June 3, 2020

Don't stand so close to me

Don't stand so close to me

How are companies using the pandemic as an opportunity to re-imagine the way we work? Marie Woods, Director of Operations for a global law firm based in Washington, DC, talks about how her firm has shifted operations and how this shift may become the new normal.

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This episode was edited by Kelley

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Kelley Lynch: 0:00Listening to that guy who lived through the 1918 pandemic. That was so weird. That whole idea that it took three years after it finished. What did he say? It was like 1922 before people felt confident about going out in groups again or going and being in a group setting again. That's pretty weird thought. That's kind of scary. Like, you know, I was watching TV the other night and I saw this person like reached out to like fist bump somebody or to take their hand or something. And I was like, don't touch . Yeah. Well, that's what I think that guy was saying. I mean, that was the thing it's like, how long does it take to kind of go back to what you knew before, because whatever you're doing becomes that kind of new normal. Hi, I'm Kelly Lynch. Welcome to a new normal a podcast about how we're adapting to life during the pandemic and where we go from here. My guest today is Marie Woods, Operations director for the Washington DC office of a global law firm. The forward thinking strategies that Marie and her team put in place early on during the pandemic allowed the firm to quickly pivot to working from home. Now, as DC prepares to reopen, Marie is using what she has learned over the past few months to make new plans. Plans that begin to reimagine the future of work. Marie, welcome to the podcast.

Marie Woods: 1:52Thanks for having me.

Kelley Lynch: 1:55Your firm has a number of offices in Asia. Did that help you to plan your response to the pandemic?

Marie Woods: 2:03We were the first major global firm that went 100% work from home, just literally flip the switch and we were out of the office. We started seeing the trend based on what was going on in China and the other countries. As we have a global farm again, and we have offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and , China. And so the firm decided, you know what, we need to address this quickly. And they were able to see how well things are handled, particularly in Singapore. Singapore is a very well run country anyway, and they were handled so efficiently. And so they were taking their cues from what they did there. And that was to shut down the operation. Go 100% remote, including all staff. Make sure we everyone had all the equipment - started preparing for that a week or two ahead of time. And we were going to close on a Monday at the beginning of March. And when the news was getting to New York about the number of people who were becoming sick and the concerns about the hospitals becoming full, the firm just said, we're going to shut down tomorrow. And it was on a Thursday. Friday, anyone who still needed to get things from the office could get them, but that was it. And from that point on anyone who went into office had to ask for permission by the office managing partner to come into the office because our whole focus was to keep people safe. The ones who were stayed in the office to help with operations, we didn't want them to have any personal contact with anyone. We didn't want people asking for things that were unnecessary. And so anyone who needed anything, they would just go through. We established a central personnel email address and everything went through that email address and we made sure everyone got what they needed. That was the beginning of March. We started making preparations at the end of February. So that's how quickly we responded to this situation long before most, not just law firms o r companies did. So we were as of Monday, 100% remote all the secretaries, all the staff, all the attorneys throughout the whole United States. Our Asian offices of course w ere already shut down. And our European offices, some of them we re i n the process of shutting down. So throughout the whole firm, we re sponded v ery quickly and and everyone operated remotely. And what was interesting is some of the States had not shut down yet. When those States finally decided they we re s h utting d own, we were already working from home.

Kelley Lynch: 4:42How has it gone?

Marie Woods: 4:44It's gone really well. Our staff are appreciative of this opportunity to work from home instead of not being paid or, or being let go, or being forced to come in. I have a friend who works at a firm and they have made staff that are not in use their leave. As a matter of fact, I understand a number of firms are doing that.

Kelley Lynch: 5:10How does that work?

Marie Woods: 5:12Well, if they can't come to work, then they have to take the leave that they have - their personal leave. The concern is that they're paying people to not work. And I said, "Well, first of all, is there work for them to do if they come into the office? "And they were like, "Well, I don't know. Probably no." And I said, so why? I mean, if they're not working, whether they come i n the office or not, why would you r isk their life to have them come into the office? W ell, you can't just have people not work and get paid. And I said, but even if they came into the o ffice they are not working. So the expectation is that you're going to risk your life or use your leave. But that's, you know, that's, that's the feeling of some businesses and our firm feels the total opposite. We're not going to have people risk their lives, feeling a n obligation to come into the office.

Kelley Lynch: 6:03And so how have your firm members responded?

