Category Archives: pandemic

The WFH Book I Did Not Publish

In my tenure at McCaw Cellular Communications, later known as AT&T Wireless Services, I was placed on a task force in 2000 to study all aspects of working from home as a part of the company’s objective of shuttering numerous office buildings around the USA. We planned on identifying thousands of corporate workers who would work in their residences full-time, and developed a detailed plan on how to properly execute this vision from every conceivable perspective.

In this task force, we studied all aspects of WFH and had representatives from IT, Legal, HR, enterprise risk management (me), and others. The areas we explored deeply included:

  • Being a WFH employee – we identified the characteristics of a WFH employee, what it would take, what the employee needed where they live (a quiet and ideally-dedicated space), whether they would be distracted, and whether they had the discipline to work an 8 hour day when many things begged for attention at home.
  • Managing WFH employees – we explored how managers would manage WFH employees, since there would be apparent differences, particularly if they lived so far from an office that they rarely came in for anything. We identified the need to manage employees by measuring work products and milestones, versus just showing up.
  • Being a WFH manager – we explored the concept of managers being WFH themselves, and how they would manage from their remote perspective.
  • Information Technology – we developed an architecture for communications – what equipment would need to be at home and how it would be remotely managed. This was in the era before cable modems and DSL. The web was still quite new, and many business applications were still client-server and now designed for large numbers of dial-up users. We also considered voice telephony in this architecture.
  • Security and Privacy – our planning considered both physical security (theft prevention, confidentiality of printed matter) and cybersecurity.
  • Workplace Safety – we explored employment law, company personnel policies, and other legal aspects of employees whose workplaces were also their residences.
  • Insurance – we considered company and personal homeowners’/renters’ insurance and attempted to discern the boundaries and the rules.

This project, interleaved with many others, took more than a year to complete. It proved to be valuable for me in the future.

We did this in the era before videoconferencing, or should I say “affordable” videoconferencing. Our organization had numerous room systems that were ridiculously expensive, and did not scale down to the individual worker economically.

I joined a B2B SAAS company in 2005 as the global thought leader in cybersecurity and physical security, and was 20% WFH. There were few WFH employees in this company, and my background in WFH helped me navigate it successfully.

Fast-forward four years, when the SARS and MERS outbreaks threatened to become global pandemics, our larger customers asked us what our pandemic contingency plan was and whether we were prepared to execute it if a pandemic occurred. I responded by leading the effort to build a pandemic contingency plan. Not surprisingly, it mirrored guidance developed later by the CDC and WHO. This, too, would be valuable for me later.

In 2015, I changed employers and was 100% WFH. I thrived in this environment and was fortunate to have a separate, dedicated space for both my day job and my writing career.

In late 2019, having been immersed in pandemic planning, I recognized the early signs of what would later be known as the COVID-19 pandemic. In four days, I wrote a book summarizing all I had learned in the prior two decades and prepared to publish it on March 18, 2020. It was to be called WFH: Succeeding With Remote Work Through a Focus on Technology and Culture.

My employer said no. My book would have cut into the company’s revenue, as the company was also advising firms’ preparation and response for the highly-anticipated pandemic. So, this book sits on an SSD on my laptop, unknown to the world. It’s no longer relevant today, as anyone could publish an all-perspectives WFH playbook by just looking around to see how everyone else has already done it.

This was not an entirely wasted effort. I’ve used material in the book to help my current employer (where I am a WFH director, managing WFH managers who manage WFH employees) and to ensure we all succeed. The effort also gave me the experience I would need in 2022 when I published The Art of Writing Technical Books: The Tools, Techniques, and Lifestyle of a Published Author.

Are You Ready?

Social unrest. Inflation. Supply chain shortages. Earthquakes. Freak storms. Floods. Rampant crime. Wars and rumors of wars. Disease. Famine. Erosion of culture and social values.

It’s hard not to recognize that the world is going through some kind of distress. Its root cause is difficult to discern and may be invisible. But to many, it feels as though something big is about to happen, although what that something may be will depend on what you believe and who you ask.

Some of the possibilities being discussed include:

  • A drastic change in the global financial system with a significant impact on standards of living
  • A drastic change in global political systems with significant impact on personal freedom
  • A world war that includes the use of weapons of mass destruction
  • The sudden, inexplicable disappearance of a substantial portion of the world’s population
  • A pandemic with a high mortality rate
  • A dramatic appearance of UFOs and their occupants
  • An unexpected weather, geological, meteoric, or astronomical event that causes widespread damage over much of the world

Whatever it might be, it feels as though we should get our lives in order. What that means for each of us will vary, but at its core are our relationships with others.

