From Where We Sit

Let us not waste this virus

Anton Ng Anton Ng

Over the past week, I have been calling coworkers for a brief chat. It has almost been five weeks since I last saw anyone from our office. With the current situation that we all face, I wanted to check on our people to see how they are holding up.

The first quarter of every year is very tough for accountants and auditors because of regulatory deadlines. Add to this the general feeling of anxiety brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, and stress levels would exponentially rise.

My calls over the last week are the first time I would speak with most of the people on my call list. I have spoken to some of them in the past, but mostly out of the necessity of work. I am generally not big on engaging in small talk with people, partly because I am an introvert and partly because I am feeling lazy. Interestingly, it has been on my personal development plan for several years already to build relationships with people, particularly those within my professional network. I had never been able to start it, until now and because of this pandemic.

Before cable TV, internet and cheap flights, people typically stayed home and did nothing during Holy Week. It was traditionally a time for prayer and self-introspection. My childhood memories of Holy Week are of empty streets and closed establishments. We have all been essentially living in this kind of environment for almost a month now. Many of us stay and work at home, while some go out to fight and contain the spread of the virus or to ensure that our daily needs are available. While most of us now have more time on our hands, we are in a very different set of circumstances. Circumstances that ultimately push us to reflect on the fragility of life.

This current, but hopefully temporary, situation that we are in has brought deep-seated emotions and tensions to the surface. There is an air of anxiety about our health and the wellbeing of our loved ones. There is fear that our family might not have enough resources to tide over until the lockdown is lifted. We are frustrated with the government or even with people who express their frustrations with the government.

For those working from home, we sometimes feel guilty that our output may not meet the expectations of our colleagues and clients; or we feel that, if not for the work we need to do, we would have spent our time on more “valuable” efforts to help fight the virus. We are discouraged that we cannot do more to help or that we are not receiving enough help. There are those who struggle to find means to earn money and not simply rely on dole outs. These are all valid feelings during these times.

The other evening, my wife shared with me one of her reflections over the past few weeks. She simply said: “We should not waste this virus.”

May this Holy Week provide us with time to introspect on our experience over the last four weeks of living in the new normal. It is time to take stock. Let us not waste this virus. This virus has already been very costly. Lives, money, the economy, friendships and trust may have already been casualties over the past few weeks. Let us not make it all go to waste by not allowing ourselves to assess how this situation change us, our perspective and our way of doing things. What kind of persons will we be when we reach the other side of this pandemic?

There will be people who will learn new skills and develop new habits. While such activities have value, it should not be the measure of whether we seized or wasted an opportunity. I am a strong believer that our purpose here on earth is to glorify God, establish good relationships with others and work in order to contribute to the progress of humanity. With that in mind, there are other areas in our lives, apart from developing new skills, that we can reflect on to see if we have gained something new for ourselves.

Here are some questions that we can reflect on: How is our relationship with God considering the current circumstances? Do we have any realizations about our lifestyle before the pandemic? Are there things in our life that no longer seem to be important? How are we in our relationships with others? Do we see the need to be more mindful of the relationships we build or neglect to build? Do we now have a better understanding of the poor and the marginalized? Do we now have a better appreciation for all kinds of work, that all work has dignity and value? Are we finding deeper meaning and purpose in the work that we do?

Whatever it is that we find out about ourselves over the next few days, hold on to them. May we carry those lessons post-Covid-19. My worry is that, as soon as we return to even a semblance of normalcy, we will forget all these things. May it not be the case; otherwise, we would have wasted this virus.

Anton Ng is an Audit and Assurance Partner of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to anton.ng@ph.gt.com or pagrantthornton@ph.gt.com. For more information, visit our website: www.grantthornton.com.ph

 

As published in The Manila Times, dated 08 April 2020