My experience over the past few weeks – much like everybody else's – has been unique and very enriching.
On March 11, I returned from Brussels late at night feeling very tired. It was clear we would not be travelling in the following days because of the unknown threats posed by COVID-19, and I was happy about the unexpected opportunity to spend some quiet days in my office. But things took a different turn.
One of my daughters asked if she could stay with her husband and her three small children at our weekend house in South Bohemia (a place in the middle of nowhere, even the farm road ends there) for a few weeks. Her husband's company had gone into lockdown and he would be working from home for the next three months. I was glad they could stay in a safe environment and joined them together with my husband. We had planned to stay just for the weekend to help with post-winter maintenance, but ended up staying seven weeks.
Later, my second daughter joined us with her small son for some time.
With five adults, three of them working from home, and four children, life in a small house with one heated room and three cold bedrooms was not always easy. In the course of these long, intense but in a way slow days I made the following discoveries, which seem important to me:
- The most essential part of your work outfit when working from home is warm socks.
- From one day to the next we got very digital, and it worked;
- If you cook goulash on a wood stove for some five hours it tastes fantastic;
- It is very difficult if not impossible to a find work-life balance and to disconnect in such challenging times, we need to work on it;
- It is fun to organize virtual drinks;
- Trade unions have a lot of work now and they are more important now than ever before;
- So many friends were calling and chatting just to be sure we were OK;
- Why do we need people to die in Europe to admit that joint European solutions could be a very good way forward?
- Virtual meetings can be a good plan B, but can never fully replace face-to-face get-togethers;
- It is useful to brush up your bedtime stories and nursery rhymes from time to time;
- In such critical moments the majority of people in my country need to show solidarity, humanity and togetherness, and this makes me cry.
Back in the office in mid-May it is more than clear that the hard work is only just starting – the health crisis is hopefully coming to an end and the economic one is taking over. Every day more people are losing their jobs and companies are closing. Apart from trying our best to kick-start the economy and to ensure working people get their wages and salaries, shouldn't we also work hard on a common, fairer future in Europe, where people live safely, in good health and in solidarity and have decent lives with a decent and fair income?