COVID 19 Diaries: PART IV – “Open It and They Will [Hopefully] Come”
Today is exactly four months working largely remotely. My New Jersey community is a ghost town but, interestingly, does not feel any different than any other hot and humid July, when everyone is at the shore or in The Poconos.
My family is no exception; we escaped to Long Beach Island (LBI), NJ, like we do every summer for a long-needed break. This year it felt even more special and much needed for obvious reasons. While all the beachgoers respected social distancing, due to the still-lurking COVID-19 virus, masks were by far the exception rather than rule in the popular beach town.
Interestingly, I knew five other families at LBI at same time, some friends, but we made no effort to hang out. It seemed that folks were just happy to escape the insanity of Northern New Jersey and enjoy that time with their families, ALONE.
It is hard to imagine that four months have passed and how quickly it did. For those who are just reading these diaries now, I started a new Director of Facilities job for a fantastic new company in the health industry in May, in the middle of all this virus/rioting mess. As previously confessed, it is indeed a creepy time to change positions, especially with so many out of work, on furlough or — even worse —laid off while on furlough, and in such large numbers. It’s mildly daunting to make such a change, yet it would be an otherwise very sound choice in normal times.
I heading into our NYC HQ at Rockefeller Center between one and two days a week, especially since our seven national clinics just opened up to clients in May, around the same time I started with the company, after eight weeks of closure and following the beautiful renovation of our NYC clinic, which just got a facelift in February of this year. The clinics are a primary source of our company’s income, so thankfully they are open and seeing an increasing number of clientele. Nearly all employees have returned from furlough, and salary reductions have been restored. So things are looking bright – for the moment – and subject to change in these uncertain times.
My new manager, the CFO, is incredible – one of the best I had in my career; he’s very respectful of my profession and has a laissez-faire management style, perfect for someone like me who has serious issues with micro-management. Almost comically, we initially agreed that I go into the office once a week to “check on things,” but then, when I held my first 1:1 call with him while in the office, he asked me why I was there!
The sentiments “there is no expectation to be there,” “your safety is paramount,” etc., are fine and dandy in theory, but if clinics are open and the HQ is accessible, it’s in the Facility Manager’s DNA to be onsite, to check on the premises and its occupants, etc. It is also the perfect time to absorb the new office while everyone is working remotely. To be able to walk the floors, peek in closets, check on the MDF/IDF rooms, inspect clinic needs, and to just get a solid “feel” of the surroundings will allow me to become well acclimated, in both body and mind, when the world/office is finally back to normalcy.
Interestingly, while COVID-19 testing is still in disarray across the country, I am mandated to be tested weekly before entering the NYC clinic. My company provides a dual virus/antibodies test that gives you results in 5 minutes or less with 85% accuracy. I have tested negative for the virus and positive for the antibodies for the last six weeks. This weekly test is comforting yet still puzzling in many ways.
First, it doesn’t matter if I am “cleared” or not, people still stay away from you in the name of social distancing and pull up masks when they see you coming, and even my post-punk and rock ‘n’ roll bands still won’t practice with me without a mask or inside studio space. Sometimes I wish I could wear an “I AM COVID FREE” pin for all to see.
Second, as mentioned in previous diary entries, medical experts all concur that the pulmonary embolism that sideswiped and sidelined me in the hospital for two days was the result of a mild case of COVID-19, yet I tested negative for it two times in the hospital.
My PCP wrote a prescription for an antibodies test (although why they didn’t do this in the hospital remains a mystery), which also came up negative, yet I still test negative for the virus and positive for antibodies regularly at work. This is indeed a bizarre virus.
While assisting the national clinics with their many needs, I have also been working diligently with both HR and Legal in formulating an “office re-entry plan.” After multiple revisions, we finally have a solid plan, approved by Executive Leadership, and ready to execute. Employee polling is showing that only 30% want to return to work anytime soon, with many expressing concerns about public transportation.
As a result, predictably, the “re-opening date” keeps changing, which is fine, and from what I hear from my peers, is the norm for all NYC-based companies, large and small. But I keep arguing that we need to pick a date and stick with it and begin a staggering opening of the office because it’s important to let the employees know the office will open and that they will be able to climb out of the rabbit hole we have all fallen so deeply into and return to work. Normalcy awaits!
Paul Haley, CFM, FMP, Facilities Manager at EHE Health, Professional Development Committee Member/ CFM Certified Instructor Candidate, Communications Committee Member