Robert Kirby: ‘Home work’ after the pandemic

Robert Kirby

Thanks to the lifting of certain restrictions, many businesses are cautiously reopening offices where people once worked in close quarters. The Salt Lake Tribune is no exception.

On Wednesday, I attended a Zoom meeting wherein the editor explained to staffers the conditions under which they may soon be able to return — if they so choose — to their desks. As you might expect, there were lots of restrictions.

For starters, repopulating the newsroom won’t occur in a rush. Only a certain number of people will be allowed there at the same time. Those who go in will have to wash their hands upon arrival.

Note: This hand-washing includes people who already arrived but have to leave for a few minutes and then come back. The world is just not that safe yet.

Touchless hand-sanitizing stations are planned. Cleaning supplies, gloves and masks will be provided. Employees who manifest any of the symptoms of the coronavirus will be hurled immediately from a window on the seventh floor.

Except for that last thing, it’s what I remember anyway. I confess that I didn’t listen that closely. Not only do I have a short attention span, but I also work from home and almost never go into the newsroom.

What I did notice were the number of staffers who inquired about continuing to labor remotely even after all the restrictions vanish. Turns out, they like working from home and would prefer to stay there.

It’s understandable. For starters, it’s cheaper, more environmentally sound, and less aggravating. There’s no tedious commute. No conforming to any dress code. No getting swept up in office politics.

At home, it’s possible to work in one’s underwear, go days without bathing, and engage in romantic liaisons while technically on the clock.

If all you need to do your job is a wireless connection, who wouldn’t rather work from home, at a park, or even in a bar? Hell, there is a full-time Tribune employee who, starting next week, will be working from home — in Hawaii.

At least some of those desiring to stay home are concerned about their health. They don’t like the risk of going back out and mingling with the potentially unwashed. They feel safer in lockdown.

I’m one of them. There are far too many differing opinions about how COVID-19 is transmitted for me to trust that conditions are sufficiently safe.

Until I’m convinced (in all likelihood, never) that COVID-19 isn’t transmitted visually or auditorily, I plan to continue “home work.” I’ll work while looking at pictures of my family and listening to blues guitarists.

There’s no way I’ll risk becoming the victim of a random drive-by glaring. What if the virus is transmitted by the heavy bass line of a hip-hop beat in a parking garage? No thank you.

Sadly, not everyone can stay home and work. Plumbers can’t (yet) fix leaking pipes from their living room. If your toilet explodes and water is all over your house, you won’t want a plumber calling from his couch and talking you through the repair.

The same goes for other hands-on professionals like cops, firefighters, paramedics, pilots, surgeons, backhoe operators, grocery clerks, auto mechanics, road workers and others who have to show up. And it’s a good thing they do.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.