New Challenges Starting Work During a Pandemic

Written By: Merrick Egber

These last two years have been embracing the wider experimentation of what it is like to take control of one’s own environment. Last year had me embrace the full-time work environment which I had never done so before, it also had me come to grips with my mental state of mind, I got a new diagnosis of OCD, compounded with my severe depression and Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, along with my anxiety and so I finally started taking medications to help me fight all of this. In March, of 2019, I rented my first apartment, a tiny studio apartment, in such a place where I could be more independent with the grocery store, restaurants, and two malls.

I celebrated the first two months of 2020 with the expectation that things will go on as normal. I would get one of my high caloric drinks to ease my overburdened anxiety, look forward to any future vacation plans, of which I would have little to do because I had a cruise I embarked on to celebrate my mother’s retirement, I would write songs in order to try to understand what would be good for the music industry. I would go to my favorite movie theaters, eat at my favorite restaurants, and figure out more and more as to what I really wanted to do. Then everything went somewhat dark.

I say “somewhat dark” because my life experiences, outside of work, have not changed, much, due to COVID-19 and I already have a steady remote work from home job as a second job. Still, if you would have told me that the start of a new decade, 2020, would embrace less societal ties and more flexibility regarding our lives, I would have found that to be crazy. Turning my primary job into a work from home job?

My current job is as an administrative assistant. What I do, in my role, is to fill in gaps, and take every task that would support the many departments. Much of what I have done has been transformed by the COVID-19 crisis, especially by how many of my responsibilities are virtual.

For many people, this transition to doing so much virtually has been a nightmare. The ability to have separate tracks for work and homelife on a daily basis was not there anymore. Plus, it is adapting to a lifestyle that few people may even know outside of the many scams out there by people “representing” remote work from home opportunities.

However, for me, I have appreciated the chance to embrace this new lifestyle. Over the months, I have still been able to go to my place of employment on some occasions, but not for the whole day; my primary way of working is remote nowadays. It is something that I dreamed of for years, and now, through the worst circumstances, I can try it out.

Beyond having OCD, and autism, I have no ability to drive or commute except through Palm Tran Connection, which has been somewhat unreliable in the past, or friends and family. Many job opportunities that are out there depend on “reliable transportation” (Code: having a way to move), and with other opportunities relying on having a car of some sort, I jumped at the opportunity to see what was out there, remotely, before I started working for the Foundation. Unfortunately, outside of my second job, there was very little I could find that would work within my interests. Yet, in this job I have, I’m usually working on projects from the comfort of my own home, which has been a big plus for me.

I also think that social anxiety is a very big deal, especially when it does not always pertain to your working basis. You cannot just cure certain parts of your brain, even if you can adapt to it. I’ve always found myself nervous sitting not too far from my boss with the delusion that she thinks that the company has been wasting money on my salary. There are also days in which it may be better to just not talk to anyone at all. Many a time, I would take the quickest route to my desk so that I would not get interrupted. Being able to manage my working environment, more, from my apartment, has helped me in getting better at tamping down on this part of my brain.

This is not to say that remote work is perfect for everyone. Certainly, the perfect balance would be to work from home, while spending many times hanging out with people outside of where you live, even like going to dinner, or a socially distanced group meet. There may be a tendency for already lonely people, who are used to the environment from before we have had to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, to feel worse due to the impact of the pandemic. Some jobs may also not be able to get done without putting yourself out there upfront and center. But, the good news is that we have vaccinations on their way, depending on where you live there are still certain jobs that are not remote that are open for anything, with proper social distancing guidelines, so I expect 2021 to, perhaps create a better work-life balance than this year has. Still, if there is one thing people can take from this, is that not everyone needs to work in an office to fulfill their demands as employees, and sometimes it is more comfortable to get things done away from the hustle of the working crowd.

My last two years have been experimental, I cannot wait to see what happens!

Merrick Egber is the Administrative Assistant at the Els for Autism Foundation.