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Reflections from my home office

Melissa Barnett
Thursday, 16 April 2020 ( #970 )
Melissa in her paddock.
Melissa in her paddock.
As you might know, most of Forkliftaction's staff are based in Brisbane, Australia, but over the years, we have had sales and journalist staff in Belgium, the United Kingdom and in the USA. I live on a cattle property in South East Queensland. Working on stories about the materials handling world from a fairly isolated property can sometimes be a bit of a conceptual challenge. When I look out my home office window, I see cows, a paddock of grass, horses and the farm dogs playing chasey with each other. Sounds idyllic, but it can be a distraction when you're trying to concentrate on narrow-aisle forklifts, alternative energy sources or container handlers.
The view from Melissa's window
The view from Melissa's window
We live 30 kilometres from the nearest town, so to do the grocery shopping is normally a three-hour round trip. Our little town of 8,000 people is 250 kilometers from the major centre of Brisbane, so a visit for medical appointments or to visit family is a six-hour round trip. These are not big distances in the Australian travelling psyche, but it does give you a sense of the large spaces that I am used to. Even so, the current COVID-19 pandemic has reached our little town, with two of the earliest diagnosed cases in Queensland turning up in my town. However, the latest rules around social distancing, isolation and reducing personal contact to two people at a time has hardly had an impact on my working life - this is how I always work. Technology has enabled me to interview people in any part of the world. On any given day in the lead-up to a feature, I can be on a call to Kalmar, Sweden or Cleveland, USA. The news delivered weekly by Forkliftaction keeps me abreast of what is happening in the industry and the Forkliftaction chat forums are great idea generators - all this in relative isolation. I am really excited to contribute to the new Kitchen Table Mingle blog because it means a more personal connection with our readers. I love writing the features, but they are fact, data and professional opinion. In our new blog we can get to know each other on a more personal basis. This week my colleague Maria Bendayan, our digital sales manager for Europe, sent us an update on what is happening in her life. Maria is based in Malaga, Spain, one of the countries hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. I include her report in this blog as I feel it clearly shows the contrast in how life has changed in the hardest hit places. We feel and empathise with our colleague and our many friends in Europe, the United States and the other Covid-19 hotspots:

MARIA: Today, the chemist came to bring me some medicine. He arrived in his car with gloves and a mask. He left the bag at the garden gate. I had prepared the money and left it on the small wall near the gate. I stood three metres away so I could tell him how grateful I was to him for delivering what I needed. With high blood pressure, it is not the time to skip your medicine and end up needing a doctor. A couple of days before, we had some food coming from the supermarket and we had to wash every item twice with washing up liquid. Then it stays a couple of days in the entry before it is ready to go into the freezer or fridge. Our nice neighbour also brings us fruit from his garden but he got upset when I asked him to leave it at the garden gate - the old people are finding the situation difficult to understand. Like most of us in Europe, this situation seems so unreal. You hear and read and live with the daily news, the thousands of deaths, the doctors having to make terrible choices and the rules that prohibit us from leaving the house. One of the hardest things is bing away from my beloved son who lives just 10 km away - but it seems the distance will take months until I can give him a hug again. This is the reality for all of us.


The view from Maria's window.
The view from Maria's window.

So, for the time being, this is my daily reality here in Spain, trying to work from home as I have done now for over a year. Luckily, because I am used to working from home, I have a routine and structure already in place. I am well disciplined: I have my shower, I dress as if I were going to work and I have my breakfast before starting my remote work. Over these months, I have had a huge amount of contact with my Forkliftaction clients. Of course, all our conversations start with the current situation and the disaster it is - and what that might mean for their business in the future. Despite these daily challenges, I keep working, sitting at my desk, but sometimes I feel I have no words. My job is to sell advertising. I have a vast experience in sales, but now I am sitting here and sometimes I don't know anymore what to say. My entire professional life has been focused on helping people find something they need, they want and they desire. At the moment, that is challenging. But I know that even in these times, forklifts are needed and I am sure that the materials handling sector will survive all this, because whether you move cosmetics or safety masks, it all still has to be moved. I know that even more needs to be done in marketing and highlighting our customers' products. When the pandemic is over, we will be facing the next challenge for our Forkliftaction customers - we will experience huge marketing needs to let people know that we are still here, that we are serving and determined to survive. I am now on day 30 of staying only in my house, of not going anywhere except to the end of my garden path, but I must say there is no day I am not thankful to live here in these rooms that have been silent witness of my life for so many years.

Reader, I am interested to know about your experiences at the moment, if you have some time and would like to share them please head over to this week's Kitchen Table Mingle thread. And on a lighter note, it's been fun seeing our members and followers take a shot at our forklift challenge. Click here to find out the answer (and for the stories behind the featured forklifts).