The COVID Diaries: SSA 3
The following interview is with two funding executives from a supranational, sovereign and agency sector issuer. It was conducted on 29 March 2020.
Presumably you are now working from home. How challenging has the change been and how is your team dealing with it?
For my team, communication hasn’t been the challenge. We have daily Webex calls and connect via text, WhatsApp and regular calls. The challenge has been being at home with other people – we call them ‘co-workers’. My teenage daughter is completely independent but my son, who is younger, sometimes asks for help to get organised with his schoolwork or asks me to play basketball with him. I’m always on mute on calls when I’m not talking, but you have to be careful due to these interruptions. It’s much more challenging for colleagues with younger children.
One thing that could improve is how we set up meetings. Before, to set up a meeting you had to find a conference room, and if there weren’t any rooms you had to move the meeting. Now that meetings are virtual, they can be set up much quicker. But colleagues sometimes schedule meetings on top of other ones, which makes it more challenging.
I find I’m working even longer hours. Working from home is like working around the clock. There’s no cut-off point. One example is that there used to be things that would force you to take a break; for example, our cafeteria closes at 2.30pm so I had a time limit on getting lunch. Now that’s not in play I often end up eating very late in the day. Basically, the demarcations between the week and weekend and between the working day and the end of the day are difficult. Some of those things that would force you to have a routine are not there anymore. We need to find creative ways to get into a routine.
How close do you think the market will get to business as usual if we are in a period of social distancing for multiple months?
We generally factor in holidays when we look at issuance windows. Easter, for example, would usually be a time to avoid issuance. Now, because nobody is going anywhere, we have started to consider whether we think about this differently – could holidays now provide a valid issuance window?
"I haven’t been able to do any personal WhatsApp chats during the day because I’m too busy. At the end of each day, I try to call one older person, like the parents of close friends or ex-colleagues I have not spoken to in a long time. It is great to reconnect with them and they really love this."
What other changes are you making in your personal and professional life?
Another thing I’m learning is how to be organised in this new way of working. For example, if I have a meeting at 11am, I put an alarm in my phone for 10.45am, with a snooze alarm 10 minutes later so I have time to get ready and I can dial in early. Nobody reminds you there’s a meeting on, you just have to organise yourself to work a bit differently.
I have also had virtual happy hours with some of my groups of friends, to stay connected.
In addition, my home country has been significantly affected; tourism is down, and it comprises more than 80 per cent of the local economy. We don’t have a safety network of stimulus packages from the government. Last week I started trying to figure out how the diaspora could help. I’m working on setting up a website so people can make donations to help some families desperately in need.
I just take it one day at a time. I haven’t been able to do any personal WhatsApp chats during the day because I’m too busy. At the end of each day, I try to call one older person, like the parents of close friends or ex-colleagues I have not spoken to in a long time. It is great to reconnect with them and they really love this.
What are you most worried about in this period, personally or professionally – and how worried are you in general?
It is a concern, though, to read and hear about so many people who are getting sick and dying. The risk is real, so it’s important to be careful. We are fortunate to work for an organisation that is helping with the impact of the disease around the world.
One worry is that when a study is done on the impact of this crisis, I think it will be beyond what we see on the surface. I’m talking about the social and other impacts, in addition to economic ones.
What is the latest article you have read in relation to COVID-19 and what did you like about it? Can you provide a link?
I also read the local newspaper in the mornings and various online news.
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