Marie Woods: 6:06It's really brought us, I think , closer together. You know, everyone's making sacrifices. Our staff didn't get their raises, but they understood it. You know, y ou got this bad economy, y ou got all these people unemployed. I was thinking about a race and they're just happy to be working for our company. As a matter of fact, one of my staff members said, "Look, you don't have to give me a raise for two years. I just am so grateful th at t he firm cares as much about us and trusts us to be just faithful business partners and willing to do our part and ma king the business continue to be successful. And so the y're de dicated to doing the best job possible to show the firm, "Look, we have your bac ks si nce you have our s." It just goes to show what kind of commitment you get from individuals when you, as a business, show your commitment to people, they're goi ng to wo rk that much harder and be grateful for the fact that you care about tha t. A nd that's what's happening. I mean, our employees will go to the moon and bac k for our firm for what they 've don e for them, just showing that they care about them. They care about their health and wellbeing, the health and wellbeing of their families. So even though we're talking now about opening back up, we're not necessarily talking about forcing people into the office because we don't want people to feel like they're at risk or they're being coerced to come in, or we will continue to work from home. And those people who want to go in when the office opens back up, they can, but we're not goin g to m ak e other people get on public transportation, risk s the ir safety to come into the office to do whatever they are already doing from home.

Kelley Lynch: 7:48This whole work from home thing, is that something that you guys have wanted to do for quite a long time, or is that something that you'd never really thought much about?

Marie Woods: 8:00Well, staff have always wanted the opportunity to work from home. It's been difficult in a world where the labor department has specific limitations for people who are considered non- exempt. So it's been difficult to work that out, but a lot of those restrictions, a l ot of those r oles and things are relaxed right now for this virus. And I think we're all looking at things differently, including the labor department, in terms of how people can work. I read an article about this. It was actually written by an architectural f irm and i t was just a little blurb of two people talking. And it was just an example of t wo people saying, I haven't seen you in a w hile. And one person says I'm working the later shift, and this is great because I can watch my kids do their schoolwork at home. Then I can go to work. And my husband's then going to pick up the shift. And it's worked so much better. And so I thought about that and I thought why have we been doing this for years where everyone gets in the car at the same time, drives down to the same spot deals with all the stress and traffic. By the time you get to work, you're completely distracted. And then you're dealing with all these concerns during the day. And then all of a sudden to get out. And you g otta go back through that whole process. C ause if you leave one minute later or one minute earlier, god forbid, you get i n a wrong traffic pattern and now y ou g otta figure out how to get home in time to be there for your kids. It's crazy. A nd there's no reason why we do this besides the fact that this is what we've always done. Because with technology, you can work any hours and you can work at any time and you can work any place. This whole virus is kind of forcing us to see things differently. We don't necessarily have to be in the same routine as we used to. As long as we figure out how to get the task done, that really needs to be the focus. I mean, you think about it. The d octor's office opens the same hours as typical business. You have to take off work to go to the doctor, o r you have to take your kids out of school. S o the doctor can work any hours, but they p ick the same hours that everybody else works. And then you have to be inconvenienced to get your kids' teeth cleaned. Which makes no sense. You have to take your kid out of school to have their teeth cleaned. There are a few dentists that have those hours, but most of them don't. It really is going to really change the way we see things. And it should, because all of this has been contributing to pollution, contributing to stress, contributing to mothers, feeling guilty about not being able to spend time with their kids or to serve them healthy meals. It's contributing to poor health with many people who pick up fast food because they got their kids fed and rushed from one spot to another. So I think it is settling us down and making us begin to reset, our priorities.

Kelley Lynch: 11:14What about for your staff members who have younger children? Because that's, the hard part is, is managing when the kids are not in school.

Marie Woods: 11:25One of my staff members is just coming back from maternity and before she could even get back in the office, we went into this process of working from home, but she transitioned very easily. I mean , she'd been out of the office since December and transitioned right into work from home with no problem. I think where we see the biggest difference is among female attorneys. I was talking to one attorney about an even we were planning and we needed to have a call about it. And she said, well, let me just, it was actually a meeting w e w ere planning with w ith all the other associates. And she said let me, l et u s talk after a specific period because this is w hen I put my daughter down and the fact that it was okay for her to say that. I mean, can you imagine saying that 30 years ago, can we schedule a meeting at two o'clock as opposed to one o'clock because at one o'clock I put my daughter down. You couldn't even imagine as a woman being able to say anything like that.

Kelley Lynch: 12:25Could tell you to go said it a few months ago?

