By: Patricia McHugh Lambert, Esquire
I can’t wait for New Year’s Eve. I don’t care whether I am spending that night at a formal event, a neighborhood party or in my pajamas in front of my television. I will stay awake until midnight, do the countdown and electronically watch the crystal ball drop at Times Square. I won’t be watching to welcome the year 2021; instead, I will be watching to make sure that this hard and troublesome year of 2020 leaves us.
It has been a hard year for everyone. From our lowest level employees to those who hold the highest management offices, everyone has in some way struggled this year. We struggle to make sense of what is going on. We struggle to make sure that we are doing what is right. We struggle to help our clients and ourselves stay afloat during these difficult times. And, honestly, I occasionally struggle not to yell at stupid people, whether they are at my work, my grocery store, or at some collaborative zoom meeting.
I wish I could simply snap my fingers and make today New Year’s Eve. I would drink a few adult beverages and talk to people about how we made it—we made it through this once in a lifetime pandemic. I would laugh when people talk about toilet paper shortages during the early days of the crisis. I would tear up when people would mention lost loved ones and the heroic efforts of our health care workers. I would complain about how some people have lost sight of the human toil that this pandemic has taken on our communities and instead have tried to use this health care issue as a political foil. Mostly, I hope I would wave bye-bye to this awful year and say, “Never again. Please God. Never again.”
I am thinking about New Year’s Eve and it is only August as I write this. There is much of the year left. This is not yet a time to look backward—we must look forward. So, what advice can I offer you for the period that goes from now until New Year’s Eve? I can offer three recommendations.
First, I recommend accessing resources. There are so many articles, links, webinars and papers available that breadth of information becomes unmanageable. I will, therefore, be brief in my listing of resources that I use, review and recommend:
- For those that are struggling with issues concerning safety standards and general reopening guidance, consider https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4045.pdf; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/businesses-employer.html; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/office-buildings.html; and https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Guidelines-for-Opening-Up-America-Again.pdf.
- For those concerned about wage and hour issues related to reopening, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.
- For those having to deal with Family and Medical Leave Act issues, including employee concerns about child care, review https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla/pandemic.
- For those that need an understanding of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, two websites should be studied: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave and https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.
- For those who want a better understanding of how federal unemployment works during this crisis, examine https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200312-0.
- For those that are having to address disability and accommodation issues, review https://www.eeoc/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-abd-other-eeo-laws.
Second, I recommend that you consider and reevaluate how you communicate. During this time, it is important to strive for real and meaningful connections. While Zoom, Skype and other virtual platforms allow interaction without personal contact, they are, in my view, starting to become stale. They do not engender true connections. So, I am starting to go old school by making one-on-one telephone calls “just to check in” and writing handwritten letters and cards. I am going through my contact list to make sure that I reach out to friends, business contacts and clients who I have not heard from in a while. I have found that this type of effort is not wasted. In fact, just today, one of my friends responded to such efforts and told me that she was struggling emotionally. She never would have been so open on a Zoom call; but she needed someone to give her permission to talk.
Third, I recommend that you consider ways to help yourself and those you care for cope with the rest of this year. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the play No Exit, which described a hellish after-life as being stuck in a locked room with two other people for the rest of eternity. This play could be updated to make hell the monotony of everyday life in this pandemic. It is hard not to go to restaurants or parties. It is hard not to travel. It is hard to wear a mask every time one goes out. I recommend that you embrace the hardness and work to find ways of relief, both for yourself as well as for others. Set your work hours and stick to them. Walk away from your phone and computer at the end of your hours. Find ways to reduce stress. Try new things. Try anything that will help your own mental help and the health of those you work with.
We can make it through these next four months. We simply have to. And then, we all can collectively kick Year 2020 to the curb. I can’t wait.
Ms. Lambert has over 35 years of experience in handling complex commercial litigation and insurance matters. Ms. Lambert has worked on national class actions, significant litigation and regulatory matters for Fortune 500 companies. She has also assisted small and mid-sized companies and business executives with contract, real estate, liability assessment and commercial disputes that needed to be resolved quickly and efficiently. Ms. Lambert is best known as an attorney who knows the field of insurance. She has represented insurers, policyholders, and insurance producers in disputes both in court and before the Maryland Insurance Administration.
Ms. Lambert is the firm’s Co-Liaison for Harmonie, a national network of high quality law firms that serve the special needs of the risk industry, and was recently appointed to Harmonie’s Board. She can be reached by phone at 410-339-6759 or email email@example.com.