Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wuhan Virus III - Telework & Economic Reality Sets In

So this morning I saw at least three articles that reflect my pessimistic outlook for government mandated closures of businesses.  One in the New York Post, one in the Washington Times, and one by Tucker Carlson of Fox News.  I think obviously the federal government grasps the concept with their $1 trillion push for money to furloughed or laid off workers and small businesses.

Then we see Governor Cuomo's latest edict.  All New York businesses must now allow 50% of their employees to work from home.  How does that work with a manufacturing plant, a bakery or dairy, a hair salon, or any other service industry?

It's easy for people to say telework, it's much harder to actually do it productively.  Sure, writers and journalists can send in their work product.  Programmers can usually do remote coding from home if the project isn't sensitive or classified.  Federal HIPAA laws won't even allow sending medical information over non-secure communications or to third parties.  How can a doctor or nurse work from home even if it's just giving advice?

If you are an office worker, telework is a possibility.  But generally, you have to have access to the company telecommunications system (email, messaging, chat), it's office apps, and the company sensitive databases.  Sensitivity may be due to personally identifiable information that is either protected by law or exposes company liability for disclosure, or it may be proprietary or actual classified information the company doesn't want to disclose.

So to telework from home, you either have to securely log in to a computer at your company or you have to have much of the same software on your home computer you do at work.  Hardware, software licenses, and data bandwidth with your ISP all cost money.  And usually these are procurements that will take weeks.

By the way, after I had a cancer operation (with side effects), I teleworked (at various levels) for about six months.  The side effects (embarassing, so I won't describe them) got less over time, so I went from about 80% of a week at home down to 20%, then went back to work full time.  There were tasks I couldn't do because of classification issues, and meetings I couldn't avoid where unclassified connections weren't allowed.

So a mandate of at least 50% teleworking at EVERY New York company is just plain stupid!

I'm hopeful that we'll actually see a strong inflection (drop) in the rise of new Wuhan virus cases over the next two weeks--during the 15 day period the federal government is calling for social distancing measures.

That would give them the opportunity to back off modestly on the social distancing and allow small businesses to recall some of their furloughed workers.

If that doesn't happen, the $1 trillion fed push will make 30 days of economic cessation survivable and recoverable.

Beyond that, either we need to start accepting health risks, or we need to prepare for a significant economic recession that doesn't go away for a long time.  If the latter happens, my guess is the federal government goes socialist with the Democrats' 'free everything' plan implemented.  I really don't want to live in that world.

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