Ashampoo, COVID-19 and I

Sven Krumrey

Being the calm and relaxed spirit that I am, I tend to miss the occasional piece of news. Naturally, I am acutely aware that we're currently under siege by a new virus. Still, I recently stared in disbelief at the empty shelves that used to carry loads of toilet paper and cooled my heels for a total of 40 minutes in the lengthy line at the checkout. The air was tense and conversations brief. I almost felt tempted to ask whether we were at war again. No doubt, the corona virus has found its way into our parts. As a company, we're supposed to keep our cool and that is reflected in our systematic and prudent preparations. Let's take a quick look at Ashampoo, our strategies in dealing with Corona and how we feel about it.

Small virus, huge effect

Sensationalism is rampant in today's journalism. All the more reason to keep a level head and be smart. Naturally, we can't just shut down the company indefinitely in case one of us catches COVID-19 and everyone who came in contact with them is put under quarantine. But we may consider temporarily closing up shop once we have reasonable suspicion. We can do that because our laptop computers are portable by design and our network infrastructure fully supports homeworking, thanks to VPN and video conferencing (which would finally give me the chance to honor my coworkers with my presence dressed in t-shirt and sweatpants). With the exception of accounting and human resources, who still rely on paper to some extent, everything's already digital. Programmers, editors, marketers and supporters: All of them are perfectly able to work from anywhere—a fact which some of them may secretly rue!

Aside from the new 30-second handwashing routine (the same time it takes me to somberly hum "God Save The Queen"), fully-automatic and contactless hand sanitizer stations have been present in our hallways for some time now. I find the ever-present scent of alcohol eerily reminiscent of my college years! Even if you're not closely following popular media outlets, many of which are trying to pass this off as the next Spanish flu (which killed up to 50 million people), these measures make sense to me. Personally, I find it excruciatingly hard not to touch my face any more. I never noticed how often I do that each day! I put my reading glasses on—and briefly touch the base of my nose: a recipe for disaster! I ponder a clever wording and stroke my beard: I'm in the danger zone! I feel like an old circus horse barred from showing its tricks.

And have you ever sneezed into the crook of your arm? Being allergic to various substances, I'm no stranger to forceful sneezing. Now, I have to retrain myself to hit my arm—and my first attempt almost led to a strained neck. I guess I need further practice to avoid making a complete fool of myself in public. In general, hygiene-related advice is difficult in office life. You're supposed to keep your distance to others, I get that, but what if you're discussing details as a team in front of a single screen? Our first attempts looked like two Siamese twins that were having an intense argument. Am I supposed to take cover whenever someone's about to cough or sneeze now? To my right, there's Axel, our video guy. Diagonally across from me sits Manuel, my translator. Our desks are wide and deep but is this distance enough in case one of us gets sick? Questions upon questions!

Currently not en vogue: physical contact Currently not en vogue: physical contact

Definitely the hardest part for me is to stop shaking my, thoroughly sanitized, hands and to skip hugs. Some bump their elbows but, to me, that looks more like a shy gesture at prom. And what about birthday kids? Shout "Happy Birthday" from a few meters away as if one only had a bowing acquaintance? Feels weird but seems to be the most practicable way. Luckily, we North Germans are said to be a little unfeeling anyway so group hugs are a rarity. What is indeed unusual is the order to skip work altogether, if we're feeling unwell. Granted, nobody who felt sick as a dog showed up for work in the past anyway but we're certainly not among the faint of heart. Still, we're being cautioned to stay at home at the first sight of possible symptoms, no exceptions! Having a scratchy throat as a reason to stay away from the office will take some getting used to.

All in all, these are fairly mild requirements and strategies—and yet I find myself constantly observing my every move and chiding myself for possible misbehavior. What a stubborn creature of habit I am! In addition, I fear I may appear foolish by following the recommendations of our health department to the letter. But let's be realistic: Even without a proclivity for drama, adding a few new rules to your daily routine seems like a prudent course of action, even though you may feel awkward following them. At worst, you're being too cautious and may laugh about yourself later. I for one wish you all good health. Take care and stay safe!

What I would like to know: Has COVID-19 had any impact on your life? Are you avoiding specific places or crowds or is your daily life unchanged?

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