Health and Wellness

What Bill Gates is doing while staying home during the pandemic

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22, 2016.
David A.Grogan | CNBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Like millions of people around the globe, Bill Gates' work set-up changed dramatically due to the coronavirus. The billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder has been working from his home near Seattle.  

The biggest day-to-day change for Gates? Less travel. "I used to travel a lot" for his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he said during an interview on the podcast "Get Wired" published Monday.

Initially, Gates was concerned that working from home would hinder his personal output, and what the teams at the foundation and Microsoft could accomplish.

"When we told all these employees not to come into the office, I thought the loss of productivity actually would be quite a bit higher than it has been," Gates said. "Overall the productivity penalty for office work, including software engineering, has been way less than I would have expected."

And he himself is "able to get a lot done," he said.

Gates also said that his children have been spending more time at home, "which, at least for me, is a nice thing," he said.

Gates has three children with his wife Melinda: Jennifer, 24; Rory, 21 and Phoebe, 17. With all the kids under one roof, "we've had to be fairly strict about exactly what the kids do" to ensure they're all following proper safety protocol, he told Business Insider in July.

While many people have taken to cooking elaborate meals or baking while quarantined at home, Gates has not.

"I'm microwaving more food, and I'm getting you know fairly good at it," he told Wired.

In the past, Gates has said he's not a great cook.

"Because I never learned how to make a healthy meal for myself, I ended up eating a lot more fast food than I should've—especially when I was young and early in my career," he wrote in a blog post in August 2019. In the early days of Microsoft, when he was particularly focused, he would eat nothing but the orange powdered drink mix called Tang to save time.

Reading has been a welcome distraction and way to pass the time during social distancing, Gates wrote in a blog post in May. He and Melinda also watch TV shows together, such as ABC's "A Million Little Things," NBC's "This Is Us" and Netflix's "Ozark."

Gates also plays online bridge with his longtime friend Warren Buffett. He recommends the digital platform Bridge Base if you want to learn how to play.

In terms of physical activities, Gates has also resumed safely playing tennis, he told Business Insider. "We don't go near each other, so even that is done in a fairly specialized way," he said. It's generally safe to play tennis so long as you remain outdoors, wear a mask and avoid touching or sharing balls. 

When Gates goes on walks, he always wears a surgical mask. "I see, in my neighborhood, there's almost nobody that we've walked by who isn't wearing their mask," he said.

Of course, Gates acknowledges that he's privileged to have such a comfortable situation during the pandemic.

"Relative to people who have got a small house, with lots of kids, don't have a good internet connection, the pandemic sadly is less painful for those who are better off before the pandemic," he said. "There's been a lot of pluses to go with the minuses."

To date, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $350 million to support the global response to Covid-19.

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