Workplace Self Distancing: Is this our new reality?


Since the early 2000s, we have been in an incredibly ever-changing transition when it comes to how we work.  My 1st “real” job out of university I had a flip phone, and get this, a Palm Pilot! (yes, I was that girl!). As my career progressed I moved to a BlackBerry and now through various evolutions, my Samsung smart phone. One thing has been consistent through every transition, I was more available.

I worked more hours, I never really took a vacation and I couldn’t remember the last time I went a whole weekend without checking my email. I bet you can look around the office and say the exact same thing about most people, I was far from special.

The thing is, we as employers have also held on to our expectations of the past. Not only are employees expected to be available 24/7, they are also expected to sit in a crowded office 8 hours per day. We often joke that Generation X is the ignored generation. Maybe it’s just that we are too busy to care?

Now, here we are in 2020 and what a year it has been. Can you believe we are only 3 months in? A pandemic, Covid-19, has taken the world by storm and phrases like “self-isolating” and “social distancing” are heard every day. It’s like this tech evolution has prepared us for this day. As if we were in training this entire time.

Now, we are changing how we shop, how we interact with friends and even online concerts are without an audience. It seems all sport leagues have been cancelled, parties are online and we can no longer visit our elderly out of fear of spreading the virus.

The most significant change, we are all working from home (even with the kids home!) and guess what? We are surviving! We are getting things done and becoming more efficient.

People are staying home and things are changing, for the better!

  • The smog over China is lifting
  • The fish have returned to the Italy canals
  • The birds can be heard in large cities around world
  • People are literally singing from their balconies
  • People are showing incredible kindness to others

Maybe this isn’t so bad?

The other day I saw a communication from a restaurant that talked about the measures they were taking to keep people safe. They said they were disinfecting the menus between each use, removing salt and pepper and only providing if requested, and increasing the cleaning of their common areas. All I could think was “wouldn’t it be great if this was the norm?”

When it comes to the workplace:

Perhaps people should be working from home more often and decreasing travel emissions?

Perhaps we don’t have to fly across the country to attend that meeting?

Maybe we should be looking to protect employees every day, not just when it’s socially forced upon us?

Working in my field, I have been a champion of workplace evolution for a long time. Our home and work life is more integrated than ever, we just haven’t been balanced for a very long time. I hope this pandemic is the kick in the butt the world needs to change the way we all live and work.

Stay safe and take care of yourselves!

If you would like a free copy of uptreeHR’s Pandemic Checklist, please email

Sarah Mullins is the founder and CEO of uptreeHR, an outsourced Human Resource department for small to medium sized businesses. Sarah and her team are based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

To book a complimentary 30-minute consult with Sarah, click here.


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