Do not be afraid to dig deep into your memory, so that you may settle accounts with others. Do not delay.

RTO Takes Some Adjusting

Chuck Nolan, after four years of WFH (source: Dreamworks Pictures)

Historically and collectively, the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most impactful events in a generation. Entire industries were uprooted, resulting in significant shifts in how and where people live and work. The work-from-home (WFH) phenomenon was wrenching for some, welcome by others, and transformational for all. Workers and companies adjusted and continued to operate as best as they could, and WFH became the new normal for entire industries and professions.

Chuck Nolan readjusting to normal life (source: Dreamworks Pictures)

Return to the office (RTO) has been disruptive for companies and workers. Management in some organizations have insisted that personnel plan on working in offices part-time and full-time. We’ve seen the entire spectrum of compliance and non-compliance, and we’ve seen large organizations order a full- or part-time RTO and then backtrack when employees objected.

Workers are finding the transition from WFH to RTO nearly as disruptive in 2022 as WFH was in 2020. The routines established in WFH have become normal, routine, and comfortable. In many organizations, workers can choose whether to return to the office, continue to work from home, or adopt a hybrid arrangement.

WFH is probably here to stay. During the pandemic lockdown, many organizations began recruiting workers from wider geographic areas who live hundreds and even thousands of miles from workplaces. Organizations have discovered that they can compete for workers across larger areas. Workers have found that they can live almost anywhere and do their jobs effectively in full-time, permanent WFH arrangements.

It’s difficult to know whether a gradual shift back to in-office work will occur, or if work-from-home will be a permanent fixture in today’s workforce. Time will tell.

Groundhog Day, WFH, and Eye Contact

The COVID-19 pandemic and working from home for many office workers have wrung the variety out of our lives. Many of us have found ourselves in a Groundhog Day scenario (referring to the movie) where our workdays are a nearly-identical blur:

The variety of our days is mostly gone:

Our commute (from the bedroom to the kitchen to the home-office-or-whatever) is the same: we don’t drive different routes, we don’t make any stops, we don’t experience the weather, we don’t see any scenery, and we don’t see any interesting people or things.

Our workday is more regimented: we have rigid schedules, we don’t run into people in the hall, we don’t have those impromptu, unplanned conversations, and we don’t see each other at lunch.

In short, our work lives have become quite dull – the same routine every day, with little prospect for change.

Here’s an observation from eight years of WFH, particularly since 2020 when we were sent home to work remotely for God-knows-how-long: we no longer look at each other in the eye. This may seem like a small thing, but it feels important to me: eye contact is the most intimate body language in an office conversation, vital because it keeps us honest and connected. In videoconferencing, we can look into the eyes of someone we’re talking with, but when we do so, they see us looking up (or down, if the webcam is at the bottom of our screen). Or, if we concentrate on looking into the webcam and its tiny green dot, we are not looking into the eyes of the person we are speaking with, even if they think we are. You could argue that the use of a smartphone makes this a little easier, but still: we are looking at a video representation of the person, not at the actual person. The result: we are not connected with our co-workers as we should be. The quality of our connected relationships suffers, as if we’re all holding back a little bit.

I don’t have the answers – I’m not a sociologist but a technologist. My observations are as a layperson who instinctively feels like something important is missing in our work-from-home, long-distance work relationships.

I’m going skiing today with my kids. This time of year, I relish the every-other-Friday mental health break of connecting with people and getting outside.

2021: The Summer of Unions and Reunions

Last summer, I started a new job as Senior Director of Cyber GRC for GCI Communications, an Alaska-based telecommunications company. Being a resident of central Washington State, this was to be a mostly WFH job with occasional (monthly-ish) travel to Anchorage and elsewhere to meet with GCI personnel and others.

image from

The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was in full swing when I was hired, and non-essential business travel was prohibited. So our days were consumed with video meetings on Teams and Zoom. I met and managed my team of 13 managers, analysts, and specialists, worked with my director, senior director, and VP peers, and was accustomed to full days of video conversations and a bit of time to do real work. And over the past year, I hired five additional team members (including two managers) via video calls. WFH and remote work was the only way.

This week, I met my security department leadership peers in person for the first time, the director of security architecture and planning, and the senior director of security operations. None of us had met in person before, ever. Later, our CISO joined us (our CISO had not met the secops leader in person either).

We spent two long days understanding each others’ departments better, and we spent a lot of time doing some strategic planning. We had bits of time telling stories, and there was plenty of laughter as well.

