Quarantine Chronicles # 3 – A typical day

Even before the community quarantine was implemented, I have been an advocate of work-from-home (wfm) arrangement. I believed that some work can be done in the comforts of home. Employees are spared from the troubles of traveling. They can eat cheaper and healthier home cooked meals. They don’t have to dress up. For working parents, they can have additional time with their children.

When the community quarantine was imposed, everyone was forced to drastically embrace wfm system. I’m sure, everyone has struggles. Stability of internet connection, smaller spaces, distractions from family, undefined working hours, lengthy remote meetings and difficulty of arriving with the best consensus. Unfortunately, we all lean to one option. We need to make everything happen at all costs. Everyone needs to get the job done.

Like all wfm employees, I try to follow a routine. While some start their work in the morning, my system does not work that way. I’m alive and functioning around 10 pm, when everyone else is about to end their day. I find my working pace from night time till dawn because I love the silence of the entire environment. I don’t get disturbed by calls, messages, delivery services and anyone from the family. It also helps that internet connection is faster during night time. More importantly, the weather is more forgiving in the evening. Me and my wfm devices cannot bear the summer heat.

I start my day at 10 pm and usually finish before sunrise. In as much as I try to become consistent with this arrangement, people within my environment do everything in the morning. There are days when I have to wake up earlier and join remote meetings. Sometimes, meetings are scheduled in the sweltering afternoon. In the end, I’m left with a ruined body clock.

In my wishful and ideal world, the best wfm days happen when

  1. I finally completed a grueling report.
  2. I hit that send button with the report that consumed me and my sanity
  3. I found supportive colleagues from other departments
  4. When I’m able to successfully assist another colleague
  5. My skin still looks decent and my eyes are not puffy after days of not sleeping well
  6. I get undisrupted sleep after submitting a report. This meant no calls or urgent concerns.

My worst days include

  1. Teammates don’t comply with deadline
  2. On top of not complying with deadlines, they will keep their silence and I will be forced to wear the shoes of someone begging for updates
  3. Delayed and substandard reports
  4. Unresponsive teammates
  5. Alarming news and changes from top management
  6. Unexpected directives

and the list goes on….

Aside from work, I think everyone finally managed to have more time at home. In my case, with my family.

Looking back at my life before the community quarantine….

On a usual work week, I will drag myselt to report for work on Monday. I’m lucky if there are no meetings or presentations. Once in a while, we meet my friend T for pizza and coffee. Never mind if it’s midweek and I needed to report early for a meeting. Like everyone else, I look forward for Fridays. I’ll wear my casual clothes and count the hours before another work day ends. On some days, I drag my friend A for dinner. If I have additional money to spare, I drop by Uniqlo or SM Department Store. I usually arrive home a liitle late on Fridays and savor the rare times I have more than 8 hours of sleep.

During weekends, I do some freelance works. If luck is on my side, I have freelance writing works that entail academic research. A former superior is my favorite client because she refers me to decent and well paying clients. On weekend afternoons, I exercise my self-taught photography skills. I provide content for a small online business. If resources can still afford, I avail of food delivery via Grab Food. On Sundays, I’ll try my best to do nothing. Sleep, read and watch some series. On the rare times, my cousins invite me for dinner or a mall date.

These days, half of my life is still about work.

I still advocate for wfm arrangement. Unfortunately, I would have preferred that wfm happened way before covid19 and poor governance messed up our country. The wfm arrangement I envisioned entailed working on my pace, while still abiding with deadlines.  Problem is, not all colleagues can make it happen. Added to this, even friends from other companies are complaining of undefined working hours.

I always thought that wfm is leaning to output based arrangement. Apparently, there are unexpected concerns. I thought conflicts and politics will be lessened. Turns out, another set of struggles come along the way.

I still have a lot in my mind I wish to share. But my thoughts are all scattered. In another post, I’ll probably write what I have learned from this crisis.

Quarantine Chronicles # 2

When the community quarantine in my country started, I thought I would be fine. I will work from home, submit my outputs and continue receiving my salary. I thought everything will be simple and easy. As days progressed, all the worries and struggles started to escalate.

Back in April, my superior gave a major task. It will be my first attempt to prepare this critical document. It took me several days to gather my working pace. As usual, I work from night till dawn. I submitted my output, my superior accepted and I thought, it was mission accomplished. As days progressed, issues emerged. I had no choice, I shrugged it off and moved on. There were other concerns to attend.

Soon enough, I discovered problems within my department. It was my first time to hire. I trusted someone believing that the person was competent to fulfill the responsibilities. Turns out, I planted another problem. Both skills and work attitude were problematic. It was a tough decision. On top of this global crisis, I will remember 2020 as the first time I hired and fired someone.

Meanwhile, another colleague remains unreachable. The last time I heard from her was April 18. I exhausted all means to reach out. I even asked a former colleague, who lives within her place, to check her condition. I learned her family was fine. I just can’t understand why she refuses to send a single SMS. I’ve done my part. I respected her silence.

A few more weeks, my employer implemented cost savings measures. Everyone was forced to use their leave credits. Non-tenured employees experienced reduction in their salaries. I heard complaints and other stories from colleagues. The tensions and worries were becoming stronger.

