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.

A tribute to my Hometown

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A few weeks ago, I took a leave from work to attend some personal errands. I’m thankful that everything can be accomplished within my hometown. I finished everything in less than a day. This is a much welcomed surprise, especially since I dealt with some government agencies. No long lines, waiting area is convenient and employees are accommodating.

In the course of transferring from one government agency to another, I found myself navigating places within my hometown. I didn’t mind the humid afternoon and wasn’t bothered with the threats of afternoon rain showers. I enjoyed my time walking around the city. My hometown is classified as a city, but much of it is a quiet residential community. I love its suburbs atmosphere. The city market offers the best and affordable produce. It’s a walkable city. Sidewalks are clean and wide. The roads are also clean and houses sufficient pedestrian lanes. Street lights are working and friendly people, especially those working in the barangay, are deployed for everyone. It’s easy to ask for directions. Safety is not a problem. You don’t need to own a car. Cheap, convenient and disciplined tricycle drivers are everywhere. The city is either not populated or has more than enough space to accommodate dwellers.

It’s not hard to love my hometown. Everything you need to survive is here, except for a high paying job. Unfortunately…. Unlike nearby cities like Pasig, Taguig and Quezon City, high rise buildings are a rare sight. There are only two Starbucks branches. We have several supermarkets, but no gigantic shopping malls. We have one small branch of SM, which you can navigate in less than 30 minutes. There’s only one BPO company operating. Most jobs are found in banks, City Hall, Basic Education schools, small restaurants and the few private companies. We still have a number of shoe factories, but most are operating as medium scale enterprise. The large companies producing shoes are already operating on 70% importation. Sad to say though, jobs here are quite limited. However, I would like to believe that it’s a haven for starting entrepreneurs. Rent is relatively cheaper and transactions with government agencies are fast and convenient.

As soon as I finished my errands, I decided to spent the afternoon walking around the city. Everything felt refreshing. I didn’t realize this will be a great breather. I felt safe and at peace. I wish I could held on to this for the remaining weeks or months. But I have another life away from home. I have a day job in Manila. I need to be away everyday, travel and spent time in traffic and join the thousands to millions of fellow members of the workforce to earn a decent living.

It suddenly occurred to me, I wish I can find a job within my hometown. It’s the same job I have in the city. Same pay, same stress, except that I’m conveniently housed in my peaceful hometown.

After three months

I haven’t updated this blog for three months. I attempted to maintain a blog post each month. I have thoughts waiting to be written. Unfortunately, I will get distracted as soon as I logged in. Either one of my social media accounts will generate an interesting notification. I will remember a bill I need to settle online. A pending task needs to be accomplished. I feel too tired and sleepy to blog. The more prevalent excuse, I have nothing positive to share. I feel that I’m bound to make another sad and pathetic post. True enough, much of my sentiments still deal with my career struggles, financial concerns, and aging.

I’m trying to recall anything good that happened on the last two months. But as always, the negative events dominate me. Failed job applications, lost interest in job hunting, hopelessness on my current work, hiding behind an image of positivity and enthusiasm every time I teach, debts, people who took advantage, weight problems and lost friendships.

On the positive side, I discovered real friendships that surpassed the test of time, distance and other circumstances. I freed myself from a burdening investment. I’m still with my family. I remain healthy, even when I stepped on the border of obesity. If there’s any consolation with my worklife, my teaching life is good.

With all these experiences, I succumb to the idea of writing some realizations.

  1. Working hard will never be enough. Surviving the workplace entailed surviving a myriad of factors from doing your job well, moderating everyone’s behavior, or to make it simpler, how to play with politics.
  2. You don’t need to give Christmas presents to everyone. But I think I’ve overdone it this year. My excuse, I took the season as an opportunity to thank all the people, mostly colleagues, who helped me accomplished a significant project. I realised that being a good colleague throughout the year is more than enough Christmas gift. People easily forget material stuff. Being a good colleague will always go a long way.
  3. Apart from my immediate working environment, a lot of people / strangers helped me to have a better life throughout the year. The courteous, accommodating and helpful sales personnel I encountered made life better for me. While giving tips are great, I realised that non-monetary rewards also make as great commendations. Sending sincere commendations through customer service survey forms, customer feedback email, or even through the company’s social media accounts. Trust me, it will feel great from your end too.
  4. Part of growing means some of your support system being taken away. In simpler terms, losing friends after discovering their real intentions. Or sometimes, time and distance will change everything.
  5. I’m amazed with colleagues who seem to be loved by everyone. Over time though, I learned that having a few, real and trusted friends mattered more. It’s having people who will love you, even at your worst. Also, I’ve learned to admire colleagues who seem to have a small group of friends over time. They may alienate themselves most of the time, but their years of friendship is beyond amazing.
  6. Some people will always have the talent to make you feel bad. :p I don’t wan’t to further elaborate, but some people can effortlessly ruin our day.
  7. As I grow up, I realised that even the shallowest things can make me happy and feel loved. Handwritten notes, letters and the sincerest personal messages make me feel loved.
  8. Case in point, I think I’m reaching that stage when I don’t care much about gifts or presents. I prefer presence over presents. 🙂 A birthday cake, heart warming message and a hug is more than enough. But don’t get me wrong, I still value gifts because as they say, it’s the thought that counts. I still appreciate the fact that someone took time and effort to buy me a present. I guess more than the gift, I look forward for the sincerity and love that comes with it.
  9. This year, I’ve come to accept that I cannot immediately settle all the lousy debts and financial mess I made. It will entail a number of years to wipe out everything.
  10. I may not be financially stable but I can still enjoy life. There are always blessings that come along the way. I have other reasons to smile.

I guess this post will do for now. I wanted to write more but my thoughts are all scattered. Part of me wants to go to sleep, exercise to perspire and shake off this body ache.

It will be Christmas in a few more hours. Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas! I hope you are surrounded by all the love and warmth from your loved ones.

 

PS Shout out to John who took the time to email me for any update in my blog. 🙂 I used to believe that I’m the only person reading my blog. Hahaha

That unfair job application process at GSIS (Government Service Insurance System)

I never thought of writing this post. Documenting my experience of applying to this government agency.  However, a previous similar post is generating hits in my blog.  I once wrote my degrading experience with Metrobank. I figured out, a lot of people are trying to exploit the internet to secure tips, reviews about job application on particular companies.

I applied at GSIS twice. My first attempt happened three years ago. I browsed their website for careers and saw some vacancies within my field. I submitted my application via email and expected nothing. Months after, I received a response. I was asked to report for an examination. Unfortunately, my first attempt was unsuccessful. While it was a sad experience, I appreciate the agency’s gesture of reaching out to applicants. I was also told that I could reapply after six months.

Two years after, I went for a second chance. I checked the job postings and submitted my application via email. Same old story, I didn’t have high hopes. Two months after, I was surprised with another invitation to take the examination.I conditioned myself not to expect anything. In the middle of a busy work day of March of this year, I received an SMS. I passed the examination. Finally!!!! I was told to wait for further notice, as they will forward my application to the department concerned. Months passed again. It was only around May when I received a second invitation via email. There will be a second leg of pre-employment examination. This time, the examination will be administered by the department that holds the position I’m applying for.

June, July and August passed, I never received any word from the government agency. I took the initiative to send an email. I was feeling optimistic because I was able to satisfactorily answer all the questions. Added to it, the entire examination came in full essay type questions.

Just when your hopes are going up, a sad news will break everything

I received an email containing these words

We have given careful considerations to your application against the criteria we have specified for this position. However, we regret to inform you that on this occasion, you have not been shortlisted for interview.

Pardon my words, wtf!

I just had another case of an organization who doesn’t understand the proper system of recruitment and selection.

First, I was asking for the results of my second examination. I was not told whether I passed or failed. I’m beginning to believe and adhere to the idea that the second examination was designed for nothing. I will later explain how I landed on this conclusion.

Second, “careful considerations to your application against the criteria we have specified for the position.”

If my credentials were not sufficient for the position, I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ASKED TO TAKE THE EXAMINATION.

One does not have to be an HR practitioner to understand this basic principle. You don’t reach out to applicants who are not qualified for the position.  It defeats the purpose of making applicants submit a comprehensive resume and answer a lengthy personal data sheet.

It appears to me that the agency doesn’t really screen applicants. They probably accommodate all applicants for the examination. Those who pass the initial examination will be forwarded to the respective department and voila, same process again. Email and ask everyone to come over for the second leg of the exam.

True enough, I discovered insider information from HR practitioners of other government agencies. Here’s what I learned.

  1. There are government agencies that don’t really screen applicants. They just ask everyone who submitted applications to report for the date of the examination. It’s a stupid practice they have to follow so they have proof / documentation that there was allegedly a fair selection process that happened.
  2. Internal applicants and kins of employees are given favor against external applicants.

Let me tell you the usual scene I experienced when I attended the two examinations. I noticed the the bulk of my fellow examinees are employees of GSIS. They usually arrive together, wore uniforms, have IDS and are being cheered by the employees in the Human Resources Department.  The same went during the second leg of my examination.

The second examination, which was administered by the department that holds my applied position, contained questions that are biased to internal applicants.

I applied for the Corporate Planning Group and was required rank and explain the core values of GSIS. I remember browsing the GSIS website a few days before. I never saw the core values posted. Obviously, the internal applicants have an obvious giveaway advantage. Nevertheless, I tried my best to answer all the “biased” questions.

I don’t think it’s fair to pair internal and external applicants under the same recruitment process and standards. The internal applicants will always have the advantage. If GSIS intends to favor internal applicants, then they should initially offer vacant position to internal applicants. Those that are not filled by internal applicants should become the content of job postings for external applicants. I believe a lot of BPOs in the Philippines implement this practice. They offer junior to manager positions to their internal or existing employees. What is left is later offered to the public. This is also the BPO’s way of giving opportunities for night shift employees to gain the much awaited day job.  Hey GSIS, it’s also  good to benchmark.

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I would like to believe that people currently reading this post are attempting to explore information about GSIS’s job application process. Unfortunately, I was not given the opportunity to reach the interview phase. Hence, my knowledge extends to the “biased” examinations I took. Instead of feeling frustrated, I might as well share the few details I remember.

The first examination I took contained multiple choice questions. I can’t exactly remember if it went from 50 to 100 items. It was a standardized examination developed by the Civil Service Commission.  Topics ranged from vocabulary, reading comprehension, reasoning and mathematics.

For vocabulary, the test evolved on finding the best synonym or antonym for a give word. A few of the words I remembered was woot, contrite…

In the case of reading comprehension and reasoning, I remember being tasked to arrange sentences to formulate a comprehensive paragraph.

For Mathematics, the classic find the missing pattern / values and some word problems were given.  It would be better if you can still read figures in exponential forms, divide and multiply decimals… manually.

Recalling how to solve age, coin, distance and vector problems in Algebra will be of great help as well.  Age problems that goes like, if John is twice as old ad Peter in 10 years and the sum of their ages is 10. What is Peter’s current age. I also remember answering questions about distance, time, speed and vectors.

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My job application to GSIS may not be as worst as my experience with Metrobank. It went bad and frustrating on a different aspect. Bottomline, the playing field was not fair and equal. There are loopholes in their recruitment process.