Burnt out because of Covid-19? Don’t worry, just keep moving.

“You are lucky that you still have a job!”

“A recession is looming! Don’t you ever think of resigning. You’ll never find another job!”

I wished I could feel nothing but gratefulness that I still have a job, but lately it has became increasingly hard to feel so.

Covid-19 has created history for being the latest addition on the list of pandemics that threatened the lives and livelihood of the human race every few decades. Whilst the death toll could not compare with the 1918 Influenza, the impact was nonetheless unprecedented and devastating.

The disease has triggered a ripple effect on the world economy, and many industries are hurting badly, especially aviation, tourism, live performances, fitness, eateries, beauty parlours, construction etc. The chain does not stop there. When the employees from these industries have pay cut or outright job losses, they could not pay their rentals and daily necessities, and that is how recession rears its ugly head. Unemployment rate has surged during this Covid-19 worldwide, and having a job is definitely perceived to be fortunate. It is no wonder that people who still have jobs are working harder to prove that they are still an asset to their employers.

So yes, I still have a job, and I am also burnt out.

Workers who still have jobs are experiencing tremendous stress. The economic ecosystem has already lost its balance, with a few players at the verge of dropping out of the system, and yet the existing surviving industries are still expected to perform with little interference. I work in the finance industry, and it appears that the stock exchange worldwide believes that no disruption could befall the stock market. The shareholders need their numbers and their predictions. The timelines must be met. There are many people involved in the preparation of those numbers, and with disruption in supply chain and customers’ payment, getting things moving has been harder than before.

My colleagues told me that they are experiencing precisely the same. Now we are working 10 hours workdays, and many are working through weekends. With the calls and various decisions-making cropping up (for eg. due to government announcement), work has not been efficient as pre-Covid19. The only known way to catch-up is to work more hours. Working more hours leads to mental and physical fatigue, and that exacerbated the inefficiencies. That is how the vicious cycle kept perpetuating itself.

I think we have to stop feeling guilty about not working the extra hours, if we could not. Here are some of the things that I felt that could help if you are now in that rut:

1. List down all of the things that you have to do

Having a full list helps you plan and envision the end results. I have 60 things on my list. I am not discouraged, in fact I felt that now I know “this is it”, I have clarity on whether or not I could accomplish what was on the list, and whether or not I need to speak to someone for help.

2. Achieve bite size goals everyday

Nothing is too small as an achievement. Pace yourself. Remember to strikeout items in the full list and give yourself acknowledgement at the end of each day. Remember that working home is not a walk in the park these days, simply because many other things are affecting the business that you are working in, and you are shouldering part of those burden as well.

3. Seek help and delegate

Reach out to your boss and staff to understand how is everyone coping. Chances are even your boss is feeling the heat. Discuss if you should prioritise any tasks, or if any timelines could be deferred.

4. Give yourself a break

Do things other than work. Do not lose your identity in the midst of all this chaos. If you could not finish the work anyway, what is the difference if you spent a 15 minutes doing that HIIT training or watching a video on hiking? If you continue working knowing at the back of your mind that you are forgoing the things you love, you will dread work even more.

5. Reconsider your options

At the end of the day, if your boss did not understand the difficulties that you are facing, maybe it is time to rethink if this is the place for you.

Chin up, folks.

The clock for global changes has been wound faster and like it or not we will have to learn to adapt. Maybe this means we have to pick up another skill, do a different type of work, or consider this as a crossroad, ie whether we have made the right life choices so far.  Give yourself a break. No-one could starve themselves to death in this 21st century. Hang in there. You just got to keep going. As long as you are doing something and achieving something everyday, you will get there soon.

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.