Life (and lies) in the Time of Quarantine
It has been a little over 90 days since the country-wide lockdown. We are all in some social and self-quarantine; under house arrest, badgered with domestic drudgery and of course, living farcical life of delightful work from home. This pretty much sums up my quarantine life.
But I still have a job… yes, and yes, I consider myself to be among the privileged few who earns a salary, albeit at a 25% pay cut (and robbed of my hard-earned incentives), at the end of the month.
The quarantine life is not at all what I imagined. Heck, I never thought I'd be without options. Living in Mumbai, I'd never thought I would have to plan so much and stay indoors not because I don't want to step out but because I am not allowed to do so for my own safety!
Okay, staying home and social distancing is the right thing to do so ignore me and my ranting.
No place to go – no fancy dinners, no long drives, no walks in the park or by the seaside, or anything at all. Arrgghh such first world problems! And there's the whole work from home situation. It’s quite the soup we have all got ourselves into, right? I had talked myself into an imaginary routine where I wouldn't have to brave the traffic or wake up early to cook food for the tiffin. I made mental notes on how much money I would save thanks to zero travel and how I would finally discipline myself and maybe even practice Yoga. What a buttload of crap 😐
I had even dedicated a post on The Privilege of Boredom! But I guess I spoke too soon ☹
In fact, such is the chaos that, at the moment, I don't think I ever want to work from home in the future. We went into this lockdown, thinking it will be a lark – there wasn't going to be much work as businesses had come to a standstill nor would coordination be required. Therefore, there would be ample 'me time'. Clearly, this loss of personal time has hit me hard, and the amount of work coming my way is insane. It is as if the company I work for has arisen from the dead and wants to ensure each moment of their new life is exciting!
The worst bit of the lockdown and working from home is that there is no boundary between professional and personal time. 'Arre ghar pe hee ho, yeh bhi karlo' is the current attitude. Work calls spill over into the late evening and even late nights. In fact, there have been days where I have worked for 36 hours straight! Yes, I know I have myself to blame to agree with this rubbish… but then papi pet ka sawal hai, right? WRONG. In short, working from home is the dumbest idea ever. I mean, who the hell invented this concept?
And this is not something I conjured out of thin air. This mental and emotional fatigue, even a burnout is common for many people like me. For having a job in such a trying time, we have signed over our lives to the corporations. Still not convinced that work from home isn't such a bad idea?
Here are four insights I have gained in the past three months –
#1 You Cannot Catch a Break
Yeah. Your commute hours to work and back made up your precious' me time'. It helped you end the workday at a particular time and detach from your professional commitments. At the moment, working from home means that with no travel and staying put, you are always available. 'Call pe hee toh join karna hai…" so you can do this while you cook, have tea or even wash clothes!
P.S. Weekends are working too. After all, you are at home so you can do something, na?
#2 Zero Social Life
Okay, the quarantine leaves us with no choice for socialising as it is a big NO. But even if you are living with your partner or parents at home, you may not get enough quality time with them thanks to WFH! It's like you are there but aren't really there… get my drift? Like the other day, when my mother called me, I told her I would call back as my work call was about to start. This was at 8:30 PM in the evening. She was obviously upset.
#3 Lack of Motivation
Before the lockdown, however busy my workday seemed to be, I always looked forward to going to work. I looked forward to meeting my colleagues, to share a few laughs over coffee and brainstorm on new ideas. Yes, zoom calls or Google hangouts are the new norms, but frankly, nobody seems to give a fig anymore. The motivation levels have fallen, and a revival will need a miracle as the lockdown seems endless right now.
#4 Fragmented Coordination
Perhaps the most important and challenging point. When at work, getting the entire team to sit in a room and work on a specific project is possible and very much doable. But expecting the same level of coordination, especially when dealing with different individuals and their parts in the project, is a mighty task and how! I experienced this coordination gap acutely when we (my team of writers and graphic designers) were working on magazine design. There was too much back and forth, internet issues and much more. The final corrections on the artwork and text took over seven days!
#5 Just too Many Work Calls
Yeah. I feel stupid as I can't seem to harp enough about work calls! I hate them. It's not like I don't want to catch up, debate, discuss or even argue (yes, it does come to that!), it is just that there are way too many calls happening. This hampers productivity and saps out all the energy really.
Okay, I had said four, but here are five points. I am sure there are many more insights experienced by other people. What I really hate but has become a norm is that we are all taken for granted and the worst bit is that we have let ourselves be taken for granted!
Bonus – the current work from home situation is like an ongoing expectation vs reality meme. Expectations are always whimsical and far, really far from reality. So here are a few things that went downhill really quick –
#1 Expectation: Tasty homecooked food
Fact: Swiggy or Zomato orders a day thrice
#2 Expectation: A beautiful, neat and clean house
Fact: Living with cobwebs, overflowing sink and an untouched laundry basket
#3 Expectation: Chores equally divided between the husband and me
Fact: I, arms deep in soapy suds at the sink while the husband demanding more snacks as he enjoys Tiktok videos
#4 Expectation: Completing work in 6-7 hours than the designated 9 hours as we are home with free weekends!
Reality: What workday? All 24 hours are working hours! 😐
#5 Expectation: A fit body thanks to daily Yoga and home exercises
Reality: Hello quarantine belly and thunder thighs!
Thank you for reading my seemingly never-ending rant. If you'd like to share some of your thoughts on working from home, please free to leave a comment!