Marie Woods: 12:28Probably in our firm, but the difference would have been, she wouldn't have been working from home a few months ago. Because the differences is that people believe that they need to be in the office. So I think our firm would have been fine if she was home working, happened to be home one day. I certainly would have been fine with it and needed me to scheduled the meeting at a different time because she wanted to get her kid to bed. I would have been fine with that, but the difference would have been, she wouldn't have been working from home, even though she could work from home. She certainly had the flexibility. A lot of people do not believe that they have the right to do that without people looking at them in a more negative light. I think the major concern or challenge with most of our people is they miss seeing each other. They miss the relationships. They mis s th e camaraderie. And I said, guys, unfortunately, you better get used to zoom bec ause yo u won't be seeing each other for a while. Because even when we ope ned of fice bac k up , y ou can't have close contact. You still have to keep your distance. You still have to wear mask. You still have to be in an office with the doo r closed, if possible, if you have an office with a do o r. And you can't congregate in the cafe. You can't congregate at the service areas. You have to be away from one another. And when I said that to one person, they said, well, what's the point of going back in the office? I said, exactly. The office is opening for people who want to go in there, but it is not going to be the same office that you left.

Kelley Lynch: 14:08What does that do in terms of office space? I mean, you'll keep the same office footage.

Marie Woods: 14:16I mean, for now you will because you have a lease. But I think that real estate is going to have to begin to change because once these leases are up and after we've been through this situation. I can't imagine that we're going to do what we've done this time. Because think about it, all these companies that have had to close their doors or close their doors temporarily, you can lay staff off as terrible as that is. And staff, if we didn't have this situation would typically just go get unemployment. Although that's not going to pay all your bills, but it'll keep food in your mouth. But your real estate, you still have to pay that. You're still obligated to pay that. That's the one thing that you can't make an adjustment to besides the light bill because you're not using electricity and you're not using as many utilities in general. Okay, so those costs may go down, but that monthly rent, that monthly lease is what it is. So working from home has certainly been a real benefit for me in terms of just getting some real quality time with family because my going in the office every day , my days were quite long. I would leave for work in the morning around seven 30, take my daughter to school, head on, to work. And I would not be home until 7:30, 8:00 at night. On a regular basis. If I left work before 5:30, I still wouldn't get home until 7pm because of the traffic. So my days are really, really long. I'd come home. I'd hurry up and cook dinner if it hadn't been cooked. Most of the time, it hadn't. And sometimes I would even cook for the following day and start that all over again. And that was my life. And I barely had time to exercise. I would try to make a Zumba class twice a week, but I barely had time to do anything. My days were long. I couldn't really do a lot of activities at work. Things that need to get done - appointments, I would squeeze those in because my days were quite busy. Now, it's very different and I'm still quite busy and I still work off hours, but I feel like I have a lot more balance that because I'm here. I get up in the morning with my husband and we do an hour walk with the dogs and then come home, log in, work, then do another hour, walk that evening, come back, make dinner, and then get back on the computer if I need to. So I have a lot more flexibility. I can get things done. I'm not s tressed out on Sundays thinking about, I've got t o get ready for tomorrow. I've got t o get ready for the week. I g ot t o do this. I g otta do that. I just roll right into Monday because everything is already here in my house. I don't have to worry about food and lunch and all that stuff. And I can just sort of have a routine, a general routine every day and not a Monday through Friday routine. And then Saturday, Sunday, I felt like my d ays just flow more evenly together.

Kelley Lynch: 17:30Right, right. Yeah. I remember that feeling on Sunday. Just kinda like, Oh God, I've got to get up and do this all over again.

Marie Woods: 17:38Yeah. I have an office that's set up at home. I have my home computer set up and I have my work computer set up and I can flip between the two as I need to. And no hour commute. I walk in the room. So that time I was spending on the road an hour driving, I can spend that hour walking and actually getting some exercise and some fresh air and spend some bonding time with my family and not always feel like I'm in a rush or I'm stressed you know. Sometimes I get a poor night's sleep. There may be some reason I can't sleep. I think about, gosh, now I've got to go in that car and drive for an hour tired and then work a long day and drive for hour tired. Well , I think just because I'm home, I just don't feel as tired even when I don't get a good night's sleep because I don't have stress. I think that's the one thing that has gone away for a lot of people who are working. I think those, of course, those who are not, are dealing with a different type of stress. Stress of how they're going to pay their bills. And that has to be absolutely terrible. But I do think that many people were feeling just that constant stress and this has made people stop and slow down and focus on what's important.

Kelley Lynch: 19:00Indeed. And do you think things will change going forward? Because of that?

