There are essentially two reasons why we’re doing this:
- Government guidelines as of Monday 16th March 2020.
- More importantly, a commitment to a broader social responsibility not to spread this virus around or provide it with new hosts.
Government guidelines (and a psychologist’s take on them)
1. Avoid gatherings and crowded places.
2. Work from home if we can.
3. Stop unnecessary travel.
While some of these phrases leave room for interpretation, having reflected on the available information our conclusion is that our face-to-face work cannot continue at present. Our work, while normally important for schools and families, is not essential in the circumstances. Although there will be an impact (on both our clients and the company) from us ceasing face-to-face delivery, that has to be balanced against the risk of us inadvertently spreading the virus across the multiple schools and families that we work with. As the virus can be both carried and transmitted BEFORE we show symptoms (see this research) we could visit schools and families without knowing that we are infected. Since we work across more than 20 schools, and with hundreds of families, this could result in a significant number of transmissions. Then, if just ONE of those infected people either lives with or comes into contact with a person who is in one of the vulnerable categories, the results could be highly serious or even fatal. Instead, we intend to heed the pithy summary advice set out by Alexandra College, Dublin:
The dangers of the normalcy bias
Things will also not be helped by something that psychologists refer to as the ‘Normalcy Bias’ (Google it!). This is the phenomenon by which we underestimate the likelihood of a disaster and its possible effects, and it can prevent us from properly connecting with the magnitude of events and taking the appropriate action. We can 'filter out' the messages that are threatening or tell ourselves that "things won't be that bad", the result of which could be disaster; like a pilot telling him or herself that the fuel warning light is on because it's faulty (see Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed), this is where optimism can be dangerous.
Which brings me on to the second, and more compelling factor: The question of social responsibility.
Social responsibility – what is the future we want, and how can we create it?
Let's think about the future.
First, imagine what’s going to happen if we don’t do anything. You can tell from the recent government updates and developments around the world (see previously linked BBC article) that, if allowed to continue to spread, this virus threatens lives and our economic future. It will be 12-18 months before a vaccine is ready, so another solution isn't coming soon. If the virus is allowed to continue to spread from person to person then, without adequate testing measures to locate and track its progress, our NHS will be overwhelmed and hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people will die in the UK alone. Then there is the question of how many companies will go under if this drags on too long.
Now, conversely, imagine a future scenario in which we have all distanced ourselves from each other so that the virus has nowhere else to go and dies out. The world can begin to recover and we can begin to create a new normal, informed by our learning from this catastrophic event. We can return to our lives, and our health, wellbeing and livelihoods can continue to recover.
The end goal here, as I see it, is that we have to all stop spreading this thing around, or at least slow the rate of its spread to a level that our health services can cope with. This is why ‘social distancing’ is important. If we were ALL to stop for 2-3 weeks, the virus would have nowhere to go (you may have seen the 'match' video that represents this principle quite brilliantly - when the page has loaded, it's the one captioned "Do your part and stay home, it's all we can do"). The difficulty we have at present is that trying to get EVERYONE to stop at the same time is obviously a very difficult challenge. In that context, each individual member of society can only be responsible for themselves, and each individual company is responsible for its own actions. While we can't control others, we can take control of our own behaviour.
I don't want APS to be part of the problem. Rather, I would like APS to have regard to its social responsibility and take what I consider to be the right course of action. There is also the hope that the more people take decisive action and communicate what they are doing, the more others will get on board in a timely manner. Indeed, as noted, we have taken inspiration from seeing what other individuals and companies are doing. Maybe us doing the right thing will help one or two others to do the right thing too. Hopefully, over time, enough other people/companies will do the same, this virus will run out of new hosts and we can eventually forge some kind of normality. The sooner that happens, the better for us all (not least, from my perspective, because it will mean we can have the football back!).
Take care all. I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and well.