A Public Service Announcement to reduce colds this winter

In the interest of public health, I’m posting a blog to ask, beg, and plead that when you’re sick you STAY AT HOME.

There’s more than one way to tell a story. With a dozen possibilities, I’ve decided to present two. How would you tell this one? What do you make of it all? What would you do?

Empathetic to the carrier

Imagine you’d come to work on a Friday, feeling a bit, ill but coughing and sneezing so violently by the time you arrived at your desk that you couldn’t even settle in right away. You had to leave the office to compose yourself and find some tissues. You trudged through work all day because you were up against deadlines. “Maybe I should have stayed home,” you think, “but I’ve too much to do.” Unfortunately, your desk is adjacent to 23 others in a large open plan, and two colleagues are seated directly in front of you working diligently away. Their jobs don’t permit quite as much work-from-home as yours. They say nothing. On the other hand, another colleague who sits behind you gets up and moves. She’s now sitting in her team leader’s glass-enclosed office right beside your own desk. You see she’s bundled up in a winter coat and gloves—maybe the heat isn’t working in there. “Wonder why she moved in there when it’s cold?” By the end of the day, you decide to make a similar move, as there’s no one in the office’s large, shared conference room. You work in this big room for a couple hours and then you head out, happy to welcome the weekend. By Monday, you’re feeling quite a bit better, and completely fine to head to work.

Empathetic to the victims

I recently witnessed an appalling situation where a colleague came to work in a large open-plan office. Fortunately, only five other people were working in the open-plan portion of the office that day. Also, fortunately, at this university and in this faculty office, we are all very welcome to work from home.

693fe992-78ad-4ab9-a508-2d2cbeec7624-1By the late afternoon, the sick one had moved into a conference room to work, but it was too late.

Unfortunately, within days, the two who face that colleague were very sick.

Why were my colleagues willing to submit themselves to these germs? It appears they didn’t want to seem impolite. (Very British, I think, and not the best choice in this case, in my opinion.)

Now it’s over two weeks later, and one of them is still out of work. The other is clearly struggling to recover and to make it through each day.

Early that day, I had closed myself off in a glass-enclosed room, where I worked with coat and gloves to avoid the flying germs. By some miracle, I escaped unharmed.

I’m not as reservedly polite as my colleagues, but, in this instance, I also did not go against cultural norms here to say, “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU THINKING?!?” Back in the USA, I surely would. And, as an architect, I’m comfortable openly critiquing the situation. I don’t want to go hunting around or making passive-aggressive gestures.

So, while I can’t change the past, just maybe I can help make other people’s future healthier.

To help others, I’m saying it loud and clear here:

Please, please don’t let this happen to others. Don’t expose colleagues and students to your infections and germs.

This is true everywhere, but is incredibly important in very densely populated areas, like London.

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