread onboard.

Not enough? Then how about another client and associated colleagues at the world’s largest provider of visa and passport services? It doesn’t take an MBA to imagine the impact of border closings and travel bans is on that type of business.

So, here we are. These are but 4 stories – albeit at the business epicenter of this crisis – in a world full of concern. Which brings me (finally, Jeremy) to my original point. Empathy is my overriding emotion I’m experiencing at the moment. I woke up brainstorming ideas to help one of the 4 scenarios, and reached out to the associated party. I thought of something I’ll be running by my business partners first thing tomorrow to try to help Hive Tech HR’s most affected clients. I expressed concern to another colleague about the idea of economic stimulus being incorrectly directed. For example, another industry colleague talked about small business bailouts being offered by France. This situation is affecting, and will continue to affect every business differently. Any type of economic assistance should be intelligently delivered, and more connected to industry than company size. If we are to rebound economically, this cannot be an “only the lucky survive” scenario.

Back to the medical emergency, empathy is also required since we’ve all heard way too many times the line that “I’m not that worried because I’m not in the vulnerable demographic.” That’s crap. I’ve tried to deliver the guidance to my company not to be insensitive to the fears of others, all while we at least try to make the right decisions so that we become part of the solution, not the problem.

With a minimum of 3 weeks ahead of them, my children will get consistent nudges to use this time wisely, and will look for ways to practice putting their own spin on empathy into action.

Whether I look back 3 months from now and wonder how naive I could have been to think things wouldn’t get as bad as they might get, or that we overestimated the devastation this would cause, is completely to be seen. For now, I’ll be looking to help the most affected, while trying to keep all of my work in order. Oh, and probably taking a hike or two to help cope with the isolation (unless they quarantine us)!