Singapore—On paper, it sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Working from home means being productive and continuing to earn a salary without having to step outside the comfort of your home, or bathing, or taking off your pyjamas, or brushing your teeth or putting on deodorant.
You don’t even have to run a comb through your hair unless you have an online meeting, which you could attend, if you wanted to, without wearing pants. Your boss only sees your face, or at best, your upper half.
You can eat what you want when you want. You can take the six steps from the kitchen table where your laptop is to your bed whenever you feel the need to take a two-hour nap.
You can even work from your bed if you want to!
A dream come true, right? Then why are so many of us struggling to get our work done these days?
WFH in the time of corona(virus)
Well, for one thing, the whole world is in the midst of a giant emergency. Life changed very quickly. One moment 2020 had rolled around and we were full of big dreams not just for a new year but a new decade.
The next moment, it seems, the threat of a deadly disease came in the form someone standing a little too close, and we were told to #StayHome because it could #SaveLives. Oh yeah, and shops were running out of masks, toilet paper and noodles.
Trying to keep on working, and being productive, while the world is under siege from a microscopic unknown enemy, is an uphill battle. If this is a new normal, it certainly is a challenging new normal.
If you’re hypervigilant because the number of infected seems to keep growing at a rapid pace, and you’re tuned in to all-coronavirus-all-the-time on your social media feeds, of course it’s harder to work.
We’re all distracted. Yes, we’re distracted by an enemy we cannot see, but what we can see are ever-larger numbers of infections of death and confirmed cases, photos of exhausted doctors and nurses online, grieving families, and the like. We can’t see our enemy but we feel the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty it brings us.
Boredom, monotony, sameness…plus anxiety
Another reason why this work from home bit isn’t as easy as it seems is that we’re not used to the sheer boredom, monotony, and sameness that we face daily now. One of the ironies of living in the age of Covid-19 is feeling bored and anxious at the same time.
When you go to an office daily, there’s always something new to see, if not at the office itself, at least on the commute. I never thought I would miss people watching, but I do.
And have I mentioned the loneliness of working from home, especially for those of us who live alone? Some friends have taken to talking to their pets. Since I’m not a fur mom, I’ve considered addressing my lone aloe vera plant, at least to greet it good morning so I don’t forget the sound of my own voice. It’s a living thing, after all, right? I’m not there yet, but if this circuit breaker extends beyond May 4, I think the plant and I will become best friends.
It’s also been a challenge to make sure I’m moving around enough, getting the exercise I need to stay healthy. Do I miss walking to catch the train, yes, I do! Studies show that sitting is the new smoking and that a sedentary lifestyle can eventually lead to serious health problems. And while there are exercise programmes one can follow online, it’s not the same as walking around freely.
WFH not as a choice
Maybe if completely working from home had been something I had chosen of my own volition, things would be different. But in this case, our choice and agency have been taken away, admittedly, for our own good, as well as everyone else’s. We need to do this as it really will save our lives. And I am grateful to keep on working from home and being productive. If working from home means making life easier for our frontliners and keeps our hospitals from getting overwhelmed, I will gladly stick with it for as long as it takes.
Does it mean working from home is everything I always thought it would be? No. At least, not under these circumstances. —/TISG