Uncertainty in the Workplace-Revd Dr Jenny McKay
Normally, in my April update, I would be calling this article “Springtime in the Workplace”. However, as I write this piece, Spring seems far away, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is a daily evolving concern for all of us. Practically, in my workplace, we are remote working where possible, and those of us who manage laboratory activities, put in brief appearances only. Increased cleanings, ever changing visitor guidelines and local social distancing keeps staff as safe as possible and, to date, there has been no confirmed case of COVID-19 in any worldwide facility. The mind boggles as to what may happen though: will veterinary samples keep coming in; if not, what will happen to current staff? Will there be temporary staff layoffs and what will the impact of any one site being closed have on the business globally? No-one could have foreseen such an event, and all of us will be severely impacted in the weeks ahead.
Despite some of the scientific questions I’ve received such as “Why did your God invent viruses to kill us?” the major challenge seems to be how to live with uncertainty. People are overwhelmed, sometimes to the point of paralysing depression and anxiety, and future planning is out the window. No-one knows what the next steps will be, although we do know there will be extensive self-isolation, particularly for the older members of society. Society will change in ways unheard of in a generation. We must rally together and help those in need. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently said that helping others and remaining focused on a task is one way to stop oneself from being paralysed by uncertainty. Is there someone we can call on phone or on Skype? Can we donate to local Foodbanks? Can we pick up prescriptions for neighbours? Be assured that your greatest gift at the moment is to be there for others. The beauty of the current social media is that we can use it for much good, and keep in regular communication with those who are alone or self-isolating.
Incidentally, in answer to the question about viruses, I can only say that viruses are a natural part of creation, and without them we couldn’t have had some of the ground-breaking medical developments in genetic treatments and in controlling bacterial populations. Unfortunately, a side effect of this is, that a small proportion will cause human disease!
Now is a time to turn the world around, to bring people together, to help each other, and for all of us to work together to minimise the suffering of others. The people of the world have become complacent and, perhaps, such a catastrophic event will serve, if nothing else, to stop us in our tracks, and provoke us to re-examine what values are crucial to the building of a warm, caring, inclusive society, all values which Jesus himself demonstrated in his daily life. We must take on this crisis, face it with hope and faith and lean on the words of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”.
Blessings to you all,