Graduating During an Economic Downturn

Graduating During an Economic Downturn

For the class of 2020, many may have been expecting to clinch exciting job offers upon graduation. But with the unprecedented turn of events, fresh graduates are finding themselves trapped as the world descends into a global recession (and generally, chaos) amidst a worldwide pandemic.

For an indication of just how severe this crisis has been, comparisons can be made against Singapore’s most recent downturn; the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. The nation was able to recover quickly during that period with the timely government schemes and fiscal policies implemented, with the S$20.5 billion Resilience Package announced in January 2009 being a record and amounting to a 6% deficit of our nation’s GDP. In 2020, we had announced a total  of four budgets, amounting to a staggering S$92.9 billion, which constitutes up to 19.2% of Singapore’s GDP, and yet with COVID-19 immobilising us- and in turn, the economy- the slide continues.

Industries are overwhelmed and companies are literally shutting down everyday. Those that are still surviving had all but put hiring or expansion plans into the back burner.

Yet, there are those who remain relatively unscathed by the crisis.

The type of industry or line of work that one chooses to do can play a big part. Fariha, a 20-year-old graduate of Child Psychology and Early Education, was one of the lucky few who secured a job just one month after graduation earlier this year, after only having to apply to four preschools and going through two interviews, and all this within a month of starting her job search.  “There will always be a demand for educators,” says the new kindergarten teacher who was hired with two other candidates.

On the other hand, young men who are about to enter National Service will probably see this as a blessing in disguise, and unlike most graduates or soon-to-be graduates who are attempting to secure a job now, need not worry about kicking off their careers during a recession. With the mandatory two years that they will have to serve, possibly followed by further education, their career plans are not as affected as compared to fresh graduates with the intention of starting their working life immediately. 

“Though the economy will take years to recover, I expect my first foray into the workforce to be a slightly more stable one as compared to that of my peers currently,” says Min Cher, a 20-year-old graduate from Chinese Studies specialising in Business. The Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate is currently even assessing the option of going overseas to work, a choice that most current job-seekers would not even have. 

The reality, though, is that the majority of graduates are just simply not as lucky.

As with most of her peers, Rachel, 24, a graduate of Sociology and Psychology from Singapore Institute of Management, is still currently looking for her first job. She commented on her situation: “I’m worried  that I may be waiting too long, trying to look for that first job, and also other things like if it’ll be permanent or contracted, or if those companies will take a longer than usual time to revert due to reduced manpower or internal matters.”

For those who may be lucky enough to find employment during this period, they also face the challenge of earning well below the usual market average, with the fear that such a handicap would affect their prospects in the long term. These sentiments were also echoed by the Singapore government when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat mentioned how graduates “could have their skills, employability and incomes permanently affected, even after the world recovers from the pandemic.”

Many however, would not have the luxury of time to wait and may just have to bite the bullet.  Fariha, who is also the eldest child in her family, continues: “Coming from a middle-income family, the pressure to secure a job is high because during a recession, families – especially larger families, face more challenges.  As a recent graduate, I find it important to help my family financially.”

With  nothing but countless failed job applications to show, what then can the class of 2020 now do?

Well, perhaps the class of 2009 and 2010, being the most recent batch of millenials who have walked down a similar path and survived to tell the tale  (unemployment in Singapore hit an all time high of 2.6% during 2008  with  recovery sluggish in the subsequent years), may be the battle-harden sages who are best placed to share their experience on how young graduates can take this fight head on, and come out standing tall despite all the difficulties.

Graduates from the previous global recession would, for instance, know just how hard it is to get a job, let alone that dream job which we all fantasised about (or promised to us by the schools’ brochures)  when we were still studying.

Mark Lim, 29, an ITE graduate in  2009, states that it’s better to do something small than nothing at all. “Whatever the reason you’re finding work now, it’s not the time to be picky,” says Mark, who worked part-time as a gym receptionist after graduation. “Every job can teach you something, even if it does not relate to your course. There are some skills needed regardless of the job, like communication or adaptability.

It is an approach which Latricia Tay, 24, an Environmental and Water Technology graduate, has taken, having recently landed a job as an assistant in a childcare centre with the help of her cousin who is working in the HR department.

At the same time, this shouldn’t mean that graduates should give up hope of landing that ideal job that they have been thinking about. The takeaway should be that while opportunities presented to you  may not seem ideal, if one doesn’t take chances, one simply does not progress at all. To be able to land a job during this challenging time is something to cherish and make full use of.