Meeting and working face-to-face is definitely better than WFH and Zoom meetings. I always knew it, but after 15 months of hunkering down, finally meeting some of my colleagues face to face was confirmation for me. While the three of us live in three different states, we’ll spend most of our working time on video calls, but occasional in-person work is valuable and strengthens and improves work relationships.

I’m certain that thousands of you are having the same experience – as business travel and office work slowly return, you’re meeting many of your colleagues in person for the first time. Relish it.

Controlling the WFH Genie

As we turn the corner in the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are beginning to bring their workers back on site. This return to the workplace phenomenon is starting a conversation at the worker level, the company level, and in society as a whole.

Many companies have succeeded with the transition to WFH. It may have been awkward at first, but millions of workers have tasted a better quality of life without a commute, and without many other related costs of money and time. Many workers do not want to give up WFH, now that they’ve seen that they can be effective while working from home.

I’ve been part-time WFH for almost twenty years, but I’ve also had jobs where I was commuting three to four hours each day, so I’m intimately familiar with both ends of the spectrum, as well as the middle. I am working today for an Alaska-based company while living in Washington State, so I’m a living subject in the great WFH experiment. And in the nine months since starting this job, I’ve hired workers on my team who live in Idaho, Texas, Arizona, Washington, and, yes, Alaska.

For workers, WFH represents a savings of hard money in terms of vehicle, mass transit, work wardrobe, lunches out, but also expenses to equip and maintain a home office. The soft benefits include commute time, quality of life, but also there’s the ability to work in person with colleagues and develop better in-person relationships than can be done only on video calls.

One can draw up a long list of WFH pros and cons. For most of 2020, we had no choice. But from now on, better organizations realize that WFH has many benefits:

  • Workers often put in more hours.
  • Organizations’ office space expenses are lower.
  • Employers can draw from a significantly larger labor pool when looking for new employees.
  • Existing staff have the freedom to relocate their families to other communities while keeping their same jobs.

Organizations unwilling to consider WFH workers will have a more difficult time finding qualified workers, as they will be drawing from a far smaller labor pool. Employers will have to pay more for people to work in the office to compensate for their additional time and hard expenses – AND employers will have the added cost of providing workspace for those workers they require to be on-site (and those workers who want to). Many workers will be willing to work for less if they can WFH as it is a fair exchange for a better quality of life.

One thing is for sure: the WFH genie will not be going back into the bottle. Ever.

Rules for our house for flu prevention

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(Our household consists of two adults and two teen-age girls in Jr. High and High School. We have recently enacted some rules for preventing the spread of influenza.)

1) Everyone washes their hands in the downstairs bathroom immediately upon returning from anywhere (bus, train, running, school, grocery store, church, etc.)

2) No washing at the kitchen sink. This is where we prepare food.

3) Each bathroom should have sanitizing wipes and they should be used daily or every other day to wipe down, in this order:

– door knobs
– surfaces
– light switches
– faucet handles
– toilet handles

4) No sharing of drinking glasses, water bottles, etc. Also, no using of our personal eating utensils for serving ourselves additional helpings of food. Use of a serving spoon is required so no more dipping into the main dishes with our own fork, no using our own utensils in the jam, peanut butter, etc.

5) Each person shall have their own hand towel for the upstairs bathrooms. The downstairs bathroom will be stocked with paper towels instead of a community hand towel.

U.S. Govt, Red Cross appeal for pandemic preparation

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links to stories, resources at the end of this blog entry

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials asked business, health and religious groups on Wednesday to urge Americans to prepare for a possible flu pandemic with steps like storing food and supplies and staying home if ill.

Health and Human Services Department officials met with about 100 representatives of various organizations as part of an effort to convince Americans that the threat from pandemic flu is real and advance preparations can save lives.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has killed 190 people among more than 300 known cases since 2003, is considered the most likely candidate to cause a pandemic if it acquires the ability to infect people easily.

Business groups, insurers, school administrators, civic clubs, the American Red Cross, medical groups, and Roman Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, Lutheran, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim representatives were among those taking part.

Link to full story:

Editorial: this is a difficult story to keep in front of people. Government and health officials are obviously concerned about “crying wolf“, urging preparation when no apparent disaster occurs. But not giving a warning can also result in a lack of preparation. Certainly there are endless debates on whether the message should be stronger, or is too strong already.

It is certain that there will be another pandemic. It is not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN. To believe that we are able to stop a pandemic would be the height of arrogance and foolishness. Pandemics have occurred every few decades throughout written history, and they are going to continue, despite any amount of effort that we expend to prevent them.

