Triage. Last week, as we all scrambled to make sense of a new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I heard this word used in the obvious context of medical professionals evaluating patients. It occurred to me, however, that it also perfectly applied to our new work-at-home-with-kids-and-partners-and-maybe-pets-and-parents life.

Just over a week ago, by the time the clock struck 9 a.m., on most weekdays I had already been to a 5 a.m. Orange Theory class to get in my 12 to 20 splat points, gotten myself ready, the kids dressed and their backpacks packed, one on the bus at 8:33 a.m. and the other dropped off by 8:45 a.m., and almost to work (I tend to roll in at 9:15 a.m., or about 15 minutes late every. single. day.). In this new COVID-19 normal, the pace of the early mornings may have slowed, but at 9 a.m. the home-office triage is just getting started.

First up is a scan for any urgent or timely emails that have come in since my 6:30 a.m. check-in. If everything looks good on that front, I’ll quickly chat with my saint of a mother-in-law about what the kids should do today. Who am I kidding? Just keep them fed, hydrated and in one piece. Typically settling in to my desk around 9:30 a.m., I take a deep breath. Time to focus. Client A needs a press release, Client B needs some strategic counsel, Client C… And here comes Client M (my oldest). Pepper in a Zoom video call. All day. On repeat.

We are all faced with a challenge we’ve never dealt with before – and we had little time to aptly prepare for it. Our homes are our new base camp. There are sleeping quarters, a canteen, perhaps a game room, or study. Some may or may not have a separate, dedicated office space. None of us have any idea what we are doing, or for how long we’ll be doing it.

All we can do is focus on what needs to get done – when it needs to get done. That might mean that between your 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. calls, you step away from your computer for a quick story and snuggle with the baby before he naps. You might have to log off around 4 p.m. to tend to a second grader who sometimes seems like she’s old enough to take care of herself, but you’re reminded every day just how young she still is. So, if that client brief can wait until 9 p.m., go outside, get some fresh air, maybe read some Beverly Cleary.

Some of us are lucky enough to have jobs that can accommodate a more fluid schedule, and bosses who appreciate individuals’ lives and the pieces that complete those one-of-a-kind puzzles. Others are still reporting to work every day. While we are all living our own realities and dealing with things differently, as-needed for our own success and sanity, we are all in this together.

Can we all be in it together on Zoom video? Because I really miss seeing your faces.

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