Yes, it is a fact that this generation of graduates will not be blessed with the ample opportunities which previous batches who stepped into the economy when the waves were relatively calmer were provided with.

If anything, however, it is that the graduates from more than a decade ago have proven that with resilience and fortitude,  this is merely a steeper learning curve. Even as the odds were stacked against them, as they are now for the class of 2019-2020, we can stand in solidarity, and come together in unity as one people from different backgrounds to do our part towards recovery from the crisis.

As observed by William, 36, who graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2009: “The competition is much fiercer now but there are also more resources available. Use technology to your advantage. There are free online courses by renowned universities that can sharpen your existing skills, or pick up new ones. It sounds cheesy, but these can and will help you stand out from the crowd to increase your employability.”.

Indeed, graduation should not be viewed as the end, but the beginning of another phase of education, with lifelong learning being a vital aspect in our rapidly changing economy. Once we stop upgrading ourselves, we immediately put ourselves at a disadvantage.

Written by : Cheong Shu Yin
Edited by :  Ling Wei Ming
Published on : 17/07/2020
Image : Source /

Should migrant workers’ dormitory operators and employers be legally responsible for the spike in COVID-19 cases in Singapore?

Should migrant workers’ dormitory operators and employers be legally responsible for the spike in COVID-19 cases in Singapore?

In better times, migrant workers have always been the frontline workers of Singapore for decades, mostly remaining unacknowledged and under-appreciated. It’s truly unfortunate that it is only during this COVID-19 period and the spiking of COVID-19 cases among them that they are placed in the “limelight”.

While our government and the relevant agencies upped their efforts and measures to contain the rapid spread of Coronavirus among these migrant workers, most of us as Singaporeans are genuinely worried and aggrieved over the spiking of COVID-19 in the migrant workers’ dormitories. An outcry of spontaneous compassion continues as even more voluntary welfare groups and individuals started to extend their assistance to these dormitories.

However, it’s hard to ignore the undertone of resentment fueling this outcry at the same time.

Regardless of the many differences in opinion on the spiking of COVID-19 cases in our migrant workers’ dormitories, it’s safe to say that most of us agree that we have “dropped the ball” on our migrant workers” – it could have been prevented. While there is a huge outcry of sentiments against our government and relevant agencies on their belated measures for migrant workers here in Singapore, I would humbly beg to differ.

I believe that there are 4 key parts we need to examine in order for a more holistic examination of the current issue at hand, namely:

1) Government/Inter-nation Policies and agreements;
2)Government Agencies;
3)Employers and Dormitory Owners ; and
4)Employees/Foreign workers.

We need to recognise that these migrant labour policies are consensually signed between two countries for mutual benefits of both countries. In turn, these policies are enforced by the relevant government agencies which license and authorise private operators and employers who are able to abide by these policies (and with the operational capabilities) to hire these foreign workers and house them appropriately. So if we clear ourselves of our emotions, and see objectively the responsibilities from the government, to government agencies to employers, and private operators to dormitory residents, it might help us to set things into perspective.

Let me elaborate on each of the 4 key parts. First, as mentioned, these migrant worker policies are mutually signed between two countries. And before anyone puts his/her signature on any contracts, everyone’s focus is on the “F” word – fair. If a policy or a contract is not fair, no one will put their signature on it. After all, how is it possible that Singapore can intimidate our neighbouring countries into signing biased policies that favour only u?. It’s not wrong to say that Singapore and the other countries which have foreign labour policies with us, consensually agreed to enter these policies for the mutual benefits of both countries.

While most can argue that there are simply too many foreign workers in Singapore, we also need to acknowledge that we have a greater need for them to assist Singapore in our dynamic and rapid growth.

Case in point – There are always new scheduled BTO (Build-To-Order – source) HDB flats throughout the year in different parts of Singapore. We have about 58 hospitals (public and private collectively – source) throughout Singapore and more than 12,000 F&B (food and beverage – source) outlets and hundreds of thousands of families which need additional support from FDWs (Foreign Domestic Worker – source). If we were to highlight only these four main sectors which these foreign workers are deployed, it’s not hard to understand why we need to have foreign labor policies with other countries.

While it’s true that the topic we should be focusing on is the issue of COVID-19 spiking in dormitories, not all of us can deny the fact that often these two factors are simply “rojaked” into one simple sentence – “It’s spiking because there are too many foreign workers in Singapore”, thus it’s important that we again seperate these two entangled points of argument, in order for us to see from a clearer and unprejudiced perspective.

