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Thuy An Lam

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

a girl sitting by the window working on her laptop
I now realize I took physically going to work for granted.

In How the Pandemic Turned my Life Upside Down: One Co-op Student’s Story, Thuy An shared the story of how the pandemic affected her life and work in Canada. We pick up on her journey home and as she navigates through changes on her return to Vietnam. Follow Thuy on her work-from-home journey 7,000 miles away from SFU.

The journey back home was terrifying, to say the least, though there was barely anyone on the flight. This was good, because fewer people meant less interaction. All I did was sleep on the plane - I didn’t eat nor drink, because who knew what other people had touched or who they had interacted with? I would rather save myself from the uncertainty. At the transit in Taipei, I met up with my friends who came from San Francisco. We then all flew back together to Ho Chi Minh City. The moment we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, the government implemented a new regulation: whoever came from the U.S. had to get tested. Even though I was on the same flight with my friends from Taipei, I did not have to take the test due to the fact that I came from Canada, which I thought was really strange. Things were changing rapidly. I was relieved to be headed home.

For the first two weeks, my friends that came from the U.S. and I had to self-isolate. I wasn’t able to see my family because we wanted to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Since my supervisor allowed me to have the first week to settle in, I took that time to adjust my sleeping schedule and adjust my routine so that I wouldn’t be jet-lagged for a long time. 

The day I returned home, the government implemented a new regulation, requiring everyone to stay home unless it is necessary to go out, such as buying groceries. This regulation would be in effect until the end of April. Although I have to continue self-isolating, at least now I’m surrounded by my family members. The fact that the whole country is in a lockdown means I can not go out of my house. I now realize I took physically going to work for granted. For me, it is difficult to get used to working from home. 

Different Communication Styles

Firstly, it is hard to communicate with my colleagues due to different time zones. When I was physically at work, I was able to ask my colleagues questions and I would get answers immediately. However, working in a different country than my colleagues means we have to communicate through emails. This poses a challenge with time management as we have to wait a long time to receive each other’s email because of the different time zones. 

Different Setting

Another problem was getting used to the new setting. I enjoyed going to work and being with my team. I was used to the routine of waking up early, catching the bus, and getting to work. However, once I started to work from home, my routine has changed. There is something about having a routine and going to work that made me enjoy my job even more. Back at the office, I had my own station with two monitors, a pinboard to display my work, as well as pins with important information posted up on the board. However, working from home not only disrupts my routine, but  I also no longer have my dedicated workspace. Working on a laptop is a little harder than working on two monitors since my work requires me to multitask at times. I feel that working in my office makes the job more lively. 

Different Tasks

At the office, I was responsible for multiple roles - covering the front desk, helping the PA’s, and creating marketing content. Working from home means I have fewer roles. I can’t cover the front desk anymore. As a result, I’ve become a lot less active. I missed talking to students when they came in and asked questions, or receiving calls from employers and helping them. Now, I mostly handle updating websites and continue to create posters. The person-to-person interactions on the job are gone. 

Overall, working from home is a lot different than going to work at the office. I feel like a lot has changed - the way I communicate with my colleagues, the work environment (which affects the productivity), and the tasks I’m responsible for. In my opinion, I would much rather go to work and be surrounded by my colleagues than to be at home working by myself. 

About the Author

portrait image of the author

Thuy An Lam

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

Thuy An is a 3rd-year Communications student at SFU. She worked an 8-month long co-op term for her first position as a Special Program Assistant for FAS Co-op. She enjoys taking food photography and trying new restaurants on a regular basis. Find out more about Thuy on LinkedIn or Instagram
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