A lot has changed in a very short space of time with COVID-19. Here in Spain, we're restricted to our homes with only essential journeys for food, medicine, to go to work and other necessities (we're still allowed to walk Stanley but only one at a time and not as much as he'd like). The decree came into force on Sunday 15th March, initially for 15 days but it's anticipated to be longer.
We're in an extremely fortunate position. Local shops are well-stocked and controls are in place to keep supply lines open and to limit individual purchases. Everyone seems calm; there's no obvious panicking. We've written previously about remote working and for us, it's almost business as usual.
Plus of course, our industry is not directly affected... yet. We work from home already and all our client contact is via phone, email and video conference so we haven't had to make any changes in that respect. The medium and long term effects of the corona virus will no doubt be long-lasting and global, even as governments take desperate measures to stave off recession.
But life will eventually return to normal, or something approaching normal. Hopefully, it will be a matter of weeks or not too many months. In the meantime, we need to show solidarity, compassion and support for our communities, and to carry on as best we can in the new circumstances.
You may have unexpected time on your hands, either because your or your clients' business is directly affected by closures or you've had to cancel trips and travel plans. Perhaps you're self-isolating but still well enough to work or, like us, you aren't allowed out of the house! Either way now is a perfect time to stop obsessively checking the headlines and get on with those niggly items at the bottom of your to-do list.
Our work schedule has always gone through quiet periods, either for seasonal or economic reasons or pure happenstance. We always have a list of backburner projects. Downturns are ideal for getting these done, whether it's enhancing our Content Management System, researching new tools and languages, or working on hobby projects.
A recent example is the Oculus Quest virtual reality set which Mat wrote about in The Oculus Quest is incredible and Two weeks with the Oculus Quest. Does his enthusiasm show? It's still a firm entertainment and fitness favourite, and Mat spent many hours mastering the Unity 3D development platform and creating his own game, a virtual version of Swedish garden block game Kubb. (It's not available publicly as it was just a private project, but it was a fantastic way to learn about the new technology and coding framework.)
There are all sorts of things we could be using this unwelcome break for: getting to grips with a new software programme, stock-taking and researching new product lines, rearranging shop or office spaces, or even just finally clearing our inboxes! Plus of course, updating and enhancing our websites (watch this space). One thing that's become clear is that when it comes to social distancing, online shops and services are essential for both businesses and customers.
Of course, if your little ones also have unexpected time on their hands that could put a crimp in your plans. There are many resources available online from much better-qualified people than us, but if they're stuck indoors we'd recommend Scratch. It's a free online tool designed for children and young people to create interactive stories, games, and animations, and share them with others in an online community. It's a brilliant way to learn the first steps of coding: educational and fun, what's not to love?
In short: it's an unsettling time and it may not seem appropriate to get on with tedious, long overdue tasks or learning new skills but actually this is the perfect moment. Worrying won't help; distracting yourself and making productive use of your time will. If you're self-employed or run your own business it's always tempting to do paying work rather than your own projects, but these can be just as important. Take this as an opportunity and make the most of it, because you'll never get a chance like this again.
Stay safe, everyone.