The Pandemic’s Third Year

It’s been over three months since I started my new job and I have spent zero days in the office. I continue to work from home (WFH) every day and I expect to be able to do so in the future as well. My project work has changed significantly, but my workspace has not. Five days a week, I sit in the same chair, at the same monitor and keyboard, using many of the same tools as I did at my previous job.

Almost two years ago, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first detected on the U.S. West Coast. On the evening of March 5, 2020, I was told to WFH until the end of the month. I visited my desk at Tableau’s NorthEdge building only twice more that year to pick up my possessions. I worked a couple of days at Data1, another Tableau building, in July 2021, and left the company in October. NorthEdge has since been sold to a company that specializes in real estate for life science and biomedical research. At my current employer, I have a building assignment, but I haven’t picked up my employee ID badge at its front desk yet. I’m planning to do so when case counts have declined, the days are longer, and the weather is better. My manager and my sole teammate are both in California, but there are other folks in my department who are nominally based in the same building as I am.

Seattle is in King County, which has a population of about 2.3 million. Nearly three-quarters of us are fully vaccinated and over 40% have received a booster shot. Over 340,000 confirmed cases, over 10,000 hospital admissions, and over 2,300 deaths in our county have been ascribed to the virus. Our indoor mask mandate remains in effect and is generally well-followed, with the notable exceptions of bars, restaurants, and my gym. Stadiums and arenas operate at full capacity with vaccine mandates and mask directives. Testing is widely available and we have an exposure notification system in place. The notifications aren’t exactly useful, though. I received a notification on January 29 that I had been near a person on January 22 who had tested positive, but on January 26 I had submitted a nasal swab sample at a test site and I received a negative result on January 28. I have a small stockpile of self-test kits for use before events or office visits.

My social life remains much more isolated than before the pandemic. As the weather improves, I’m looking forward to more outdoor events like the ones I attended last year. I’m also trying to get more bike rides in. After a huge jump in biking in 2020, I had a big decline last year. Dissatisfied with my gym’s COVID safety standards, I ordered some weights to exercise at home. (I still regret not getting a home with a garage or an extra bedroom, as I don’t have much workout space.) I still cook meals at home almost every night, including a recent pivot to vegetarian recipes because meat prices have skyrocketed. My home now has dozens of plants in it. When the weather warms up, I’ll move some of them outside. I haven’t picked up reading or video games to the extent that I had anticipated, although I have a account that I’ve been using to improve my game on-line. I’m nearing my third completion of Duolingo’s Danish language course in anticipation of my twice-delayed trip that I’m now planning to take in May of this year.

The most recent omicron variant set new case count records. There will be more variants after it. I’m hoping that they continue to decrease in severity. I, like many others, have experienced loss in the last two years. My ideal “next normal” doesn’t involve five days a week of WFH, but it probably won’t look like my typical work schedule in 2019, either. For this third year of the pandemic, I’m going to have to continue listening, observing, adapting, and trying new approaches to create new habits.