Having been working for about 2 months from home exclusively, and seeing and reading stories from friends worldwide on social media, I realised that despite the virus outbreak, not every company/employer and employee have the luxury like me. It’s definitely one of the things I usually take for granted, being a very introverted person (and even more introverted in the past few years), I secretly realise how much of a relief and something to be grateful for that my bosses seem to never mind me working from home ever since I started working for them. Going to the office became a strange experience for me instead, knowing very little of my co-workers aside from the people I have exclusively worked with, and my bosses.
Happy as I am, the combination of my work flexibility and my introverted, shy character seem to be the perfect combination during the COVID-19 outbreak that keep me from going crazy spending day by day in my tiny 17 sqm Japanese-style apartment. I am not sure if this categorises as one of the “privileges” I am having, but here are some of it:
- Remote working flexibility–as mentioned above, I have been exclusively working from home in the past few months, but I have long been doing it even before this outbreak started. Aside from keeping my anxiety at an all-time level, this also reduces the risk of me having a full-blown panic attack like one that I had last year, in which a few of my close friends know about. This is the foremost privilege I can list, considering many people I know still need to get out of the house, risk being in a crowd (and hence risking infections), to go to the office. Rush hour here in Tokyo has not seem to change drastically, and some people I know can’t even afford missing a day’s work even if they’re sick or afraid of being infected or infecting other.
- Having internet connection provided from work and for working from home, without having to pay out of my own pocket. I know that this seems to be the rule of cribbage, and that if our employers want us to work from home then the question is: Shouldn’t they facilitated it for you in the first place? But having worked as a freelancer for about a year prior to moving to Tokyo, and reading a friend’s story on facebook how some people actually had to pay for their internet connection out of their own pocket despite having to do remote working, I decided to put this as one of my privileges. I remember that when I was freelancing as an English tutor back in Jakarta, I had to collect teaching materials and design lesson plans all by myself, which oftentimes require internet connection. My students’ age and background range diversely and so were the classes. And wanting to build a good reputation as a teacher, I would not like to rely solely on the materials that I already have offline and would also like to check for updates in terms of materials, or would like to vary my lessons, and part of it is also learning and discussing with fellow teachers online. Since I was living with my lovely grandmother back in Jakarta who doesn’t have nor use much of internet connection aside from her own smartphone, I either had to look for internet providers or stuck myself in various coffeeshop or any other places that have internet, and either method would require me to pay for those access with my own money, and when work is scarce, this is a luxury I did not always have, were it not for my friends’ generous assistance as well to let me use their internet when needed.
- Easy access to clean water and hand sanitizer.
Again, probably something I would usually take for granted, but I know that in comparison to my friends in other countries, when it comes to hygiene, I am grateful for the fact that living in a major city in Japan has its perks, even when it comes to something that seem to trivial. Despite not being able to find any hand sanitizer anywhere ever since the outbreak and panic-buying started, I know for sure that almost all public buildings here, which include office buildings, restaurants, and cafes, will all provide a huge bottle of hand sanitizers at the entrance, in addition to the ones they already have been providing in the toilets. And me and my friends have been taking advantage of this by using the alcohol hand sanitizers whenever we want to hang out and enter a restaurant/cafe.Also, earlier today, I came across a New York Times article about the situation in refugee camps on how they couldn’t even bathe themselves, let alone worrying about washing their hands. Response have been slow especially since the outbreak and the main concern is that once confirmed that someone in the camp have COVID-19, containing the disease would be difficult.
- Being able to self-isolate and self-distancing. So following up what I mentioned earlier about refugees in camps, another thing I realise is a privilege is being able to self-isolate and self-distance from others, since in the camp, this might not be possible at all due to the limited space that cannot cater to the overwhelming amount of people in the camp. Being able to self-distance protects us from getting the infection and also infecting others more vulnerable than us, especially people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly. Were I in cramped spaces and did not have the option to move out, I probably couldn’t even be bothered thinking about these preventions, and this makes me realise how having the option to self-isolate itself is also a privilege I have over others.
- (Updated on 2019/03/24) Another privilege I realise I have and should be considered as a privilege in times like this is: Time. Time to sleep. Time to rest. Time to even read my book. It came to me only a few days ago after watching a news clip of team of doctors and volunteers in the epicenter Italy. Many doctors and nurses are now facing more threats of infection and their lives are a lot more at risk due to overworking and being exposed to the hospital environment full of sick people. This is their job and their commitment, and something that I think is truly admirable. We have options to shut ourselves in and hope that we are safe, but these people do not. It’s their profession and their duty, and therefore this becomes another reason I think I should really be grateful for.
(On another topic, a lot of hospitals now are short on supplies. I don’t know where to find the supplies they need, since they would need surgical masks and not the regular paper mask sold in drugstores for other people, and even here in Tokyo I can barely find any in drugstores nearby, but at the very least, we can consider helping financially, so please also consider to donate to help them get supplies. WHO and Oxfam are some of the NGOs I know that take donations to provide for medical supplies for health workers, but you might be more interested in donating to somewhere more local, e.g. hospitals near you, so I’m pretty sure plenty fundraising are set up on facebook or other social media too.)
- Toilet’s bidets. The panic-buying and hysteria have caused scarcity of another stuff here: toilet paper. Luckily, as in Indonesia where we are taught to always wash our bum after business is done in the toilet, I have never been more grateful to the existence of bidets in most public toilets in Japan.
- Being able to continue working and have a job in times like this. I have heard of a few people not being able to continue working and not even able to have any work at all because of lockdown, and being forced to self-isolate, and therefore lose the financial security they had. As uncertain as I am with my own future, but I can at least be rest assured that I would get paid and still be employed in the near future and still be able to resume work as if nothing changed (although this is in part because I have been doing remote working almost exclusively since last year).
So far those are the things I could think of as things that I should now not take for granted anymore. Will add more to the list if I find more stuffs.