Marie Woods: 19:08I think business itself has to change. I mean, you know, we don't do change unless we have to do change. There are two ways that things I think change in America in particular. You have to change in order to continue to survive, or you have to do something different in order to compete. So you think about the whole Uber thing, no cab company was ever going to be able to start up and be an additional cab company. When you have cab companies that have been around for, I don't know, a hundred years, I'm just guessing. If it's not a hundred, it's close to it. So instead you come up with a whole new concept in our situation. Now we are going to be forced to do something different in order to compete. We can't all go back to the same. We're a law firm. We service our clients. They're all changing. They can't all change and we keep doing things the same way. Law firms have become, and even they've evolved over the years, but they become business partners to the businesses that they support. You can't say one thing and do another. You can't be giving them advice on how to function and you're not doing it. So you have to kind of set the example of how this can work. Clients are going to have to be incredibly efficient after this situation, because many of them are going to have financial issues. We have to operate in the same way. We can't operate like nothing happened when the rest of the world is operating differently. So whether we are profitable or not during this period, we can't just ignore what the rest of the world is doing. And continue to go back to the old way of doing things and think we can survive that way. The courts are all becoming a lot more electronic. We're having depositions remotely. Everything's changing.

Kelley Lynch: 20:59How much of that was going on before?

Marie Woods: 21:02But I mean maybe there were remote depositions. I don't know about them. We weren't doing them. Depositions are done in house. They're done in the office. They're done in a meeting. We'd have tons of meetings all the time, always had activity going on in the office. Many of the courts weren't doing electronic filings. They had to catch up with that. So some were, but a lot of them weren't.

Kelley Lynch: 21:25And now by force of circumstance...

Marie Woods: 21:26They have to. They have to. You know, Zoom has been a great way to communicate for years. We never used it. We used Skype every now and then. It was on our system, but you get up and walk to someone's office. Have a conversation. Get on the phone. We never thought about using Zoom for meetings. You think about all the money that people spend every year on air travel. And all the pollution that that creates and many of the trips were between DC and New York. People didn't think about getting on zoom and just having a quick zoom meeting so you can have a face to face. N o, the thought was we gotta go talk to t hem in person a nd Zoom is out of the box. Now people are g onna use it even when this virus goes away,

Kelley Lynch: 22:22What are you seeing going forward?

Marie Woods: 22:25The prediction is that the virus is not going to be under control for two years. And so we are reopening and I am working on a reopening plan, but not with the expectation that people who feel unsafe to come into the office are going to be forced to come in. As long as we are able to successfully work from home, we will be allowed to work from home. As a matter , in fact, we'll be encouraged to work from home because the procedures that I'm working on are so strict and so stringent that it's not even going to be comfortable working in the office. If you have to come into the office where you can't see people anyway, because you have to keep your distance and you have to keep a mask on, you have to make sure that you don't feel in a slightest bit sick because we still don't have testing. So of course , we're all walking around saying, I don't know if I have it. What if I have it, but I don't want to pass it. So we're all being just so cautious about exposing ourselves to the virus, by being outside the home, traveling to work, and then being worried about whether or not we've given it to people. All right . So we're all thinking, well, you know , I don't want to number one, expose myself or someone else trying to go to an office to do what I'm already doing from home. When you're changing behavior, what happens is people sort of move towards change and they get to a plateau and they'll either go one way or the other. They'll go back to where they were or they'll go forward. And so in change management, your goal is when they get to that plateau, they move forward and not go backwards. Well, in this situation, I don't know whether it's going to matter because people can't go backwards. You k now? So we're going to have to go forward, whether there's change management or not, there's going to be change because you can't go back and we're going to be forced to go forward. And so t hat it might be bumpier moving forward for some people, because they desperately want to go back and there's no process that helps them to get there if people have not put that in place. But I am doing that with my staff. I am talking them through the process because they know that they can't go back and many of them are okay with moving forward. It's a little l eery for them, a little uncomfortable. Again, they talk about missing seeing each other. But when I say you better get used to Zoom, because even when we open the office back up, we're not g oing t o allow people who work in the same area to work on the same days. We don't want you to have face to face contact. And you're not going to be able to go hang out in the cafe with the coffee. Because if you do, we're going to have to have someone there all day long to keep cleaning the coffee machine. We're not going to do that. We can't have people congregating together and using and sharing equipment or utilities or anything because we don't know who is sick. And all it takes is one person to have it as we've seen in these meat packing plants and eventually the whole place could be sick. We , as a firm have to be responsible. We can't be contributing to the illness or the spread of the illness. When we can very easily work from home, it would make no sense for us to do that. And so my boss constantly says to me, Marie , please make sure you remind your staff. We were one of the first, if not the first to close, we're not going to be the first to open. We are going to make sure that we have a measured approach to reopening. And in our Asian offices, they did open and things were going fine. And then I think it just seems to me and I don't, I haven't looked at this to be absolutely sure, but it seems that when they opened Wuhan again, they began having instances , um , incidents of the virus, again, reported in other Asian countries and they shut those offices down. Again, waited for that wave to go away. And then they allow people to begin working back in the office again. So it's probably going to be the same here. As, as things get really bad in particular areas, they're going to have to address that. I know that DC is waiting for its wave. It hasn't come completely yet. Although it's getting pretty bad, but it's not there yet. So even if our New York office and our California offices are sort of on the backside of this virus, well it's ramping up in DC. So we're not going to say, Oh, everyone has to operate the same or open up the same or do the same. When the virus is going to hit our offices at different levels of severity at different times. And it's being flexible. As long as people can reach you, we're all logged in from home and we're logged in from home the same way we'd be in the office, there is no reason to force people to put themselves in harm's way to be able to meet the needs of our clients.

