Ho Chi Minh city is witnessing a profound shift when the city officials made the decision to reopen the economy on October 1. As the city heads to a “new normal”, many workplaces are now welcoming workers back to the office after about four months of working in front of laptop screens in the safety of their apartments or homes.
However, it seems that many people are more eager to continue working remotely than to dust their motorbikes off and ride their way to the office, like how they used to pre-pandemic.
While the terms “cabin fever” and “Zoom fatigue” were popular during the social distancing days, with people feeling a different kind of exhaustion and boredom staying 24/7 indoors (not to mention the further blurring of the line that separates work and personal life), people have actually grown accustomed to the remote working setup and the “freedom” it brings.
After weeks of trying to create a routine to push themselves to be productive even while staying at the comfort of their homes, people are now seeing the great benefits of working and living in the same space, no matter how confined it used to feel.
Hard habit to break
“I start my day with a cup of coffee. When the lockdown was still fully in place and food deliveries were basically non-existent, all I could do was make myself a so-called nutritious breakfast to give me energy to turn the laptop on and bustle,” shared Ana. She is currently working as a Marketing Specialist at a real estate company.
“Mental health matters, of course. Throwback to the very first days of working remotely due to the pandemic, everything was very new and strange. I do miss working with my colleagues, the office atmosphere was always busy and vibrant, it kept me motivated.”
But now that she’s gotten used to working on her own inside her apartment, Ana said that returning to the office can be a little daunting. “I have to wake up earlier than usual to prepare for breakfast and lunch. Choosing what outfits to wear everyday is also a waste of time!”
“Now, I already know how to prevent burnout when everything tends to get out of control. After I turn my screen off when work’s done, I spare some time to meditate, and do some stretching and deep breathing. It’s my way of finding love and peace within myself after a tiring work day.
If there is a sudden change, it will be very difficult to adapt, she admitted.
Safety remains top priority
As Vietnam balances its strategies between fighting against the coronavirus and reviving the economy, the risk remains huge. Only employees with already two COVID-19 vaccine doses are allowed to go back to the office. But because of the limited supply of vaccines in the country, not everyone has been privileged enough to get vaccinated as fast as others. Therefore, getting infected when traveling or being in a tight space with people is still highly possible — and nobody wants to take that risk.
Many people believe that working in their homes and apartments is a much safer choice, where they have limited interactions with other people, and where they can easily assess the cleanliness of the environment.
Remote work productivity
PwC, one of the Big Four accounting firms, recently allowed all its 40,000 US client services employees to work virtually and live anywhere they want in perpetuity, making it one of the biggest employers to embrace permanent remote work.
Many companies within Vietnam are starting to follow suit (or even practicing such before the pandemic worsened). Employers are now giving their workers the option to work wherever they comfortable, and where they can be fully productive. Though this arrangement also highly depends on the nature of the business and of the work scope, remote working has been proven to increase productivity as well as transparency and accountability among employees.
Because no one’s monitoring them every second and micromanaging even the simplest of tasks, workers are more empowered to do their best, prove themselves and come up with incredible outputs. It also helps that they are in their “safe space”, where they can think and do whatever they need to extract that creative juice.
Self and family time can’t be disregarded anymore
When people were working from 8am to 6pm (plus commuting time), they barely had any time left to pamper themselves or talk with their family. One of the silver linings of lockdowns is that people have reconnected with the people they love the most, and are now able to spend quality time with them.
“After shutting down the laptop, I cook myself a good dinner and enjoy a random movie on Netflix, rather than hustle in the crowd of the city in rush hour, like I used to before COVID,” shared Huy Phong, a specialist at BIDV.
Getting confined within the four walls of the apartment and staring at the screen for a long time can cause feelings of isolation and disconnection with others, but it could also be a chance to spend quality time with our beloved family. The bond is always just there, waiting for us to embrace and enhance. “Only in this 4-month quarantine did I realize that my parents are getting older day by day, all I want now is to be with them more frequently,” said Huy Phong.
Whether Vietnam’s “new normal” will make remote working a common practice among small and big companies or not is something we all have to see in the near future. Will companies think it’s just a temporary solution? Will they be more open to its benefits?
The COVID-19 situation is still evolving by the day. But if we learned anything from the nearly two years of living with coronavirus is that we can’t go back to our old ways anymore — and that definitely includes the way we work.