Normalising the new normal
For how long will I be doing office work plopped in some randomcorner of the house, the rooftop garden or the balcony? For how long will I have meetings in zoom, sitting in my living room?
I miss the office meetings, the bad shingaras, and the salted biscuits.Being able to work from anywhere from the home has lost its novelty for me. I want my office desk, that cumbersome revolving chair, my 'best boss' tea mug, my computer, my files, my meeting people at work, even the bad canteen lunches have never been this missed.
Working from home does have its drawbacks, there is no space for private lives, at the end of the day I don't come back to my cosy bed because now the bed is my office desk. There is no after-office experience, I am working for the office almost every hour of the day, tweaking this, proofing that, arranging food shoots, doing meetings, answering phone callsin the middle of my showers. There is no line between private lives and professional ones. It is taking toll on my psychological health.
Nothing seems interesting, I have cooked, baked, potted plants, cleaned out the refrigerator thrice in five months, cleaned the closet, changed the setting of my rooms and now I am all ready to go back to work, to cafes, to movies, to restaurants, to hold a newspaper in my hand.
I mean we are in the last trimester of the year, and let's be serious, we did adapt with the stressful pandemic; along with the job cut/money loss/health/anxieties that came with it. Our businesses, our stores, restaurants, salons are all facing the lowest possible turnover throughout the year; then there is the uncertainty of the times— like whether or not I will get that dreaded call from HR of being fired or tackling salary cuts.
The past few months have shown me all the things I can live without and very recently showed me the things I cannot do without. I need normalcy in my routine by adapting with the dos and don'ts of the virus.
I have so much to do before the year ends; tying loose ends mainly. But I went around asking friends about how they feel about normalising the new normal? Do they like working from home? Does it affect their private space? How do they see the future?
I am just jotting down their answers for you all to get an idea of what people are thinking generally.
Paula Aziz, Co-founder Gurukul
I don't like working from home for a long period of time. It is better for me to do office as I can concentrate more. As my office is my own business space that I share with my husband, it couldn'tpossibly affect my personal space. I see the future to be normal again in about six months. Perhaps herd immunity is the only way to go about it. What if vaccines don't work, what if you can get it for a second time,what then?But you can't possibly stay home forever.
Munem Wasif, Photographer
I like working from home. But as a visual artist, my work is very site specific. I need to go to a specific location, gather raw material, either to take a photograph or an interview or collect some objects. Without having that real collection, it's very difficult to sit at home and imagine the world outside. I need to experience the world in a tactile manner.
Although we also have to accept the new reality and see what we can do from home. I have started to read books that I have wanted for a long time. And also connect with a lot of colleagues abroad, in different time zones. I guess the pandemic pushes you to look inside, introspect, ask difficult questions about nature and ecology, the world we live in.
I think yes, just being home all time, it affects your physical and psychological space. My son has to attend online school classes. We also have to find our own spaces to concentrate. Otherwise everything overlaps and creates a mess. But a lot of us don't have that privilege.
I don't know if it depends on us as individuals? But we have found new ways to interact, adapt and communicate. The future looks uncertain, I guess we all have to be patient and respect the course of nature.The pandemic is actually going to cause depression in a lot people. And financial stress.
Shamsun Nahar Tarek, CEO, Primocom
I personally believe that this global pandemic has shown us our adaptability in the face of adversity. Working from home started out as a precautionary measure we had to take to ensure our safety while making sure the work did not stop. Getting to spend a lot more time with my family, who themselves are working from home, was certainly an amazing feeling. However, working from home transformed the regular work hours into 16-hour shifts. The perception seems to be that because an agency employee is working from home, they are at work for 24-hours. The weekends have turned into days where clients call in to check for work updates. Though it is a bit difficult, but we have to accept and cope with this situation.
Samina Amin, Banker
In the last six months, we have realised one thing more than ever — there is only one thing constant in life, and that is change. Rest of it is all variable. So, we have to be resilient if we want to survive. Private space is a luxury when the whole humanity is facing the test in the history of time. We need to re-program our minds and re-program our lives. I have always adjusted with what life offers and kept my faith strong. So, no complaints, I just appreciate what I have.
Supriti Sarkar, Communication Officer, NGO
No, I don't like working from home. But I've somewhat adjusted to it now. Yes, it affects my private space. There's no longer a clear distinction between the different roles I have to take on. On any given normal day, there's no time allotment for when I stop being a daughter, sister, employee or wife. My private space is no longer a time for me to wind down, re-charge, or even be able to enjoy the late-night rain shower fully, because work has creeped into every inch of my literal and figurative space in life.
Working from home now means having to establish the new balance. To simultaneously be responsible and meet the demands of both office and home life. This new normal might be great for many who love the idea of working at home in their pyjamas. My reality is that even if I want to, I can't switch off that work button anymore.
Yes, I have saved a tonne on eating out and transport costs but it has come at the cost of burnouts and mental fatigue. This new (ab)normal has already been fully realised by many. But if put in my hands, I would only look at this as a temporary solution to a pandemic. Offices are meant for employees; homes are meant for loved ones.
Kyoko Bhuiyan, Executive, Expressions Social, Expressions ltd
I like working from home but it's a whole lot of adjustment. It's not ideal to be honest when you're working as an executive in an agency doing social work.
I am a social person so I miss interacting with people, but at the end of the day I get to spend lots of times with my dogs and my cat so it's not too bad. As for the future,I think the best way to move forward is to take the best precautions you can and hope that everyone around you is doing it too.
It's a question about trust and respect and people should always take that into consideration. Honestly, wearing masks in Dhaka in general is highly recommended and now more than ever we should practice this 'new normal' which is essentially just normal now. Thanks to the Internet we can do almost everything sitting at home. We should make sure that people have access to that, especially schools and in the rural population. I'm sure us, as humans can persevere and will be able to come out of this pandemic if we all just do the bare minimum as wearing a mask. Also, we have to remember to be kind.
During this time when there's so much to feel bad about, at the end of a day I still want to feel good, and get rid of that headache and boredom.