Strange holiday season coming soon
The author is the deputy editor of industry 1 team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
A researcher at a corporate research institute is on high alert these days. When Covid-19 first started spreading in April, employees worked from home in rotation. But after Level 2.5 social distancing began, the company decided to suspend remote working.
It is impossible to work from home since the company’s research requires lab facilities and experimental data. Researchers take their temperature and log entry and exit times when they move between labs to minimize contacts with other researchers. They sit two meters (6.6 feet) apart in the cafeteria, and the commuting bus is capped at a max of half full.
The researcher became more nervous after he moved to a department supporting the executives of the lab. If he has close contact with a Covid-19 positive case, management will have to self-quarantine.
He drives three hours every day to commute and keeps his mask on all day. He talks with coworkers only on a messenger app. Cynically, he says he can’t be patient No. 1.
Last week, after the lab’s first case was confirmed, the researcher said he was relieved. The lab was closed and dozens of people who entered the building are in self-quarantine. But at least, he saved himself from the disgrace of being the first case at the company. “The company demands employees to report to work because the lab could not operate normally, but subtly pressures them to take care of themselves. I sleep in the study at home and haven’t visited parents for long,” he said.
In the contactless age of the new normal, he is not the only one struggling. It is heartbreaking to see how people chose not to travel to hometowns for the Chuseok holiday. Working parents have no childcare, and workers deal with a vague line between home and work as they work from home.
Another employee working from home for the second week said he feels imprisoned. At first, he enjoyed waking up late, but he is having a hard time as childcare, household chores and work are all mixed up — not to mention, three meals he has to have with family. A strange holiday season we haven’t experienced is approaching. It is time to care and console one another.