In between struggles, my sanity is saved by friends. I’m thankful for friends who made their presence felt, albeit online. Facebook Messenger has become my sanity platform. I wouldn’t survive half of the past 65 days without them.

On top of work, there’s also my growing worries about my family. I don’t wish anything grand for my family. The fact that everyone is healthy and I have the means to support them is more than enough. Though admittedly, I have worries for myself. What will happen to me when they are all gone? If my parents and brother gets hospitalized. I keep imagining the worst, which only contributes to my level of unnecessary stress.

It may sound petty but minor concerns such as the sweltering weather did not contribute anything good. My work from home devices are overheating. Purchasing another electric fan does not solve the problem. Fellow Filipinos knew how electric fans work during the summer season. It emits an equally irritating heated air. As much as I want to purchase an air-conditioning unit, resources do not permit. Likewise, it’s inconvenient to find someone, who will install the unit. I bought an air cooler instead. I was pretty contented except that the expensive device started malfunctioning as I type this post. Phew! I hope it doesn’t totally malfunction. I even wrote a great review in my other blog. In a few weeks, lengthy zoom meetings will start again. The air cooler is my petty source of comfort. 😦 Also, I think my wfm arrangement will continue till the end of the year. This air cooler is my only investment for that much needed comfort.

More than health concerns, the economic implication of the global crisis has become the common struggle of both government and private sectors. Companies are losing earnings. When the national government announced the one-month quarantine, I was fully aware of its economic effects. Though in my mind, one month is a manageable time frame for everyone. Unfortunately, we are hitting 60 days. I knew a businesses resorted on the most drastic measure of closure. I hope the few businesses I patronize will never cease operations.

Some businesses tried their best to impose survival measures. I appreciate companies finally embracing e-commerce in a short span of time. Some established brands even sell via Facebook. Restaurants shifted to deliveries. I’m quite amazed on how businesses are responding to generate sales. But these actions only qualify for the reactive phase. In times like this, broader strokes and long term actions are direly needed.

This crisis has diverted everything. Plans, decisions and outlook in life. It’s day 60+ in the Philippines. Wuhan had it for 76 days. I thought Philippines will be better. I thought we can address this in a span of one month. Sadly, it looks like Philippines will exceed the lockdown period of the place that started everything.

ECQ Chronicles # 1

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How do I describe life these days?

My quarantine story started several days earlier. The City Government of Manila decided to suspend all classes for a week. Admittedly,  I considered this as a blessing. I have been chasing deadlines since January. I sleep at most, two hours everyday. Added to this, I have pending reports, which always get interrupted at work. Calls, meetings and other urgent concerns. I can’t seem to get my working pace in the day. I took the suspension as a much welcomed opportunity to work in the comforts of home.

I stayed at home for several days. I planned to go out and attend to some errands on weekends. But Thursday came, my social media accounts were flooded with advanced reports of a possible lockdown in Metro Manila. I felt alarmed so I forced myself to go out and have an unplanned grocery shopping. Much to my surprise, everyone shared my reaction. Everyone flocked the supermarkets, hoarded canned goods, instant noodles and other necessities. What was usually an hour of errand took me five hours. I booked a Grab Car and was able to reach home before the President made his Official Announcement.

It started as a community quarantine, became enhanced community quarantine (ecq). No one was prepared, not even the government. Hence, it’s not a surprise that everything came so disorganized. What caught my attention was fellow employees stuck in military check points. Since most employees work and live in different cities, most of them cannot reach home. Added to this, the government implemented a curfew. Not all companies dismissed their employees before the government’s proclamation. Since everyone rushed home, availability of public transportation and traffic worsened. I feel fortunate because I never had to undergo all these inconveniences. I felt grateful, but worried for fellow members of the working class.

There are contractual employees under no work no pay arrangements. There are BPO employees still required to report for work. Same goes with employees from the healthcare industry, supermarkets, military personnel, banks and food manufacturing companies. Most of them depend on public transportation. Not everyone has their own car. On the succeeding days, I heard stories of employees having to walk and cross several cities to report for work.  I’m worried for senior citizens living on their own.  Some of them are financially capable. Some of them have means that can only afford their daily needs. How can they support themselves? In some cities, senior citizens are not even allowed on public places. I also remember a fellow Grab Share passenger. She lives on her own and completing her series of chemotherapy sessions. She depends on Grab for her hospital check ups. I keep wondering how is she coping now.  There are also the informal sector workers, who depend on foot traffic for their livelihood.  Their means can only afford their daily needs are suddenly, taken away.  I have entrepreneur friends forced to stop their operations. As much as they’d like to provide for their employees, they are likewise faced with financial constraints.

My list of worries goes on. I settle with the best I can do, stay home and continue whatever work I can contribute. The school where I work for was considerate enough to continue paying our full salaries. The least I can offer is to return with good service, by continuing my reports. Everything seemed to be working well. I have supportive and responsive colleagues from other offices. Unfortunately, it’s a different story within my own department. I’ll write this on a separate post. But really, this is testing my patience.

I still have stories to relate, a lot…. I’ll take this unexpected break to write again.

