It's no fun working from home

February 03, 2020 12:35
An employee uses a thermometer to check the temperature of a customer at a restaurant in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

As a freelance writer, I've been working from home for the last seven years, which involves a lot of self-discipline and rigorous adherence to schedules and deadlines to be able to meet my multiple commitments.

I'm not sure, though, if the hard-working people from the government and the private sector, who have been told to work from home to reduce the incidence of contagion from the novel coronavirus that is now ravaging the mainland and is spreading in other parts of the globe, are truly enjoying the experience.

When there's a typhoon or when the MTR is out of service, as what happened several times last year, many of us must have thought, "How I wish I could just do my work at home."

And now that thousands of workers are doing exactly that for more than a week now, they might have felt that it's not that great after all.

The government has asked most of its staff who are involved in non-emergency work to stay at home for a week, and the private sector has dutifully followed suit. Many firms, in fact, have asked their employees not to come to the office until the 10th of February, at least.

So many workers have not been to the office for 10 days since Jan. 24, the last day of the Year of the Pig. Their kids – from age three to 23 –  have not been to school, either. Classes have been suspended at least until March 2nd, although the school term may be extended through to summer.

So almost everyone in Hong Kong stays at home these days, something we might have been wishing for every time we got bored or felt exhausted in the office.

But as many might have realized by now, it's more boring at home.

Ladies don't need to dress up and put on their makeup, anyone can turn up the music to whatever decibels they desire while in front of the computer, and there's no need to queue up at the bus stop.

They can also have dinner at 6 p.m., not 8 or 9 p.m. or even later, which is the usual time many have their repast when working in the office. And they can watch an entire Netflix movie without worrying about having to wake up early the following morning.

Some suspect that the government has instituted the virtual home quarantine because it can't provide citizens with enough supply of surgical masks amid the surge in demand for the product.

It's unfortunate that our government has lost face over this matter while in other jurisdictions, notably Singapore, Taiwan and Macau, the people are assured of the availability of face masks despite the high demand.

Well, perhaps that's the price we have to pay for being the world’s freest economy. The government follows the laissez-faire system where it does not intervene in commercial transactions under the assumption that people can take care of themselves.

Truth to tell, one reason why working from home is not much fun anymore is because almost everyone is now doing it. Before, I relished the thought that while others were slaving in their daily jobs, I had the freedom to work alone and spend my time the way I wanted to. But now I know that almost everyone else is doing the same thing. Oh, well...

Many who have been told to work from home actually have no office-related work to do at home, especially if they don't have remote access to their company's internal computer system.

So that means they stay at home and do nothing – and get paid.

Netflix can help to ward off boredom, but not if you've seen all the movies you want. Then you find yourself visiting all sorts of websites. 

And because online shopping is such a delicious temptation, you are now more prone to yield to its seduction. The problem is, you are still unable to buy the things you really want, namely masks and hand sanitizers.

Then you end up eating and sleeping more, and doing less walking and exercising. 

We all wish this coronavirus crisis could end as soon as possible – because no one wants to catch the disease, and also because we don't want to die of boredom.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer