Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By An Phương
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown our lives into disarray and many locals are trying to navigate what makes work "work".
Working from home has been the “new normal” for many HCM City residents during lockdowns, including myself. I've been working from home for several months straight.
Even though I’m not a stranger to this work mode, I can’t help but feel unmotivated sometimes. Looking around, I’ve realised that many friends of mine are having similar struggles.
Nam Tô, 30, told me that, as a banker, he has to perform the same amount of workload every day, compared to when social distancing rules had not been applied.
“Working from home doesn’t guarantee less work, at least in the industry that I’m in. My morning starts at 9am and my day ends at 6pm with multiple calls from clients and colleagues during the day,” Nam said.
“I’m currently planning for future programmes which will be immediately implemented when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. At the same time, I have to revise and update new changes for ongoing programmes to my bank card users. It’s quite tough when all communication is done online, and I’m so used to offline interactions with my colleagues!” he added.
I believe that many of us might have taken daily face-to-face communication for granted. As a person who mostly goes outside during the day, I can’t help but feel “trapped” these days.
I initially thought the similar workload perhaps would make a difference as it would keep me busy and I wouldn't have time for any negative thoughts. However, it has been nothing like that.
Xuân Nguyễn, 28, has experienced the same, telling me that perhaps it was the repeated exposure to unfortunate news that has partly created negative feelings.
“Compared to the last lockdown, everything has been so surreal this year, with increasing cases of infections and deaths reported on the news every day. I’m extremely worried as my mom is over 65 years old and has high blood pressure and diabetes,” Xuân said.
“Despite how uneasy it may feel, I told myself to work to secure a healthy lifestyle for my mom. I’m no longer motivated by the joy of working but to provide the best for my family members,” she added.
How Xuân has directed her energy to something realistic and warm has really inspired me. During this difficult time, having a secure income is a blessing for a better future.
Xuân is currently working as a graphic designer and art director at a local clothing company.
With regards to productivity and work efficiency, another friend of mine, Thảo Trần, 28, is trying to figure out ways to work effectively these days.
After settling with ourselves mentally, it’s crucial to think about how to deliver all tasks smartly to avoid putting more pressure on ourselves as we are under a lot of stress, Thảo told me.
“It can’t be denied that most of us have the flexibility to work at our own pace during days at home. While many start their day at 8am, others choose 11am or even after lunch to open up their laptops," she said.
“I’ve trained myself to complete most assigned tasks within three hours, between 9am to 12pm, have lunch, and work for another hour before spending my afternoon learning Chinese or practising yoga. Allocating specific time for work has helped, big time, especially after I successfully made it a habit," Thảo added.
I’ve tried Thảo’s method with discipline and loved it so far! I’m able to put myself into a “zone” with energy reserved to only spend on work. I’ve come to love the flexibility and realised that work doesn’t have to span the whole day.
“As long as we work smart, we will have time to nurture our mental self, which has been on the edge these days,” Thảo said.
Nam, who has to be available and online for most of the day, always takes the initiative to finish all pending tasks in an effort to lift the “burden” when emergency tasks come up.
“That way, I have better control of my day. I usually spend the time in between work to catch up on other hobbies,” he added.
None of us are certain of the future and what work will look like, but we are trying to find a balance, which has become crucial, especially on gloomy days like these.
COVID-19 hasn’t just changed the way we perform our jobs but it has also kickstarted a broader push to rethink the world of work. VNS