Updated: Apr 24
It has been a week since Singapore kick-started the "circuit-breaker" measures nation-wide — short of a national lockdown practiced by some countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All businesses not involved in providing essential goods and services are required to either work from home or halt operations during the DORSCON-Orange period. Although some companies had encouraged work-from-home since several weeks ago, it is now "mandatory".
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This is a time for office staff who have not experienced "work-from-home" to adjust to a different kind of "working environment". There are pros and cons of working at home and most people probably have not realised them yet.
1. No Travelling Time
Travelling time to and from work usually range from about 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the distance between home and office and also the mode of transport used. When working from home, there is no need to travel at all, allowing more time for rest and to be with the family.
Needless to say, transport cost is also saved. For those who drives, it is a saving on fuel cost but probably not the insurance, car loans and various taxes — it's always a big minus to own a car anyway.
2. Better Productivity
For most people, working at home is an escape from the usual disturbances that can be found in an office environment, such as colleagues talking loudly, people walking passed, chit-chatting, etc. Being able to focus on work in a quieter environment can result in better productivity.
For those with noisy kids at home, or if home is a nosier place than the office, working from home may not be a good thing. But, this calls for better parenting, communications and cooperations within the family, isn't it?
3. More Time for Family
For those who are always complaining of "no time" to take care of kids and be better parents, this is the time for the whole family to be together — every minute! — and understand one another. Don't waste this opportunity, the "circuit-breaker" may last only one month — if the COVID-19 situation improves.
And the downsides of working from home are:
1. Electricity Usage Goes Up
Telecommuting is a must for working from home. That means WiFi and at least a desktop or laptop will have to be on during working hours. If the weather is warm and stuffy, either the air-conditioner or electric fan will be turned on while working. And, if they are normally on during the nights, they will probably be operating close to 24 hours.
With more time spent at home now, there will be more dusts, dirts and hairs in the house. That means the vacuum cleaner will find itself working albeit more frequently. Furthermore, more boiling of water will be needed for drinking and making coffee. And more meals will be prepared at home, especially lunch. As there is no need to wake up early to travel to work, there is a tendency to sleep a little later than usual. More electricity will be used to on the lights, the television or the computer.
All the above increases electricity usage and that means the electricity bills too.
Some tips to reduce electricity usage:
There is no way to recycle or reuse electricity, so using less electricity is the way to save electricity.
Use a fan whenever possible instead of switching on the air-conditioner throughout the day.
When using a laptop, don't keep the power cord connected all the time. Charge the laptop fully then unplug the power cord from the mains and use the laptop until the battery is below, say, 10% and charge again.
2. Water Usage Goes Up
Undoubtedly, more drinking water will be needed. There will also be more meal preparations, washings of hands and dishes and also flushing of the toilet. If the weather is warm, there will be tendencies to take extra cool showers during the day.
On the plus side, lesser clothings will need to be washed, especially office wears or uniforms. It depends on the household size as smaller families will see this as a plus but make no difference to larger families.
To keep water bills low, the best way is to employ water conservation measures to reduce water usage and reuse used water.
3. Lack of Exercise
Going to work usually involves some walking around and from one point to another, allowing minimal exercises to burn some calories. When at home, movements in the house are greatly reduced and the opportunities to expend calories are down to almost zero. It will be a matter of a couple of weeks before the waistline starts to expand.
Apart from gaining weight, other symptoms related to lack of exercises may also appear, these include indigestion, constipation, body stiffness, aching, light-headedness, etc. Most people will turn to health supplements eventually, which will increase the cost of living through this period.
The better way will be to start doing some static exercises, like push-ups, sit-ups, squads or planks, in the house to work out a sweat and to maintain bowel movements. Or go for some jogs near to home, but jog alone or with just one family member. Alternatively, do some household work like sweeping, mopping or vacuum-cleaning the floor.
4. Distractions from Work
Apart from noisy kids as mentioned above, there are also other kinds of distraction at home, such as watching television shows, playing PC or mobile games, lazying in bed, etc. These can affect work performance.
To maintain work productivity, working from home does require some self-discipline. The pandemic is a bad development for the global economy and companies that are unable to sustain for the next few months or even a year may fold, so do maintain the usual standard of work quality or one may lose his or her job.
5. Pent-Up Frustrations
Being cooped up in a house for long hours can result in boredom or even frustrations. The worst consequence of frustrations is to vent it on the spouse or other family members, which can make life at home miserable for everyone.
To avoid frustrations as a result of being pent up in a house for too long, take turns to go to the supermarket to get some food or necessities. It allows a short time of "reprieve". But, don't do this everyday, probably once a week or when food supplies in the house runs low. Reducing contact with other people is also a way to avoid getting infected by the virus.
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