Now that the war is official, the workday will change a little bit for everyone. Furtive looks to CNN will be more frequent. Travel will be less frequent. And many people will be nervous for themselves or for loved ones. Depending on where we think danger lies, each of us will do a few quirky things to prepare our work selves for war.
As a New Yorker who was at the World Trade Center on September 11, I probably worry more than most people. I have started working closer to home so that in the event of emergency, I don't have to cross a bridge to get back to my son. (Bridges and tunnels closed in New York City on September 11.) You might think this precaution is extreme, but here in New York, you can feel the tension over terrorism, and most of it focuses on work. After all, that's where most people were the last time terror struck.
My friend who escaped the World Financial Center on September 11 focuses his worrying on the logistics of escape. He warns everyone to know where exits are in your office and to have a good computer backup system. “This way you won't have to think about what you're leaving in the office if you have to run.” (To some this planning might sound extreme, but New Yorkers remember that at least one person died in the last terrorist attack because he took time to finish up his office work before he left the building.)
The war makes my brother Mike worry about money. (Not surprising since he works in finance.) He worries that if his New York office is blown up, he will not have life insurance. He explains that while most companies offer employees life insurance, most companies do not actually hold a large enough policy to cover all employees if their building blows up. Usually the rules of coverage dictate that the highest up in the company receive insurance coverage first. So, to prepare for possible violence, Mike is taking out a separate life insurance policy for himself.
Workplace war preparedness goes beyond New York. My mom's office, in Illinois, now has departure drills. They practice for a crisis where they cannot leave the building, and they practice a plan for evacuating the building. This is not a bad idea; the success of the World Trade Center evacuation is largely attributed to the earlier drills. And, my mom says her co-workers feel more calm in the face of war because their company is thinking about the safety of employees.
My friend Liz, in Los Angeles, has a stash of canned food and a flashlight in her desk drawer. “You never know about terrorism,” she said. “And if I get stuck at work, I don't want to be hungry.” I asked her if her co-workers are taking precautions and she said, “in general, no.” But she lives in LA, and she pointed out that people already have supplies in their offices in case of an earthquake.
At this point, we live in a country that associates terrorism with the workplace. And now that we are officially at war, the threat feels more palpable. You probably won't keep canned food at your desk. But maybe you will take a tour of your office building stairwells. The most important thing is to recognize your own level of anxiety, and take actions to calm yourself down. Whatever action you take will reflect the type of things you worry about, and the type of person you are.