Opinion and Editorial

How WFH threw my work off-balance

Allan Jacob (Senior Editor)
allan@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 12, 2021

Mercifully, I have survived but my family appears distant despite the proximity enjoyed during those months last year.

I am tired. Tired of the Work from Home (WFH) rigmarole that has been like a trip into virtual darkness that I wish to put behind me after a tumultuous year that was dictated by Covid-19 and its aftermath.

A majority of people have touted WFH’s death-defying and health-boosting benefits during the pandemic but it’s been traumatic at a personal level: my work-life balance has gone out the window and I am left picking up the emotional pieces and dealing with the impact on my mental health.

Mercifully, I have survived but my family appears distant despite the proximity enjoyed during those months last year. Perhaps I am emotionally disconnected, detached, mentally fallible and less resilient. I am unashamed to admit it: Covid-19 has done strange things to my mind, but I have refused to sink into depression, that oft-repeated expression by celebrities who revel in their royal my-goodness-look-at-poor-me spiel.

My wife and kids seem to understand my work-life afflictions but hold back from elucidating their angst. I don’t ask; I don’t want to know. Some emotions are better left alone and raw for the sake of carrying on during a crisis or emerging stronger from one. Grit, brother.

The WFH usage has stuck since the summer of 2020 when the coronavirus unleashed its fury and sent people scurrying indoors and away from each other. Social contact was forbidden and curbed, except at home where the job had to be done (if one wanted to keep it) without the daily trip to the office. Let me put it bluntly: it didn’t work for me. Not then, not now, not ever, if I can help it. I am a digital introvert when it comes to WFH. I may be risking my career here but who cares?

Twitter was the first major company to give its 4,000 employees the option of working from home permanently. Facebook followed, naturally. Big Tech has this persuasive appeal of making us see things in different light even if that light is fading on jobs and careers.

Proponents of the remote working system claim there’s less commuting and burning of fuel. The volume of traffic has decreased on our roads and pollution has declined, but I argue that WFH extracts more work from people than less because staff are expected to stay connected 24/7 on devices that seem to have a life of their own. House arrest with some gadget is a poor substitute for real, honest labour.

The device flashes as one slaves through the day and night as if one’s life depends on it. I am no geek but I’ve had to purchase a smarter laptop and a dumber smartphone to keep pace with the virtual work that has left me exhausted.

The virtual office network during the harshest months of the Covid season made me yearn for office. I remember donning a visor, gloves, mask and being armed with a sterile spray every Wednesday and driving to office. My wife was shocked at my temerity but refrained from commenting on this hide-and-seek with the virus. The drive to work, however, was liberating those days. I sped on empty roads, but my heart would sink on entering the barren office. Over the weeks, some colleagues, tired of the WFH routine, slunk back to work. We would shout into our masks and keep the regulation two metres of separation between us.

Things are different now that vaccines are here. I’ve taken my prescribed two doses and that’s some comfort, though it still feels unsafe with the pathogen on the prowl. I, like others, am braving the pandemic despite the grim prognosis about the future of work that seems more home-bound than the old normal.

I was, however, enthused when Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon recently said WFH was an ‘aberration’ “This is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal.” I couldn’t agree more. Work from Home served its purpose at the height of the pandemic crisis last year. Now’s the time to exorcise its demons.



Allan Jacob

A news junkie with an abiding interest in foreign affairs. I'm a keen follower and learner of the media and how it will pan out in the future when the common man and woman will themselves be journalists and not just sources of information. Lead a team of bright journalists who are driving the change and have their feet on the ground.

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