Kelley Lynch: 27:31What does work look like in the future?

Marie Woods: 27:34I think work will look like more intentional gatherings or meetings, meaning instead of everyone, all being in the office at the same time, during the same hours, and then you just call a meeting and everyone get together. People will begin to schedule those things and they'll go into the office when they need to be in the office, instead of just going there and sitting there. Because we're also finding and studies have shown this all alongm that people are much more productive in this type of environment f or a number of reasons, less stress, no commute, more opportunity to focus because there's less interruptions.

Kelley Lynch: 28:16I think there's been in many places, a culture of you need to show up, you need to show your face. And if I can't see you, I can't know what you're doing and so that's not going to work.

Marie Woods: 28:30So this is what's so interesting. And I say this all the time, when people make those kinds of comments. A person who has a strong work ethic doesn't no longer have a strong work ethic when they go home and work. As a matter of fact, they are so concerned about making sure that you know that they're still doing a very good job that they go above and beyond. They work harder. A person who has an okay work ethic or not much of one, they are not working. They weren't working when they were in the office. So the reality is is that if you have people that you can't trust to work, then why are they working for you? Instead of watching or clocking your hours, what I should be focused on is your performance. One of my employees that the one who is working i n office services was depressed when this whole thing happened because the thought of having to go home and do nothing. He's like, a ye, I don't know what I would do if I didn't work. I just l ike to work. I don't, that's my sense of being, I don't feel good. W hat I don't have things to do. I just that's who I am. He's not going to change because all of a sudden we work from home. So the same people who weren't working that hard in the office from the very beginning they're t he s ame folks who are not working t hat hard from home, but it has nothing to do with location. I t's who they are.

Kelley Lynch: 30:04Indeed, indeed. Managing a law firm is a particular animal. Right. So what kind of changes do you see coming to the profession and to managing law firms and offices?

Marie Woods: 30:21Well, so one major change, I think we'll see, is we will be attracting more women into the legal profession. So right now law schools are in some situations, more women than men, but at least 50% women. The problem is when they get out and they have families, it's such a difficult thing for them to balance and so many of them don't stay - just think of the Michelle Obama story. But now with this more flexibility of people working from home or working different hours we're going to get a lot more, a lot more women because they can work from home and it does make it easier for them to balance. I mean, they'll have a nanny and they'll have people like that in the house, helping out and they'll even have daycare. And I think women will feel like they can have much more balance and a much more balanced family life and not feel guilty about wanting to do that. So I think a lot of women just feel like, well, they're not going to be accepting of me working a specific schedule because they're going to want me to work on a partner track. And you know, I gotta be in the office. That stress is going to be gone because they're going to know it's going to be okay. And you know what? That means we're going to have much more talent. I'm not saying women are more talented than men, but oftentimes the decisions are made to hire men because women aren't available because they don't want to be in a situation where they have to choose between home and work. So they choose environments that are women friendly. But they don't they don't want to choose between having to neglect their children and do a good job for a client.

Kelley Lynch: 32:02So you don't see that it could become, let's say, for example, for me, it's sometimes I work more because I'm at home and because the computer is here and I can come and I can start working. I mean, do you see that in some ways it could also end up being more of a source of stress because you've got kids over there and you've got you in here and you want to be there with them. What do you think about that?