So why prepare for a pandemic? Here are some reasons:

  • Slow the spread of disease, to give health authorities time to develop vaccines
  • Equip families and businesses with the means to survive periods of reduced services
  • Equip families and businesses with supplies that will be in short supply

So while we are not able to prevent a pandemic, we can prepare ourselves by having adequate supplies to weather the coming storm.

Other stories:

H5N1 going into stealth mode

Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching

Uptick in Avian Flu Expected


Bird Flu Book

WHO (World Health Organization) Pandemic

H5N1 going into stealth mode

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia has found traces of H5N1 bird flu in apparently healthy-looking poultry, making it tougher to detect the disease in the country hardest hit by the virus, officials said on Monday.

Sick or dead chickens are used as a sign of H5N1 infection, but the appearance of “asymptomatic” chickens means humans could become more easily infected with bird flu. Indonesia has the world’s highest death toll from the disease, killing 79 people.

“The poultry death rate is not so high, but there is a trend that chicken or poultry are infected by the virus but they don’t die. So, the H5N1 virus is not fatal to poultry,” Musny Suatmodjo, director of animal health at the agriculture ministry, told a news conference.

Editorial: I believe that this is a natural development in viruses. They mutate in various ways, some of which lead to their demise, and others give them greater success. That a virus would ‘go underground’ and travel around without leaving as many signs is especially worrisome, as this will give the virus far more opportunities to jump to humans. The world is learning to avoid sick poultry, but we are less likely to avoid all poultry. As a result, there will be countless more opportunities for H5N1 to invade the human species.

Entire article:;_ylt=AsqrYfqkX1giCffQ.qy6kgkE1vAI

Editorial: U.S. must lead fight against tuberculosis

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The prospect of a national or global tuberculosis epidemic is frightening – particularly one in which the culprit is a drug-resistant strain, such as the one in the highly publicized recent case of an infected airline traveler.

In part, that is because TB is a once-dreaded disease we have largely forgotten about in this country, since immunizations virtually eradicated it. The emphasis is appropriate, because the recent case of Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker, who traveled to Europe and Canada and then crossed the border into the United States, shows that neither nature nor mankind goes away quietly.

The United States is vulnerable, both from inside and certainly from outside, where TB continues to ravage millions of people every year, notably in Africa and Asia.

Entire article:

Uptick in H5N1 avian influenza expected

H5N1 Avian Influenza is spreading even more quickly than before. It’s all over Asia, and advancing in Europe. H5N1 is now in England and Japan. How much longer will it be before it is found in the U.S.? Or, is it already here?

Article here:,,2005565,00.html?=rss

Has avian influenza entered the food chain?

Excellent article by The Independent. I have placed additional links and definitions in italics.
The Independent

Link to article here:

Fears grow that bird flu virus has entered food chain
By Jeremy Laurance and Colin Brown
Published: 10 February 2007

The avian flu virus that led to the culling of 160,000 birds on a Bernard Matthews turkey farm may have entered the human food supply, Government food safety experts admitted yesterday.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) (additional article here) said it was investigating the possibility as part of a wider inquiry into the outbreak on the farm at Holton in Suffolk. There was no threat to human health, the FSA said.

The most likely cause of the outbreak is now believed to be frozen poultry pieces imported from Hungary, which may have been contaminated with the virus, to a processing plant next to the Suffolk farm.

Professor Sir David King, the Government’s chief scientist said packaged turkey meat could be removed from supermarket shelves following the disclosure. “I think that is exactly what the Food Standards Agency will be looking at now,” he told Channel 4 News.

The FSA confirmed it was investigating but said it had no plans at present to recall turkey products. A spokesman said: “Even if infected poultry had entered the food chain, and we don’t know that yet, it is not a human health risk. There is not one case round the world in which humans have contracted the disease from eating infected meat.”

As the scare threatened to engulf Bernard Matthews’ £400m business in the UK, he postponed an appointment at Buckingham Palace where he was due to receive a CVO (Commander of the Victorian Order) from the Queen yesterday for his charity work.

Earlier Professor King said the H5N1 virus identified in the outbreak was identical to the strain in the Hungarian outbreak on a goose farm in Szentes last month. Thousands of geese were destroyed. The “most likely scenario” was that the virus was brought into the UK by dead poultry rather than wild birds as had originally been thought, he said.

Both the Environment Secretary David Miliband and a Bernard Matthews spokesman had previously ruled out any link with the Hungarian outbreak.

Bernard Matthews has a processing plant at Sarvar in southern Hungary from where tonnes of poultry pieces – plucked, cut and frozen – are imported to the Suffolk plant each week.

