Geetika Datta On the other side of the work-from-home culture December 7, 2020 https://www.nakedtruth.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/On-the-other-side-of-work-from-home-culture.jpg

This year hasn’t been easy. 2020 came and hit the world like a big wave, and just when we learnt to regain our balance, on came another wave. And another. And another. And so many more, we stopped keeping count.

2020 — the year of COVID-19. A brand new virus, unknown, unheard of, that came and shook the world. Oh, and, it’s not over as yet! As we cross a year since the first case in Wuhan was reported, I sit here thinking back at how the year has panned out for me.

On the eve of the start of the national lockdown in India, my friends and I gathered for a get-together at home. Of course, we stood in a line and took turns washing our hands, sat at safe distances from each other, while we munched on pizza and played Taboo. Little did any of us know that the very next day would be the start of something no one we knew had ever experienced — a total lockdown.

Fast forward to a few days later, social media was bursting with people crying out in boredom. Just the thought of being unable to step out of the house even for a little fresh air, not seeing a single soul apart from the ones at home, being forced into a completely different routine, that too within the confines of one’s home, and the sheer terror of mistakenly coming in contact with a Covid-positive person, held everyone captive.

VoIP apps became some of the most used softwares the world over, and newer apps flew into the market, connecting people over platforms that enabled multi-user video calling while playing board games digitally, and so much more. The world started to adapt to a new way of living and working, and work from home became the new norm. So much so that most IT companies declared indefinite work from home plans, to everyone’s dismay.

Meanwhile, in stark contrast, I was loving every bit of the lockdown. You see; I live alone and work six days a week, and that leaves me with very little time to catch up on household chores, and also on some much needed rest. So, while I was putting in many more hours of work from home than usual, I was also able to make some time for regular workouts, cooking healthy meals, and getting enough sleep.

And lo and behold! My skin cleared up, I became more alert and energetic, and to my surprise even lost some weight! My jawline looked more defined, for crying out loud! And in spite of all this, I even managed to make time to talk to my family and friends regularly, so loneliness didn’t get the better of me. As an introvert who craves alone time, I was living my best life. This was my ideal living and working situation. I didn’t even need to step out for groceries, because I’d stocked up on basic staples at the right time.

But then came the month of May, which brought with it a partial reopening of several sectors, including private companies with a third of the workforce at any given time. While IT companies stuck to having their employees work from home, my office decided to reopen immediately. Arrangements for safe practices were put into place, and pickups for all employees were arranged for. An email with a roster was sent out after office hours, and we were expected to turn up within 14 hours’ time. This is at a time when most people didn’t even have masks or gloves at home. Social distancing and washing of hands were the only precautions given out before the Janta Curfew, which was followed by the lockdown, and buying masks, let alone ordering them online, was near impossible if one hadn’t ventured out for essentials.

Long story short, working at office began in full force. Picking us up from all over town and dropping us back home allowed us time to work only about 6-7 hours on-site, yet it was made mandatory. Attendance was at a hundred percent. That’s all that mattered. What’s more? The company opened up a laboratory for testing of the virus in the very building where we worked. Business boomed. We provided a service that was the need of the hour.

But, why me? I thought. Why just me when the whole world gets to stay home, stay safe?

It was now my turn to crib to my friends. While they complained about being stuck at home, I countered that with not being able to stay home. My healthy habits went out the window and I regained the weight I’d lost. And let’s face it; travelling by public transport and being amidst even one’s own colleagues is scary in these times. A bunch of people at work did test positive too, and were duly quarantined. Don’t even get me started on how I panicked. In fact, a friend at work hung out near my desk for a good few minutes and tested positive the very same day. Yikes!

But all in all, there’s a lot I am grateful for. My company has been conducting regular Covid screening for all employees, it was refreshing to see auto-rickshaws put up a clear plastic screen between the driver and the passenger, and the introvert in me thanks the world for normalising social events being conducted over the web. I may have also mastered the art of taking precautions.

I also understand that apart from the need for regular human contact, working from home also impacted many people’s work setting. While one’s work may not have suffered per se, building interpersonal relationships with colleagues or simply maintaining them may have been difficult for a lot of people. And apart from us privileged few, the lockdown sure brought with it a plethora of other problems, like the spike in domestic violence cases, restricted medical care and accessibility, pay cuts, and sadly, the loss of thousands of jobs.

So while I’m here cribbing about my situation, I am not ignorant to the plight of so many others around the world. I’m grateful for still having a job, my health, and for the short period of time I got to experience my kind of happiness.

Cover Image from iStock by Getty Images.

Avatar for Geetika Datta

Scientific researcher in-the-making, but writing is what captures my heart. Highly opinionated one moment, freakishly diplomatic the very next. Jack of all trades, master of, well, at least some (I'd like to believe). Headstrong and an eleutheromaniac, I'm on the perpetual journey to self discovery.

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