Random thoughts on working from home and Covid-19

(With Leonard Bernstein full concert playing in the background)

It has been one month since our country was imposed with the movement restriction order. The order was to prevent the outbreak of Covid-19 and flatten the curve so that our healthcare system could cope with the number of patients. People are required to stay at home and only limited essential services, frontliners and food or grocery shopper could leave their homes.

With the constant bombardment of information and plenty of time on hand, it is almost inevitable that people are forced to face themselves and contemplate about their life one way or the other. I am grateful that I have a place to stay and a job that still maintain the pay, so I did not have to worry about my day-to-day life during the period of time. Here are some random thoughts that I have :

(1) I felt very accomplished completing house chores

I have always done my house chores religiously. But for some reasons, I felt more accomplished these days when I mopped the house, done my laundry, fold my clothes, helped with cooking, wiped down the stove etc. Maybe it is because being able to do these while working from home made me felt that I was able to live my life abit normally albeit the diminishing boundaries between work and after-work.

(2) Work from home – Yay or Nay?

I used to wish that I have a location independent work which I have the freedom to decide when I want to work, and no-one would be breathing down my neck. In my mind, free lance is the type of job that fits the bill. Now my wish has partially came true, I am starting to re-think if working from home is truly the life that I want. It is true that when you work from home, there is more flexibility. Save for conference calls, you can arrange when and how you want to do your work. Most importantly you keep your boss updated and there is results to be seen.

At the beginning of the work-from-home arrangement, there are so many conference calls that productivity is reduced significantly, especially when there are a few calls lined up. The whole day could have gone by without any actual work done. Calls can be extremely frustrating as well, with varied degrees of data connectivity issue, from both ends. There is also the part about the awkward silence when a question was asked because it is hard to call out someone when you do not see their faces.

After a while everyone just gets used to the tempo of working from home, but it does seem that it is now harder to segregate work and life. People tend to expect more from you when you are working from home.

Guess whilst having freedom to arrange work and life is important, I think a work set-up does help to segregate work and life, because no matter how much you enjoyed your work, time needs to be given to other parts of life and other people.

(3) Financial objectives – early retirement or job security?

When the stock market tanked sometime end February 2020, I started to re-think and assess which one is my priority: early retirement or job security. I have been saving up with a goal for early retirement since I stumbled upon a blog by Mr Money Moustache 4 years ago. Today I am proud to say I am on track, but just not yet. Short of 2.5 years’ savings. But now it is adequate for me to walk away and focus on doing something that makes me happy.

Of course the share market might crash yet again, with the pandemic having no signs of slowing down globally. In our country we are seeing good progress, having less cases each day, but everyone are still stuck at home, and businesses are suffering. Honestly this is the first time I felt that I cannot picture the light at the end of the tunnel. I could not phantom the world after Covid-19, when everything will be back to “how it used to be”. In fact, I am starting to think there is no such thing as “used to be”. It has already gone past the point of no return. Many things will change, and how people view jobs and life would change tremendously.

I have no qualms on the fact that I have not meet the milestone yet, financially, but I am in a good position to decide if I should take a leap of faith.

(4) People are the same, no matter where they are

This crisis has brought out the best and the worst of humanity.

When we stare at the face of a crisis, our reaction are going to be almost the same, no matter the colour of our skin, eyes and where we are. The most obvious phenomenon is panic buying. Granted there are different areas of concern for people in different location. Some might love their toilet papers more than the rest, some their furnitures, their groceries, and their masks etc.

The Aussie love their toilet papers
[Credit to Tracey Shelton/Al Jazeera]
Malaysians and their groceries.
Credit to TMR / Pic by Arif Kartono
The Singaporeans love their homeware
Credit to Twitter/infernoxv
The Filipinos queuing up for their masks.
Photo: AP

But at the same time, we see that everywhere people are donating money to help out the poor, less-privileged and homeless. Government of many countries are now providing temporary shelter to the homeless. Non-governmental organisations and volunteer charity organisations are reaching out and providing support to the frontliners and those who needed help. Humans will help out each other during these testing times.

(5) The system collapses when there is no more trust.

The first biggest mistrust that we human beings have is evident in the panic shopping. We do not believe that our fellow country men will purchase rationally and leave some food for us to purchase. So we buy in excess of what we need. We are scared to be the last person holding that last share of the company, so we panic sell. We think that everyone will take out the last cash in the bank, so we tell our friends “Cash is king”, and to take out as much cash as possible from the bank.

Why does recession happen? Give it a deeper thought and you will realise that recession happens because people believe that no-one will care about your well-being, your money, your wealth, and it was the mistrust which crushed the system, not some mystical force that sank us into darkness.

It is during these times I realised that the system is just a fallacy that everyone believes in. When people no longer embrace the system, that is when everything goes out of the window, and chaos happens.

(6) Me-time is important to me

I was grateful that I am not staying alone during these times. My family asked if I should head home before the restriction starts. But I thought that the purpose of the restriction order was not to move around and bring the virus to your loved ones, in case you are infected, plus my plants would all die if I am gone for so long. So I stayed. My boyfriend came to stay with me. We keep our work space separate, and only get together for cooking and exercise. We have our own work and hobbies, so it is crucial to be able to stay apart even if we lived under one roof.

Guess this is the part of working from home that I loved the most, having “me-time” away from human beings, but still being together with a loved one. There are moments throughout the day when I will go check the plants on the balcony, see if they needed more water, or if I need to move the seedlings in if it rains. It was a short getaway from work, I suppose. Also I get to listen to live music when I am working. My boyfriend did not necessarily love having those music played when he work, so having separate areas helped.

A saying appears more often these days: If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan. This saying rings so much truth especially now. No-one can tell the future, on what will happen next week, next month, or even next year. Our movement restriction order has been extended for the third time, there are no certainties anymore on anything. All we could do is just treasure the time that we have now, and live everyday like it is the last, and pray that everything will be better tomorrow.

Author: Li

This is a blog about the journey with my friend - Lupus, 500 days and counting after I was diagnosed. After I passed the initial stage of acceptance and moving on, it has been well so far. Whilst I have a full time job, I am also a writer for hire and could write just about anything. Contact me if you see anything that you like!

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