When I get started on my workday, before I walk across the hall into the spare bedroom and turn on the computer, I put on real clothes. Even though it’s just me and the dog and the cat in the house all day, I put on a pair of pants, a clean shirt and even a pair of shoes.
That hasn’t always been the case during COVID. For the first few months of the pandemic, I’d simply pour a cup of coffee and start writing, editing and calling while wearing whatever I put on for bed the night before (or still had on from the previous workday). Maybe around lunch, I’d throw on a baseball cap—if I had to Zoom or something.
At a certain point, when it became apparent that we wouldn’t be returning to the office for a very long time, I had to make the change just so I could simulate a “normal” day—one where work/life lines weren’t so blurry and I could get done the things in a day that I needed to get done.
We are going on two years of mostly remote work here at the CN&R, and even though my editorial colleagues and I have made the best of the situation and figured out a way to get the work done, operating this way comes at a cost. We’re losing time together, which makes collaborating as journalists and relating as friends a challenge; and we’re losing time with our community, which impacts our ability to connect.
With so many people in so many sectors working in an alternate mode, it’s now become its own normal.
As counterintuitive as it may sound at this juncture, I’ve started to think about the return to regular old normal. Butte County is still in the throes of an omicron-fueled wave of infections (see “Viral Load”), so I’m not suggesting anyone let down their masks just yet. However, many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, predict that omicron will peak in February, and if new problematic variants don’t crop up, America could be transitioning from pandemic to endemic in the coming months.
Whether that happens in the spring or even summer, I want to be ready. I need to start preparing—for myself and this newspaper. We’re out of practice with normal!
Last summer, the CN&R sold its downtown building. We now occupy two offices and a large barn-like aluminum shed inside the Idea Fabrication Labs compound near the railroad tracks. I’m going to start trekking there on work days so that I’m primed to receive my coworkers and the community the moment we get the green light to do so. I’ll transfer files from the home office, hang up a few family photos, fill up a coffee mug with highlighters and red pens, stock the fridge with some pale ales … and put on some pants—just like normal.
Jason Cassidy is the editor of the Chico News & Review