Marie Woods: 32:32I think women will figure out a schedule and they'll know when to deal with their children. And they'll when they lay down for a nap, they can do certain things and they'll take their meetings when they can take meetings. And then when they'll have dinner with their family and then after dinner, they will get back on the computer and work. So while they might have more work, it will be a much more structured schedule. There'll be a much more efficient schedule. They will gain some time back in their schedule because they're not commuting. They're not being interrupted during the day with people calling them or stepping into their office. So yeah, there'll be new challenges. But I think a lot of the women who found the nine to five grind driving into the office, going through all that stress, trying to pump hours, trying to be a team player, trying to be seen will now feel like they can be much more productive. And instead of focusing on all these other things, they will focus on the work that the person can produce.

Kelley Lynch: 33:39Anything else that you see for the future in terms of all of this?

Marie Woods: 33:43So I think, I think the companies that are going to be the most successful, we'll begin to take an opportunity to take the way we work to the next level. A lot will happen as a result of this virus because people will have , we'll have to change. But I also think that a lot will happen because people will be much more innovative and think about this as an opportunity.

Kelley Lynch: 34:09Now last question. If somebody handed you the magic wand and said, right, you have the power to change one, two, three things. Um, what would those things be and why?

Marie Woods: 34:27I would begin to look at what people actually do on a daily basis, carve their job out of what they do and not out of an eight hour work schedule. Determine how long that takes, how productive those people need to be and create work around what people actually do. Not actually out of the norm, the schedule, the work, everything. If your job is processing bills for accounting. Why does it have to be 9-5? You can do that any time . I mean, if it makes better sense for you to work from 5:00 PM to 11 to process bills so that you can help your kids with their schoolwork during the day, why not? I mean, nobody cares what time you get the bills done, as long as they get done, as long as you meet the deadline. Why not allow people to be more flexible with respect to schools? Why can't your senior class have an open classroom type where they actually go and work and then do the rest of the classes online so they can get used to what it's like to work in corporate America or work in the government or whatever, and be able to make more intelligent choices before they go to college. So they don't spend all this money going to college and then decide "I didn't even like that, major. I can't get a job with that major."

Kelley Lynch: 35:59And these are all kind of old world assumptions, I guess they were not working before this time, even no.

Marie Woods: 36:08So it really is a time for us to, again, begin to sort of think about what kind of society we are. Now it's our time for us to really step back as a nation and look at what's been successful in other countries and measure ourselves up truly and not keep telling ourselves that we're the best. When you travel around, you know, in many areas, we are way behind where we should be. Why do we do what we do? Because we don't need to do it differently, but now we do,

Kelley Lynch: 36:41man. Great suggestions. Thank you, Marie Really appreciate it.

Marie Woods: 36:48Thank you.

Kelley Lynch: 36:57When I spoke to Marie , it was only eight weeks into the lockdown. Now that we're on the verge of reopening, I wanted to call and see what had changed.

Marie Woods: 37:07I think where we are now is we are looking forward to seeing what it will be like when people do go back into the office. That's the unknown. I mean, we have all these precautions that we have to take. You have to wear mask . You have to stay away from each other, all those things. No one knows what that looks like until they actually go back into the office.

Kelley Lynch: 37:32I was going to say, are you okay , planning on going into the office at all? Or you will.

Marie Woods: 37:37I will. I will, because I need to manage some of that process. I mean, we, there's some preparation work that needs to be done. We need to put in signage. We need to set up offices for staff who sit in external areas so that they don't have to sit there all day long without a mask on. We need to close off the coffee areas and the cafe and the service areas so we don't have multiple users. I need to have conversations with the cleaning crew so that they know what their restrictions are. And we just have to go in and prepare the place ahead of time. Me and several of my staff have to go in and prepare the place for people to come back. And then clear out the conference rooms so that people don't use the conference room in the ways that we used before. That we limit conference room use, and as much as possible, we want to refrain from even using the rooms. Because every time we use them, we're going to have to disinfect them. And that's another thing we're gonna have to do is disinfect the main areas. So just to kind of watch that process, manage that process, make sure everything is in place. And then when people come in, they'll, they'll see that the offices is ready for you . So they'll feel comfortable that we've done everything we can to make sure that people are safe.

Kelley Lynch: 38:58Do you have a plan for how many days a week you might want to go there or will you keep working from home? Is it , is it easy in your job to just continue to work at home and not go in?

