My New Normal – Working in the Epicenter of the Coronavirus

Every day, Mindstream Media Group lives our agency values of accountability, tenacity, resourcefulness, innovation and collaboration as we work together and with our clients. These values are even more critical during this time of crisis while we guide clients through the current state and plan economic rebound strategies to move their business forward.  

In our work-from-home worlds with much uncertainty looming, we’re challenged further to embody these values, while maintaining a very different work-life balance.  

Below, Account Services Specialist Tracey Murphy, who lives in New York City, demonstrates the tenacity needed to work in the national epicenter of the virus. In addition to demonstrating our agency values in her work, she describes how those values carry over into our new normal. 

As someone who has spent their entire career in advertising, I was taught to follow data. Cost per click, click through rates, percentage of lift over control. I never thought the first statistic I’d check upon waking up in the morning would be death rates.  

As I write this, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Bronx, New York is 21,441. Two of my best friends and my nephew account for three of those cases. The total number of deaths is 1,425. This isn’t New York State or even New York City. This is only one borough. My home.  

Vague number projections were suddenly names of people I knew and then became loved ones all too quickly. My Facebook feed is filled with RIP statuses for lives lost. I can’t even fathom the number of times I type three, what seems like meaningless, words of “I’m so sorry” per day 

I’ve lived and worked in this city my entire life. I even went to college at Bernard Baruch College within the City University of New York. Now, the thought of stepping onto the subway or a bus ignites a panic attack. That is not me, but like everything else, I’m not the same.  

I have an autoimmune disease called lupus. Thankfully, it’s been managed so well in recent years I, at times, almost forget about it, but I fit right into those high-risk groups you hear about on daily briefings. My husband is a postal worker, which means he is an essential employee who needs to go to work every day no matter what the risk is. While I am blessed to be able to work from home and stay inside, my son and I are still possibly exposed each day.  

My mother, who lives in my building, can’t see us. She’s a lung cancer survivor who is missing part of her lung and is over 75. Easter dinner was spent over FaceTime, because it’s simply not safe to see her.  

As careful as we are, there are no guarantees. This virus has spread across this city like wildfire, and no one can say when it will stop. First it was April, now it’s May, and I’m doubtful I’m leaving my apartment any time before June. My son can’t finish school with his friends this year, but learning to teach common core fourth grade math between work meetings is the least of our challenges. 

Governor Cuomo said that there will be no on or off switch for this crisis, which isn’t news to any of us. As he noted, I won’t wake up tomorrow and see the headline of the Daily News saying, “It’s Gone!”  All we can do to flatten the curve is stay socially distant, and pray we stay safe and we’ll make it through.

New York City is the nucleus of our economy. That isn’t my New Yorker bias talking. We are the home of Wall Street and all things big business. The footage of an empty Times Square not only carries the awful significance of the dire times we are in but makes me physically sick. This vibrant and bustling place in which I grew up is barren, like the part in The Lion King after Mufasa died and everything turned gray and lifeless. It’s supposed to be spring, the time of rebirth and growth, not self-isolation for survival.  

This is not only a New York problem or even an American problem. It’s global, but when we weren’t looking, New York became the epicenter of it all. Tomorrow is promised to no one, but I find myself wondering when I’m working on a project if I will survive long enough to see it through. I take a deep breath every day when I wake up to make sure I don’t have chest pain, and then think, Great, I have another day. I create scopes of work and schedules for client projects and wonder where I’ll be on those later dates.  

I’m not an expert who can make economic projections, but I can say with the utmost certainty that my life and outlook have been completely changed, no matter what happens. On that day that I go back to my office, or head to a client meeting or lunch as I’ve done a million times before, I’m probably going to keep my distance, have Purell within reach (if I can find it) and be itching to wash my hands the second I’m near a bathroom, and I’ll bet good money my client will feel the same way. 

The year 2020 brings a much different way to do business, but maybe almost a better one. All of my client emails now close with stay safe, as my top financial client is also based in New York City. We’re all making plans for our initiatives into the future weeks and months on both sides, but don’t vocalize how we don’t know where either of us will be then.  

I’ll know this is really over when I’ll say, “We’ll get this to you next Friday,” and feel confident I’ll be here next Friday, not laid up with a sky-high feverin the hospital or worse. Until then, I’ll be happy for another day.