 

Forced Farewell

Almost 10 years in the same office

8 years of living in the same workstation

Before the last quarter of 2010, I received an offer to move to another office. Same workplace, different department. At that time, I had no clear plans of leaving the workplace. I just finished my masteral studies and was starting to take part time teaching stints. With the way things are going, I’m most likely to transition to teaching for a better career. But life made other plans, I accepted an offer to move from research to strategic planning.

It was the company’s first attempt to establish a stand alone strategic planning team. With the leadership of my superior, we were able to establish a two-member planning team. We built the office and expanded by adopting another function. We added another colleague and till the end, our office spearheaded a corporate responsibility work with a three-man team.

I thought I had everything from our office. I had my lowest points, which started in 2015.  I began to develop frustrations. I felt sad. I felt pathetic. I wanted to escape. I struggled accomplishing my tasks, while battling all my sadness and disappointments. Like any other employee, I made all means to survive. This included having discrete efforts of looking for employment opportunities. Nothing optimistic prospered. After a year of job search, I stopped and gradually conditioned myself that I’m meant to stay in my stagnant post. I should be contented with my current position, even if it meant the absence of career growth.

In order to cope with my career growth struggles, I entertained myself on weekends and started to build opportunities outside my day job. Freelance works came as a dual blessing. It diverted me from all my frustrations. It gravitated my self worth. I found a creative outlet for my other interests. Best of all, it gave me the opportunity to earn additional income.

On the summer of 2019, something disheartening happened. I will spare details for may safety and sanity. It’s not yet the best time to relate my story.  The best I can reveal, I was forced to battles I never wanted.

On June 2019, I was taken out of my comfort zone. I took the position of leading the humble Office we started.

It’s career growth and advancement. It means additional income for my family. It’s a good opportunity to save and settle all my debts. I have all the best reasons to embrace the new job offer. Most people will never understand my sentiments. I never wanted the post. I never imagined to get promoted. I don’t see myself in the leadership. But there are things beyond my control. I took the helm and forcefully embraced all the battles that came with it.

People who don’t know my real side of the story were quick to create their version of my story. They thought I took advantage and benefited. They thought I’m enjoying my time. But deep inside, all I wanted was to return to my stagnant post. It made me realize, having silence, stillness and being unnoticed is pure bliss.

Fast forward today, I hired a colleague out of necessity. With the new colleague on board I wrapped up my 8-year stay in that humble workstation.

I’m overpowered with emotions. And while I wrestle with everything inside me, I have works to accomplish. I have deadlines to beat. I have debts to pay. I have a future to prepare. I have aging parents and a special brother fully dependent on me.

I was about to leave, I can’t help but look my post in the last 8 years.

I just wish to return to the good old days. I wish everything was simpler. I wanted my quiet life back.

At the expense of another

A few hours ago, I encountered a post from another blogger. The blogger narrated how she survived an anxiety attack in the middle of this festive and stressing season. Her parting statements included a call for everyone to be kind to anyone they encounter … be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

I don’t have any intention to disagree. Everyone deserves kindness.

Unfortunately, I also have an experience to relate. In as much as I’m more than willing to show kindness and render extended patience, I have been a casualty of people suffering (or claiming to suffer) from anxiety, depression and psychological related illnesses.

One of my core tasks at the workplace is to generate customer feedback reports. Every year, I compile complaints, suggestions, commendations and ratings made by customers on all feedback mechanisms. The report is later distributed to the respective department heads.

Unfortunately, there’s this department head who feels violated every time the report is released. This department head regularly calls my attention, especially when negative feedback is contained in the report. The worst encounter happened early this year. There was one comment that questioned her capacity to head a unit. She was an engineer by education and heads a department dealing with performing arts. In the latter part of the comment, the feedback insinuated the back story behind her appointment. Turns out, the customers believed that she illegally ousted the previous head.

Whatever story is behind this, it’s no longer my concern. My responsibility is limited on administering, compiling and generating customer feedback report. My task should have been simple. Unfortunately, some people like this department head, prefers to make everything complicated. If they receive a positive feedback, they rejoice, brag and celebrate. But when things become messy, like some negative feedback happens, they start to pass the blame on other people.

I’ve received information from colleagues that this department head is suffering from depression. Some mentioned she has a bipolar disorder. Some said, it’s mere anxiety. I heard another colleague saying it’s alcohol dependency.

While I can always offer additional patience and understanding to this department head,  I also have my  limits. It’s not like I’m the mentally healthier person, who will always tolerate her episodes and issues. I also have my own mental and emotional well being. I’m afraid I’m giving other people an impression of how I should be treated. That I’m always the person willing to accept the blame. I’ll end up as her pathetic scapegoat.

If such principle will be followed, where is the claim that the organization is promoting a culture of healthy well being? In a way, what the department head has been doing to me and my other colleagues is downright bullying. When you can’t accept your fault, pass it on another person. How distressing. While some people can easily express their “attitude” and use their psychological state as an excuse, especially those in authority, the subordinates are always left as silent casualties.

… because we wanted to understand and save a person suffering from a psychological illness, we end up harming the quiet, patient and much mature individuals