Marie Woods: 39:10I think so. I think again, we have to rethink it. When I go in, I will be doing what everyone else does and staying in my office. So what is the purpose of going in when I can do that from home? What I don't want is for people to feel like they have to come and see me two address something. That's the whole point of not being there is that I don't want people to feel like the only way to get things done is to have a person to person face to face conversation with me when we've been working via phone and computer the entire several months that we've been out of the office. So I will go in when I need to go in. If I need to go in at seven o'clock at night to address something or deal with something, I will. I don't need to work a typical eight 30 or nine to six schedule anymore because it's not necessary.

Kelley Lynch: 40:07And what about personal life? I mean, you were, when we talked before you were walking a lot, how's that going? I had fallen a couple of weeks ago and had a little crack on my wrist. And I went for my follow- up appointment and the doctor said "I need to check your blood pressure." And of course it always makes me nervous because I'm supposed to check it and I don't, and she gave me numbers that were surprising. And I said, are you sure that's my blood pressure? And she goes, yeah, why? I said my blood pressure hasn't been that low in years. And she said really? And I said, yeah , she goes, what are you doing differently? I said, probably working from home. And I mentioned that to a couple of my friends and they said, you know, that's funny too, my blood pressure is the same. It's really, really low. One of my friends, I actually said to her who also works at a law firm, you need to get off your medicine because your blood pressure was too low. This is really impacting our health. And I think it's not just for us, but I think lots of people who were beginning to manage the situation better. Marie , great to talk with you again and now good luck.

Marie Woods: 41:18I'll let you know how things go. Thanks. Bye.

Kelley Lynch: 41:31What did you guys think about Marie ?

Cindy Sealls: 41:35I think a lot of offices, you know , are thinking, I think this has given them a road to thinking about working in a different way. You know, at least in America, maybe we were thinking about it, but it just wouldn't have ever happened. You know? And now it can happen. You know, you got Twitter saying, Hey, all you guys can work from home ss long as you want, you got Facebook saying they expected 50% of their workers are going to work from home. I think that's a great thing. And you know, it's k ind o f sad that it took a pandemic to get us to this point.

Kelley Lynch: 42:16In some ways, what we have constructed is a system. That's a lot like the slums or, or let's say a lot like the informal settlements that I was going to visit in Bangladesh before I came back home. And the world bank was doing this project where they were working to put drains and they were working on putting a proper width of roadways and other things , um, plus bringing in services like water for people. And the big reason that these things were in this mess was because people had just kind of come and they had settled and things had just grown up over time in some cases, over 90 years, in some cases, over 30 years. And it was just a hodgepodge of things that got set up. But over time, the fault lines became clear. The idea that if you had somebody who was dead, you couldn't bring them out of that tiny, narrow alleyway on a stretcher or in a coffin or anything. So we need to widen those. The water and the sewer are getting mixed or the drains have gotten blocked or they were never installed in the first place. And that is how it struck me that a lot of our responses, whether to work or education or so many of the things in our society have kind of grown up in a hodgepodge in it. It's like, yeah, we'll just do this. And then after a while you realize , you know, that just doesn't work anymore. And so it was great to hear about this idea that we're being forced to rethink some of the things that we all recognized we're not working. I mean, who among us did not think, Tanvir in particular, who among us did not think that commuting and the amount of time we spend commuting, it was just ridiculous. And in Dhaka, how long do you sit in traffic every day, Tanvir?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 44:31I sit about two to four hours. And in bad days, like five, six hours in traffic just covering say five miles. Even if I walked, I would reach there faster. But interestingly, you know, working from home has a cultural aspect as well. Like you have to have the infrastructure. Like you are thinking or it is possible in the U.S. to work from home because you have that solid infrastructure that you can actually access your internet or access your work or things are in the cloud. So you can access it there from your home or wherever you were staying. It can be your office. It can be your home, or it can be on the road, But here we don't have that kind of infrastructure so it becomes difficult for most of the people work from home. And when I say the cultural aspect of it, it's perceived that if you're at home, you are free. So I would actually prefer to be in the office because of two aspects. I'll be very honest about here. It is. It's like being a male culturally, we are less inclined to work at home work at home, meaning taking care of the house, cleaning the house, doing household chores that is considered a female domain. So any male member of the family, if they're doing it, the society, you know, other members of the society would make fun of him. So that is one aspect in order to avoid that, you know, the office is a safe place. I packed my bag, go out of the house, I'm going to office. So that kind of takes away the whole idea of household chores and doing household things. The days that I am working from home, people take me for granted like he has no work. So people start coming in with weird ideas that, you know, like, you need to do this, you need to do that.