One consignment arrived a few days before 27 January, when the first signs of illness were seen among turkey chicks on the Suffolk farm. The outbreak on the goose farm in Szentes, Hungary, started on 19 January. Vets said the virus could survive for “several days” in a carcass and for longer if it was frozen.

Speaking following a meeting of Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee,the Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said: “Bernard Matthews have been open with us about that but we need to investigate that further. We are investigating reports that there may have been some bio-security breaches at the plant.”

He said legal action could follow.

The Government’s deputy chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg warned that the investigation into the outbreak could take weeks. “It is like a jigsaw – we may not get all the pieces and we may have to come to some conclusion on the balance of probabilities.”

However, the former Agriculture Ministry, which was renamed to restore public confidence after the debacles over foot-and-mouth disease and “mad cow” disease, was facing criticism after it emerged it had made 70 wildlife officers redundant. The officers would be on the frontline if the bird flu outbreak spreads outside to smallholders with other fowl.

A spokesman for Defra said many of the officers were made redundant after their contracts ended with the conclusion of the pilot study into the culling of badgers.

The questions raised by the outbreak

Is turkey, and other forms of poultry, safe to eat?

The Food Standards Agency insists that it is. We do not know for sure that infected meat is on the supermarket shelves. Even if it is, infected poultry “is not a human health risk” when consumed, the agency says.

The virus is transmitted from bird to bird through infected faeces and the gut. That cannot happen in humans – we lack the necessary receptors for the virus in our gut. Humans have only been infected – 271 of them worldwide of whom 165 have died – through the respiratory system, when an airborne version of the virus was breathed in while plucking or gutting a bird. That requires prolonged close contact.

Are there echoes here of BSE? (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or “mad cow disease”)

A decade ago, ministers assured the public that beef was safe to eat – and then had to eat their words when, in March 1986, it was announced that a BSE-like disease, called variant CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), had been discovered in humans. Experts say that avian flu is different. BSE and variant CJD were new diseases, caused by a previously unknown agent, the prion, whose mechanism of transmission was not understood. Avian flu has been closely studied, there are tests available to detect it and it is known that cooking to a temperature of 70C destroys it. But the virus remains unpredictable.

What is the inquiry focusing on?

Bernard Matthews, the company, has some very serious questions to answer about its bio-security – both in the UK and Hungary. If the virus was imported in infected poultry meat, as suspected, how did the poultry get infected in Hungary?

One suggestion is that a slaughterhouse close to the outbreak of avian flu on a goose farm in Hungary, may provide a link. Once the frozen poultry pieces arrived at the Suffolk processing plant in the UK, how did the virus get from the plant to the sheds where the turkey chicks were being reared? Traces of the virus have been found in three of the 22 sheds. One theory is wild birds or rats could have eaten the infected meat and transmitted the virus to the sheds.

Did the Government or Bernard Matthews withold information from the public about the outbreak?

Both deny it. The company said that no live birds had been imported from Hungary but did not mention that poultry meat was imported. Ministers say they had been told that the imported poultry was from outside the exclusion zone imposed in Hungary around the outbreak on the goose farm and that “the importation of poultry from an EU country is a legitimate business.”

Jeremy Laurance

* * *

Link to article here:

Short, informative bird flu video

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Dr. Michael Greger’s new book, Bird Flu, a Virus of our own Making, is a good read. They have released a short (4 mins) video that provides some good background on the seriousness of the Bird Flu situation in the world today.

Bird Flu: A Virus of our own Hatching

A fantastic book on avian influenza pandemics is available online, at I’ve begun to read it – I consider it a must for anyone who wants to understand the history of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic or if you are responsible for contingency planning in your organization.


[imported from my old blog; originally posted on Wednesday November 15, 2006 – 05:42am (PST)]

Flu Pandemic requires planning by families and businesses


The World Health Organization, nations around the world, and local government authorities have begun their own pandemic flu contingency planning efforts, and all are asking businesses to do their own contingency planning.

Consider the impact on businesses with as much as 40% absenteeism rate in their labor force. There are many secondary effects, including but not limited to:

* supplier shortages
* fuel shortages
* transportation disruptions
* utility disruptions
* government-mandated mass quarantines
* restrictions on travel

It is imperative that businesses:

* educate their employees
* help to keep their employees – and their employees’ families – healthy
* implement means for slowing the spread of infection in the workplace
* cross-train workers
* document processes and procedures
* multi-source critical supplies and services
* learn how to produce goods and services with fewer employees

Families need to do their own planning. Families need to stockpile food and medical supplies and take other actions.

Useful web sites: