Embracing the new: Working from home

Syazwani Hj Rosli

As an effort to curb the spread of the global pandemic COVID-19, more and more companies and organisations are adopting a work-from-home policy for their employees and the sudden shift has brought various pros and cons.

In an interview with the Bulletin, a local administrative worker who declined to be named said working from home over the last couple of weeks has been quite an experience.

His work involves social interaction and ever since the current COVID situation, he believes that a portion of other employees are also trying to adapt to this new working environment. For him, working from home is still new.

“In terms of productivity, I would have to admit that it is low. As the current situation is affecting the whole world, both government and private sectors (businesses) are directly affected. Since my work scope also involves public interaction and outreach, my supervisor and I have agreed to move to the virtual world – social media,” he said.

“Therefore, I am now catching up in exploring new applications such as WhatsApp Web, Zoom, Skype and Google Drive. These are actually existing apps, but were less used in the past. So this new work routine is encouraging me to explore new skills and using new technology to be able to do my work,” he continued.

In his opinion, working from home is not for everyone and he believes that it should be staggered as there are other essential items or tasks that need to be completed at an office or work site.

“While the Internet and availability of technology is encouraging people to maintain productivity, additional costs are sometimes involved. For example, the need to buy more data for Internet connection; to upgrade devices to enable teleconferencing,” he said, noting that not everyone has the latest iPhones or hi-spec Android phones, so audio and camera limitations are still there.

On the first two days of working from home, he did his work in his bedroom but started to feel suffocated and later had to recreate a personal professional working space.

“My family’s living room is now turned into a working space for my siblings for their schoolwork and my work,” he said.

In regards to meetings and conferences, his office is now using Zoom and Skype applications and, prior to doing so, he has to check that home broadband’s Internet connectivity will not be on throttled. Otherwise, he said, it will slow down important work meetings and conferences.

As a backup, he often stands by his mobile phone to use data connectivity. He also checks his data consumption more frequently than before and said anxiety is always involved.

Talking about the challenges of working from home, he emphasised on the mental and physical health challenges.

“It can induce anxiety with the extra preparations required. Additionally, home is supposed to be a relaxing space or stress-free zone. I practice a strict work-home balance, where I never brought home any work. So with this new working from home routine, it is new and I have no choice but to quickly adapt to it,” he said.

“I have no problem in physical health issues. But as this might go on for a longer period and the lack of exercises might be a concern such as weight gain,” he said.

“This is also a concern for senior colleagues, as being at home is discouraging physical activities and leading to things such as emotional overeating and more screen time,” he added. He admitted that he does love the flexible working hours but still needed human interaction when it comes to work, as his tasks involve getting colleagues’ perspectives.

“However, I do empathise with colleagues with family members or children to take care of while working from home,” he said.

“To other employees who are working from home, I have no advice as I am also trying to adapt to it. But if I were to remind myself, I would say that this is going to be temporary and the hardships will pass. Not just the stress from working from home but also the anxiety of COVID-19 and taking care of our own health too,” he shared.

Another employee, who also wished to remain anonymous, works in the IT field. As a mother of a young baby,

she sees that working from home basically involves working, babysitting and cooking for the people at home.

“Our company has just started this work from home policy, so basically I’m still adjusting because the baby becomes needier and clingier than before. He cries more for me and diaper changes are more frequent. Every morning I would have to prepare everything for him first before I can start my work from home,” she said.

However, she believes that working from home is a good thing because of the emphasis on social distancing and the concept of staying at home. She believes that these are ways in helping to curb the spread of the virus. “Having a young child to take care of, I firmly believe that this work from home is good for those with families because this provides a higher chance of not getting infected. We (employees) are thankful that our company has given us the trust that we are still able to perform, be productive and to get our job done on time,” she added.

For meetings and teleconferencing, she said that it is not new for her and her company as they often conduct video conferencing between countries in the region.

When asked about the challenge of working from home, she shared that it includes having to take care of her baby 24/7 and still having to work.

“It really drains my energy. This is no vacation. Juggling work on top of childcare is becoming a new reality for many of us mothers, I believe. I cannot imagine those who have many kids but for me, just one kid is already an overwhelming challenge.”

Among the challenges are Wi-Fi and connectivity issues.

Meanwhile, when there is a need to print out agreements or documents she said that she still has to physically come to the office to print them out for the management to sign. “In my field of work, printing cannot be done at home due to the restriction in IT security policy that disables any unauthorised connection to non-office hardware,” she said.

Overcoming the challenges, she shared, is still a struggle as she balances work and caring her baby. However, when it comes to Wi-Fi problems, she said that communication or discussions can still be made through WhatsApp and calls alternatively.

What she loves most about working from home is the flexibility for her to spend more time with her baby.

“I can now monitor my baby closely. He is always close to me whenever I do my work. This work from home concept can also save money because now I save cost in transportation and takeaway food. I have more time to cook for lunch and dinner so no more take outs, lunch outs or even eat outs,” she said.

She recommended for mothers who are currently in the same situation as her to plan their work schedules and to take shorter breaks for their children and often update their reports on time.

“As many of us are living with our parents or in-laws and some of our spouses are also working from home, we can get support from them to look after our children for a while as we do our work especially for teleconferencing, video conference, meetings and such,” she said. Personally, she still prefers to be out working so she can give her work full concentration and attention without interruptions.

“Parents can’t be online at all times because most of us have kids to take care of but work still needs to be done. Just try to balance both. Seek support and help. Insya Allah your work from home will be much easier,” she added.