Kelley Lynch: 47:05What are they asking you to do?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 47:08Like, you need to solve my bank problem. My mom would come and, you know , tell me when, even when I'm in a meeting or I'm working, she'd come in and say, you need to fix my bank issues. And then my sister or Danielle would come down and say, you know, you need to pay the bills and you know , things like that, or , toilet , you know, facet is leaking. So you need to call the plumber to fix it. So in a working day, so as soon as I'm home, everybody thinks that I'm free. And also the other thing that I find is like, when I'm going to office, it's kind of a mindset for me that I kind of live behind my house and I focus on my work. So coupled with the infrastructure issue and this cultural thing makes it difficult to work from home. So I am sure that as soon as like from tomorrow, the lockdown is officially over. So all the offices start opening. Although government said that there will be limited number of people going to the office, you know, like to maintain that kind of social distancing and the hygiene and all those things, but it would be a great relief . I actually had a story today with one of my friends , he has this caretaker working from home for him for about 20 years. He works in his office. And when this lockdown started, he told him that you better go back to your house, you know, in the village with your family, because you haven't been with your family for like 20 years. He would take one or two days leave and go to visit his family. That's it. So this is an opportunity. You go to your village, stay there. You don't come to the office until I tell you t o. So he's been staying with his family for two months. And yesterday he called up my friends maid saying that "Tell Sarr that if I stay any longer, I'll be getting a divorce. My family will fall apart. My friend c alled him up and said you join the office tomorrow because I don't want to break your family. Doing dishes and cleaning, cleaning laundry. It's not a male thing. It's not at all considered a m ale thing. So whenever you put men into that work in Bangladesh, you are going to get half of the population in a revolution.

Kelley Lynch: 50:08Tomorrow the lockdown ends for you guys, how do you feel about having to go back to an office?

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 50:20People are actually looking forward to that because honestly, people really don't believe that the virus is that dangerous. You know, that is sort of born out by the numbers at the moment for them like 600 people died so far. So yeah, so far, so 600 people in Bangladesh is not really a huge number. The other thing is like the cheapest commodity in Bangladesh is people's life. People die here, right and left. You know, if a ferryboat sinks you have 400 people dead . So it may sound really bad to you coming from your cultural aspect. Here, death is not a huge thing so you cannot make people fear, death. Two things, religiously speaking, people believe that it's part of your life. So that's kind of inbuilt in the whole psyche or the think pattern. So, the fear of that is not much there. The other thing people tend to believe that this will not happen to me.

Kelley Lynch: 51:57Is it common to all of us everywhere.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 51:59But it's more evident here. So you see this huge number of people. As soon as the lockdown was officially declared, like it was not called lockdown. It was called a general holiday. Half of the Dhaka city's population started traveling towards their village home thinking this was a vacation. And still now when the office opens tomorrow, so people are coming back to Dhaka from the villages and social distancing in a hundred square feet of space, 500 people crammed together. There is no space for social distance .

Kelley Lynch: 52:53No, I mean , the buses will be packed. The train will be packed. There's no way.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 53:01It's interesting, you know, two things will happen. You know, the government said that the public transport are opening tomorrow, but they have to maintain the proper distance. So imagine that we have a very bad public transport system. So this one bus, which can get 50 people in normal time come in and there will be like a hundred people waiting to get onto that bus . So, if the bus people say that we are going to take 25 of you, there will be a riot. That's bus will burn. It will be torched.

Kelley Lynch: 53:38That's right. That's right. So , so , and then they'll be letting people on the top of the bus again, and there'll be people packed out inside. I can't see that you're going to control people and make them not do that.

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 53:51It will be impossible to control how many people get into that bus. It has to be the people who think that it's my life so I need to be careful. So, yeah, we, you will find people like that. Like the people like us, we're staying at home. We'll not be traveling by public transport, we'd rather walk maintaining that distance from other people. But that's like a fraction of the whole population. So, the rest of the population is actually looking forward to tomorrow to start at the office.

Kelley Lynch: 54:31Hey, you guys, thank you so much. Sure. All right . We'll talk again soon.

Cindy Sealls: 54:36Good luck. Tanvir Good luck tomorrow. Yeah, you'll be at home.

Kelley Lynch: 54:45Good luck not having to fix a toilet or some other thing

Obaidul Fattah Tanvir: 54:55{Laughing}

Cindy Sealls: 54:55Hey, remember, subscribe, review, share heart us. Otherwise known as like us. You just press the little heart. That's what I've been told. You can follow. You can follow us would be perhaps even a better start on that follow . Oh, sorry. Follow us all us. But only at six feet apart, you can follow us, but we gotta say no six feet apart. Cause we're not trying to get anybody sick.