Moving on to the relevant government agencies’ roles in the dormitories’ outbreak of Coronavirus. What most of us would most probably unanimously agree, is that the RELEVANT government agencies are in charge of enforcing the terms of these policies on private establishments and companies which employ, and also in this case, provide lodging for the foreign workers.

The relevant government agencies would have set in place stringent regulations and obligations to would-be-employers (including dormitory operators in this case), to make sure that these employers (& operators) have the means and capability to fulfill these regulations before even awarding them with the permits and licenses to employ and/or operate any dormitory. Just like any one of us registering a new business entity in Singapore, we too, are required by law to fulfill all the regulations from MOM (Ministry of Manpower), ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority), etc.

We can all agree that these guidelines are there to ensure a minimum standard in the living conditions for the foreigners. One needs to be ready to undertake all the responsibilities and fulfillment of these regulations to be able to successfully apply for the permit to operate these dormitories.

While we are not sure how often are the scheduled or regular inspections from these government agencies conducted on the premises of these dormitories, it is nevertheless understood that by undersigning a permit to operate these dormitories, it is a pledge between private operators and the government agencies to make sure that the interest, security, benefit and welfare of the dormitory residents are and must always be safeguarded by these operators and employers – these are mandatory.

So if we cast our argument further, then the recent government interventions are only because of what was done poorly or not put in place by the private owners and operators.

Thus, it might not be right to say that the relevant government agencies should be totally responsible for the spiking of COVID-19 in dormitories. Granted, one can still argue that the government agencies should have had better foresight and preempted this dreadful scenario ahead of the private operators and owners of these dormitories. Despite the efforts and measures these governing agencies are extensively putting into place now, all they have done is to vulnerably placed themselves as the scapegoat for public crucification.

Now, as responsible private business owners, we are required to fulfill the terms and conditions of MOM, ACRA, WSHC (Workplace Safety and Health Council), FSD (Fire Safety Department – SCDF) and etc.

In short, when anyone registers a new private commercial entity in ACRA, they already undertook the responsibilities and regulations from all these government agencies, whether one thoroughly read through all these terms from all the different agencies or not. MOM won’t be calling up any employer for an interview unless a formal complaint has been filed against them. Similarly, no employer would want FSD to be doing premise inspection in their commercial premises every other week.

Just like any other ACRA registered establishment or company, dormitory owners and operators are commercial businesses providing services and lodging for foreign workers. The dormitory lodgings provided are not free but borne either by the foreign workers or the employers (about SGD $250 per month – source). Thus similar to any legit commercialised transaction, there is the need to balance monetary gain and quality service. Ensuring that these dormitories are fit to stay in, is not only the operators and owners’ responsibility, it is also the employers’ responsibility (source). Even without the SCDF fire department and other relevant agencies knocking on all dormitories’ doors unannounced and doing random spot checks on the premises, it has always been mandatory for dormitory operators and employers to make sure that these foreign workers are living in approved environment as per the guidelines defined by relevant governing agencies.

While information on regulations involving these dormitories are clearly listed on all the relevant government agencies’ websites, we can’t say for certain that all of these dormitories are operating stringently per these regulations. This might have presented a grey zone which might also be the cause of the spiking of COVID-19 in these dormitories. Without proper and transparent documentation of their practices, dormitory operators and employers of these foreign workers place themselves in the firing line of this dreadful situation in the dormitories.

Last but not the least, due-responsibility and due-diligence from employees (in this case, dormitory residents) are required in the course of their employment (residency in this case) ,to ensure that the “F” word (fairness), can be put in place to complete this full contractual cycle.

It’s been identified that the spiking of COVID-19 cases are especially alarming in regards to particularly two groups of workers (Bangladeshi and Indian – source) which make up the majority of the COVID-19 cases in the foreign workers group, with the cases from the other nationalities of foreign workers remaining low and containable. To be fair, we need to look at why specifically it’s harder to contain the spiking of COVID-19 within these two particular groups. Without any intention to discriminate, it’s arguable that their deeply-rooted cultural habits also played a major part as the hidden reservoir for COVID-19 cases. These actions or behaviour may not be an issue in normal times, but is certainly a cause for concern during this period, whereby human contact has been identified as one of the main source of transmission of the virus.

With each passing day of our “Circuit Breaker” and the continued rapid spiking of COVID-19 in these dormitories, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t any public resentment of our government. It may seem a general principle that any government of any other country should be held responsible for such oversights during a crisis, but if we start to clarify the roles and responsibilities from government to government agencies to business owners to dormitory operators and to employees, we might be able to have a more equal platform for inquiry.

