“New normal” and working from home – Manila Standard
“It means changing old mindsets and practices.”
It’s been two years since covid became a pandemic, and we still lack better mechanisms to implement working from home, especially in government. Given the mutations and variants of the coronavirus, the government’s inability to fully protect people from COVID, and many other relevant factors, it is no longer possible to return to the old normal ways of working.
Dodge the bullet
Just a few weeks ago, when news of Poblacion Girl broke, I wondered how much longer I could dodge the COVID bullet. By the law of averages and given that the Omicron variant is about three to four times more transmissible than Delta, which is more than twice as contagious as the previous variants, I figured, not much longer. Even the experts said we would all eventually get COVID.
NPR described Omicron’s spread as “lightning fast”. This variant also infects fully vaccinated people, like me and my daughters – and we already had our boosters.
So after two years of dodging it, I caught COVID. Fortunately, the variant is milder, where the vaccine protects people against serious illness, hospitalization and death. But the disease does not strike everyone in the same way; the elderly, those with comorbidities, those who are immunocompromised, may experience it differently or even worse.
Last Saturday (January 16), the Ministry of Health confirmed community transmission of omicron and reported 39,0004 cases, a record for the third day in a row, while active cases at 280,813 were also at a record high.
These figures do not include those who test positive but have not been tested. It is possible that the actual number of cases is much higher than the recorded one.
Some people take it for granted that their flu-like symptoms indicate COVID and treat their illnesses as such by isolating themselves at home and self-medicating with over-the-counter cold medicines, causing shortages at pharmacies .
Experts say getting Omicron could build up antibodies. However, for vulnerable populations, and even in general, in order not to burden the health system, it is still necessary to avoid it as much as possible, while respecting minimum health standards.
Unfortunately, every time the alert level drops, people seem to think it’s okay to wear their masks loosely and inconvenience others. It’s as if all the communication programs on mask-iwas-hugas failed. They did not bring about the required level of behavior change.
Guess I caught COVID from a mother and son in front of me at a mall vaccination center when I got my booster shortly after New Years Day. They had taken off their masks and were talking almost nonstop. It might have been a small thing for some, but for an immunocompromised person like me, it was a big deal.
Better implement working from home
So how do we enforce mask-wearing and social distancing because we failed to do it right? Are we implementing stricter laws against being a “mask hole”? It’s hard to regulate something like this, so the best thing to do is to stay home as much as possible and continue to implement homework and e-learning as the first line of defense against transmission. and capturing the virus.
The government, unfortunately, is still behind on working from home. As alert levels decreased, the percentage of people required to physically return to work increased, whether or not their job required them to report to the site.
I experienced this while running a government media unit, working from home. Then the memos came one after the other – 30% presence required on site, then 50%, then 80%. It was last month, before the explosion of Omicron cases. HR told me that my teammates and I — who work entirely on digital news — should eventually report to the office. I quit at the end of the year.
The Public Service Commission (CSC), despite the fact that we are now in the 21st century, and despite the fact that the pandemic has devastated public health, still operates on antiquated “hands-on” mentalities of bringing people to the physical work.
What some government agencies have done is offer their services online, which they should be. Work should no longer be linked to physical presence but to production. CSC, with all its expertise, should be able to design parameters for this. How many government offices have we walked into where we have seen employees napping or underperforming during office hours. But according to the CSC, they are physically present and therefore “working”.
The “new normal” means living with COVID and its ever-present threat. Working from home is one of the best ways to keep people apart, prevent the spread of deadly viruses and protect vulnerable sectors.
But it will mean changing old mindsets and practices. Hopefully CSC realizes that it can lead the way in this regard.
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