I’ve been a freelancer for a couple of years now, and working from home a.k.a. WFH has always been the best thing about it for me. That’s also partly why, when the quarantine started, I was very chill about it. Imagine: no more traveling through the annoying EDSA traffic, no more exorbitant Grab fees, and no more meetings that go on for hours on end.
It sounds petty—and it is, compared to the millions of people whose lives were pretty much crushed by the pandemic—but Covid-19 absolutely ruined WFH me.
Work hours were a concept that I did not have as a freelancer. But it got even worse amid the pandemic. Why is it that suddenly, everyone felt I was doing nothing all the time? Was I just lounging around in my pajamas all day? Yes. But was I lounging around with nothing to do? Uhm, no!
Nothing really changed. Work was still work. Deadlines were still deadlines. If I had extra time on my hands now, that’s because I wasn’t spending it idle on EDSA traffic or going to the gym or lining up to get a bowl of steaming hot ramen from Margugame Udon. It was extra time that was not dedicated to work anyway!
And that kind of mentality, that “everyone has time now” mentality, gave clients and bosses this idea that I can do everything they need me to accomplish with a snap of their fingers. Everything became ASAP since “you’re not busy anyway, right?”
It’s not just the hours that became blurred between work and rest; it’s also the space inside my home. If you’re a person renting in Metro Manila, you may be relating to my problem with lack of space. I live in a small studio-type apartment, where I can reach everything within an arm’s length. So that meant if I worked on my desk, I also ate and played and chilled out on that desk.
Setting work and rest delineations is very important in your home, so you can switch between your “work mode” and “rest mode.” But if you have no space or furniture to do that, well, that sucks. Not everyone is living in a huge home in Forbes Park, with a nice garden to relax in or a home office to work in.
Many would also relate to the productivity boost that working in a co-working space or coffee shop gives. You get inspired by everyone who’s clickety-clacking on their laptops, the smell of coffee, the great ambiance—it’s a productivity royale like no other.
But with our fave places still closed for tambay because of the pandemic, there’s no such thing as a “change of pace or scenery.” You’re just stuck with whatever window or wall you’re facing at home. You’re stuck with your crappy internet that you can’t fix because “all customer service representatives are busy at the moment.” And for some reason, my homemade coffees just don’t hit the same spot that overpriced lattes do.
Working from home as a single person is bad enough; imagine doing it when you’re juggling a family.
Issa Reyes, a professional organizer and the person behind the online brand Neat Obsessions, is a good friend of mine and their house is amazing! I always tell her it must be such joy to work from her home because it’s such a beautiful, neat, and organized home. But even she has troubles with the work-from-home setup: especially because her kids are also at a learn-from-home setup.
With school already in full swing for her three kids, Issa says she had to stop accepting clients for a full week to help ensure that her kids had her full attention. But even that wasn’t enough, and there’s still so many challenges to tackle and so much work that needs to be done.
“I’m super grateful that there is still work available even if we’re staying at home, and that I can attend to my kids whenever they need me. But sometimes, there’s too much effort needed to ensure that my kids really understand their lessons on top of my work. And I should be on a constant look out especially during online meetings, because there’s a lot of bickering, playing, shouting going on in the house—not to mention the kids popping up in the monitor in the middle of a call!” Issa tells me, and immediately, the image of her beautiful angels just popping behind her as she tries to conduct an online seminar makes me laugh.
But these challenges are no laughing matter. Juggling all these things is no laughing matter. Because even though we try to navigate life and continue on with our work, we are in the middle of a national health crisis—months and months of it.
I, myself, have lost a lot of work during the pandemic, and trying to deal with the anxiety that that it has brought on me as I cover workload after workload is mentally and emotionally exhausting.
I have seen countless of my friends lose work, my family members grieving over the loss of lives, and so many Filipinos suffering and relying on donations to get by every single day. All this anxiety weighs down on my heart, but I push all of the thoughts away as I type relentlessly on my laptop, ticking off one to-do list after another.
Job hunting, working tirelessly, starting new businesses—we’re all adapting, we’re all desperately trying to make it out of this pandemic alive.
This is why even though WFH has been completely ruined for me, I’ve decided to take a grateful perspective, and trust that whatever I’m doing is enough.