Eric Stine is the Chief Revenue Officer at Qualtrics. Recently, for the first time in his professional life, he became a full-time remote employee because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each week, he’ll share the highs, lows, and learnings of a WFH newbie. You can read all of his diary entries here

Dispatch From the Home Office, Week Four — One Month in Captivity

I feel like I finally got my rhythm this week.

We’ve figured out the algorithm for the delivery slots on Instacart, so we simply program the order six days in advance. BINGO. And because you can add to it until they start shopping, you can keep updating the list. We’ve also got the local wine store on a regular weekly delivery. With food and liquor regularly dropped at my doorstep, I might never go back on the road.

Actually, I think about that a lot — about “after.” And what that might look like. 

I can’t see the bottom of my inbox for all the emails and projections I get from magazines, news sites, consulting firms, and think tanks about how or when this ends. For me, the answer to that question is pretty simple: It ends when people feel safe. 

Safe going to the gym. Safe going to the store. Safe getting on a plane or sleeping in a hotel room someone else has slept in (if checking into a hotel room before didn’t make you think for a second about how many people had used that bathroom or slept on those sheets — it will now). Safe talking to your neighbors without yelling from your yard. Or hugging a friend. Or shaking hands with a customer. (Yes, I know. Dr. Fauci wants us to all stop shaking hands. I think he’s cracked that nut for a while.)

What it looks like is much harder. Everybody seems to have a theory on that as well. “We’re simply accelerating the future” — resistance to doing business digitally subsides when it’s the only way to get to market. “We’ll never go back to the way things were’ — virtual meetings belie the argument that we all need to be in the same room, jockeying for the same stale donut or lukewarm coffee.

I’m not sure, though. Life will be different, certainly. The economic impact will be significant, and not easily ameliorated. Digital and virtual options will remain, certainly. We’re quickly finding out how productive and profitable these offerings can be, much as we are learning how many of those meetings were unproductive.  A future with fewer of them would be a small silver lining.

But — this week — I did eight (virtual) customer meetings. Up from four last week. People are literally craving interaction — much of it outside the four virtual walls of their companies. They want to talk; they’re better listeners. They’re eager to hear how you are doing, what you are doing, and whether it is working. They want you to listen to them. Everybody has been through something, is going through something, and they don’t want to go through it alone.

I remember, quite vividly, September 11, 2001. I can tell you precisely where I was, who I was on the phone with at 8:43 a.m. (Orange County Public Schools) and how the heat felt on the plaza outside the Ronald Reagan Building when we evacuated. I remember how I spent that afternoon, who I spent it with. I remember what it felt like to get on a plane eight days later.

But I don’t really remember a single flight after that. I remember them going from a 60% schedule of 60% full flights to overscheduled and overbooked, quickly. Up until about a month ago, you could fly nonstop from — I don’t know — Topeka to Timbuktu, it seemed. Twice a day. 

Because — quickly — it got easier. And because people need to be with people. Once it seems safe, we will go to the gym. We will say hi at the store and give you a hug. We’ll thank you for your business — or ask for it — in person. And, sorry, Dr. Fauci, but we will probably shake your hand.

I don’t know how people who live alone are handling this. I try to call someone I know who lives alone every week. They must be extremely resilient. I don’t know what I’d do without my family. Like my dog Scooter, who can’t sleep close enough to me, humans are pack animals. I was thinking out loud at dinner the other night about what might happen when Netflix and Amazon and everyone ran out of content they’d already filmed. Then Neil made me laugh by recounting the plot of an old “Good Times” episode. The people in my life are amazing; and the people in my house are the best of them. (We’re also still watching “Dallas.” It’s season five and the shoulder pads are rapidly growing horizontally.)

So, yeah — we’re getting used to it. 

Working From Home in the New Normal is a data-driven storytelling initiative from SAP and Thrive Global, bringing together insights powered by the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse with actionable Microsteps and stories from Thrive to help you navigate working from home. Visit daily for the latest data and stories to help improve your focus, prioritization, and well-being.