Quarantined in Paradise: Making Remote Work, WorkEmployee Journals
November 2020 marks my 9th Year with RareJob, my first and only employer since I graduated from university in 2011!
I was already working remotely since March when a friend warned me of the possible lockdown due to COVID-19. The supposedly quick trip to my hometown then became a long work from home journey. I am currently in Romblon, an island province 45 minutes away from Manila via plane (or 7 hours away via boat) and our home is just a three to five minutes’ walk from the beach. My location is definitely a perfect place for a semi-off-the-grid holiday, but not for remote work which requires a stable internet connection and power supply. Not to mention, our location is also prone to typhoons.
As the Manager of both the Tutor Resource and the Operations Departments, I oversee RareJob’s day to day operations, service quality, communications, and engagement. Working with different teams and stakeholders itself is challenging, and I never thought that I’d experience doing it remotely in the immediate future.
We’ve been promoting how the work-from-home setup is more convenient and flexible, but experiencing this firsthand, I do realize now that I only understood the surface level of this type of work. The transition process was crucial to ensure business continuity and the motivation of our employees. Allow me to share how I made remote work, work with all the shared challenges that I encountered.
Starting over was never easy, but I thought that I should learn to be more grounded and start from the things that are within my control.
The pandemic, together with the recent calamities, heightened my feelings of uncertainty and anxiety towards a lot of things: towards my family’s health and safety, my job security, and it even made me question my confidence if I can effectively manage my department remotely. Being the person who prefers to balance the risk and security before coming up with a decision, handling this situation was a huge challenge for me.
Being in Romblon means I needed to put extra effort into securing my resources to oversee the day to day operations of my departments. From securing the best prepaid internet available, to keeping the stability of our electricity source in mind, I made sure that all the things I used to take for granted while in the office are available as needed while working at home. Just the thought of how convenient working was before made me miss the RareJob office even more.
Finding the Best Internet Connection. Our location versus the compatibility of our internet connection is the main issue so, as plan B just in case disruption may occur, I acquired two modems for back-up. I also tried working outside and even installed an external antenna to improve the quality of my calls during meetings.
Poor GSM Signal. On the worst days, I resort to using my mobile phone to call our members, but even the GSM signal is low so I have to go outside to get better reception. With all these challenges, I am grateful for the convenience of online shopping as I discovered items to help solve this problem: a GSM Antenna which I installed to improve the mobile signal inside our house!
Unscheduled Power Interruption. One of the biggest improvements on our island, I must say, is the power supply. However, the service is still prone to issues, especially during the typhoon season, the most recent being typhoon Quinta which lasted for three days. Anticipating this, our family decided to install an alternative source.
Managing Noises. From animal sounds (chickens, dogs, pigs), house constructions from our neighbors, and even from people cutting trees, we have it here. These are the sounds that affect my meetings. Did I mention that I used to work outside for better signal quality? I have little to no control over the noise, and I just learned to accept and manage it over time.
At a certain point, being in my hometown for almost eight months made me feel stagnated. I thought that there were a lot of opportunities that I was missing out on, and the situation hindered my overall growth. This added to my anxiety and affected my motivation level. It is fortunate that I have my circle of friends from within and outside work who shared my concerns and helped me see this challenge as an opportunity.
Eat Healthily. Living with my family especially with my mother has a lot of perks! Aside from the free food, this also means I get to eat fresh, tasty, and healthy meals as compared to when I was living in the city. This helped me manage my diet and improve my overall wellbeing.
Rediscover My Hometown. Travelling has always been my escape to recharge, and with this pandemic, a lot of scheduled trips have been canceled. Our hometown had stringent quarantine guidelines for those who intend to enter the island, and it helped us control the spread of the virus. Since June, these were lifted and we have more freedom with our movement while practicing the set minimum health standards. This gave me the opportunity to discover places, and meet new people who made my stay here fun and exciting. I even discovered restaurants that I didn’t even know existed.
Learn the Basics. If I miss anything about being in the city, it would definitely be the restaurants. During the strict community quarantine, I started cooking and baking. I even made my version of ice cream from scratch using fresh strawberries, and baked my own focaccia bread with the help of my friend’s go-to recipe.
Learn New Things. I contemplated if I should include this, but I think it’s important. On a professional level, I thought that I could utilize this opportunity to pursue my plan to attend trainings and be certified. I was happy to learn that the training I was planning to take offered its first online class and they had a huge discount for early registration. I was able to complete the course and I am looking forward to applying my learning for the betterment of our department and the company.
One of RareJob’s greatest assets indeed is its employees as we can adapt to the ever-changing situations we are presented with, and still deliver quality outputs. As a company with strict compliance on information security and privacy, all the adjustments show the company’s confidence and trust in how we can still be productive in any work environment. With this, I am truly grateful.
Another chapter of our fiscal calendar for 2020 has just concluded and I am relieved that we were able to make our setup work. One of RareJob’s greatest assets indeed is its employees, as we can adapt to the ever-changing situations we are presented with, and still deliver quality outputs. Allowing us to work-from-home shows how the company values the employees’ welfare.
This has been evident ever since March, when the company went above and beyond to assist us in adapting to the new setup by providing additional benefits, equipment like laptops and alternative internet sources for support members, and even an early release of some monetary benefits to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and recent calamities. As a company with strict compliance on information security and privacy, all the adjustments show the company’s confidence and trust in how we can still be productive in any work environment. With this, I am truly grateful.
Working in my hometown gave me the opportunity to rediscover myself on a personal and professional level. I am happy that I am able to revisit my old self and spend more time with my family. This has been my longest stay in Romblon ever since I decided to pursue my college education in Manila, and for me, nothing much has changed from the place that I used to call home.
On the professional side, this setup challenged me to be dynamic and adaptive. With my current role, one of the ways to improve our tutors’ experience with RareJob is by viewing the situation through their looking glass. The past months were like an immersion which allowed me to do things differently, and have a good perspective on what our service is like.
This pandemic and the recent calamities may have a different impact on each and everyone one of us. The transition is not a race and all leaders must remember that. Adjustment takes time, and that is okay. Now more than ever is the perfect opportunity to spread kindness and help lessen the burden of others.
Stay safe. Eat Healthy. See you again soon – but for now, let me enjoy my quarantine in paradise.
Destination No-Go: The Year of Working on Ourselves
As 2020 comes to a close, we tend to look back at the year filled with twists and turns, keeping us on our toes and on relatively high alert. Many plans have been put on hold, or cancelled altogether even; with the holidays coming up, it’s quite difficult not to think of the vacations that could have been.