One Strike And You’re…?

Our office (Nickel Asia) has begun implementing a skeleton force work arrangement for individuals in functions that have been deemed essential for office work.

This means that at our head office, about half of the full head count of managers and associates now report for work, in a building and in offices that, in days BC (Before COVID), were teeming with people especially in the lobbies and the lifts. These days it feels like it’s the Holy Week season every week, though yes you still have to line up for the main lifts because the cars that used to carry ten people now carry only four at a time.

The “luckier” ones among us have been designated WFH staff, and so they can decide not to shower nor brush their teeth the whole day and need not worry about “what to wear for work” from Mondays to Fridays.

My team is among those allowed to WFH, but three of us who live closer to the office prefer to go to the office than stay at home. We want to have a reason to shower and shave and brush brush brush at least twice a day, and having the refrigerator so close to you and the bed even closer can be so tempting. Technology does allow you to work from bed these days – just log on to Zoom meetings without the camera!

But because these remain the Days of the Pandemic, there’s a requirement we impose on all associates who come to work and that is to agree to undergo a rapid antibody test every two weeks.

I know that there are people who cast aspersions on the reliability of the rapid tests, which require a pinprick, a drop of blood, mixed in with some vinegar and Voila! One line, two, or (God forbid) three appear on a plastic gauge and you know if you’re pregnant (with Covid’s antibodies) or not. We who undertake the tests understand the limitations of the kits. We also know that some are better than others; I particularly like the Roche test based on the ELISA system but this requires more than just a pinprick: it requires some 4ccs of blood that are then put into the usual hospital lab machine that uses centrifugal forces to separate the blood’s elements (imagine putting the vial of your blood on a lazy susan and spinning it like crazy – make sure the vial is capped well, though!) and then the testing is done to see whether your specimen is reactive or not. Because the lab has 4ccs of your blood they can redo the test if necessary, to confirm a finding.

Now not everyone is comfortable with getting their fingers pricked or, worse, getting a needle stuck into their arm. So I will be in the minority of those happy with giving up a blood sample. But my reason is simple: if the reliability of the test is closer to 100% than others, why not? I’d rather have an accurate reading than one with which I may have doubts.

But reliability aside, we have all agreed at the office that times are such that we need to take a necessary precautions to protect ourselves, each other, and our families. Hence we will act as conservatively as possible. Hence, should an associate test positive in a rapid test, he or she immediately has to undergo a 14-day quarantine after which a new test will be done (in time with everyone else) and should that turn negative then the associate is free to return to work.

The 14-day quarantine can be cut short if an associate agrees to undergo a PCR test (aka, the Swab); a negative finding means the asosicate return to work immediately. A positive finding means…I have a running office joke about “instant cremation” but I won’t crack it here.

But that’s it. We have a “one-strike” policy that everyone understands and accepts and is applicable to every member of the organization. No one is “above the law”, and we all understand why. If anyone tries to disobey the rule then everyone else is put at risk. In our eyes, no one – not even our President – has the right to put everyone else in danger.

To think that our President is in fact also our CEO – Child of “Emeritus” Owner!.

Happily, no one in our organization feels so “entitled” enough to ignore the policy. Our President doesn’t even dare think of something akin to a “ibalato na lang ninyo ito sa akin” comment that shuts everyone else up. The policy is arrived at via a discussion, and once set, is set – unless revised due to a new discussion. But absent any such revision, everyone follows.

One strike and you’re on quarantine.

I suppose that’s how things are meant to be. Admittedly a tough thing in a country where relationships matter most, where everyone doesn’t want to hurt everyone else’s feelings, where “utang na loob” is traded all throughout one’s life, and where you hear a line like “If God can forgive…”

And nope, the missing part isn’t “..So why can’t I have a mañanita?”

Imagine if we had this “one strike” policy in Government? I bet you PRRD wouldn’t be confronting the mess he faces now, just as he enters the “legacy” portion of his six years in office. All because we refused to honor this tough but oftentimes necessary and simple policy.

Caesar’s wives understood it better.

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