For all the different parties involved in this, the top priority remains the same – to deal with the COVID-19 situation in dormitories first, without letting emotions affect and hinder us further.

However, it is also equally important that we must publicly address these issues when we have finally defeated the COVID-19 virus. While most of us are not really prepared for this level of pandemic in this modern time, we need to acknowledge that certain standards and general protocols should have been proactively engaged all the time, even without the virus. Thus, it’s important that we know where and what went wrong, and who should be standing in front of an open inquiry should (or if) we eventually conduct one, because, ultimately:

To Err is human
To Forgive is divine
But we should not forget, so that we will not find ourselves caught up in the same situation ever again.

Written by : Mike Koh
Edited by : Huang Yushan / Ling Weiming
Published on : 29/04/2020
Image : Source /

Don’t be a victim of online scams!

Don’t be a victim of online scams!

During this unprecedented (and long!) stay at home period, it is only natural that a lot of people will feel bored. People are finding different ways to relieve their boredom, with online-shopping being one popular activity for many.

Unfortunately, as more turn to buying things online, there are also a lot of scammers taking opportunity to take advantage. For example, with the shipment of the popular Nintendo Switch console being affected by Covid19, many sellers are now raising the price of it. This has given rise to scammers who are selling their so called “refurbished” or second hand Switch console at a lower price to attract people to buy from them. Another “trade” which has seen demand rise, would be those who are selling face-mask during this period.

Having taken advantage of someone’s anxiousness to get these products, these “sellers” would then disappear into thin air once their victims transfer the money over to them.

So, how can we prevent ourselves from being scammed? Most scammers will request buyers to transfer money to them before they will courier the things to the buyer. So, cash on delivery may be the best way to prevent yourself from becoming yet another victim of scams.

Another way to prevent ourselves from being scammed is to look for a trusted and reputed e-store which is still operating and providing shipping service during this period. Most of them will have a Facebook page and website. Make sure you check their reviews and that you are comfortable before committing to a purchase.

Lastly, we also need to mentally prepare ourselves that this crisis will be long, and that our economy will be facing great challenges from the implications of the virus and measures to contain it. With the outlook uncertain, it may be better to be prudent with our finances during this moment. If it is not urgent, perhaps it is just a better idea to simply wait until we are able to go and buy from the store itself. After all, retail businesses too will need plenty of support!

Stay safe!

Written by : Ong Jia Quan
Edited by : Ling Weiming
Published on : 25/04/2020
Image : Source /

How To Spread Vibes (Not Viruses) During Extended CB

Now that Circuit Breaker has been extended till 1st of June, what should we be doing for the next 31 days of stuck-at-home? For those of us barely staying sane during the past month CB, that question is enough to make us throw furniture out of HDBs or doubt the sincerity of our foreign workers falling sick (because infection is a choice and you better believe it).  

Rest assured that we’ve got you covered with some excellent ideas. Here are a few things you can start doing (if you haven’t already!) to protect yourself from becoming a threat to society: 

Reconnect with someone 
There are so many apps /platforms that we can use to talk to each other “face to face” nowadays that we no longer have the excuse to blame social distancing for that long-overdue reunion. Being trapped within four walls might just be the perfect time to revitalize old relationships. Give someone a call via Zoom or Hangouts and ask them how they’re coping with the pandemic– it could be a distant cousin, a classmate you’ve lost touch with previously or even your ex-girlfriend.  (Just tell your wife it wasn’t us who suggested that last one.)

Be serious (and legal) about having fun 
Challenge your friends to new things that you can do together onlinePlaying free gamesstarting projects, video yourself making Dalgona coffee, attempting 30-day fitness challenges or joining dance-offs on Tik-Tok… the list goes on and onNow that we have another month of craziness to go, at least make sure we are enjoying ourselves, even if it’s only for 30mins a day

Keep a diary (or confess everything you were going to write on there) 
If you’re a shy person, consider keeping a diary to record down your experiences, feelings and reflections throughout this crisis so your grandchildren can have something to laugh about next time. If writing is too much commitment, find a private space or platform  to share your thoughts anonymously and speak with others going through the same experiences. Jokes aside, we all need a listening ear and plenty of empathy during this difficult time. Don’t bottle things up!

Know what NOT to say online 
Now that the whole of Singapore (and most of the world) has moved onto the internet, the community of online trolls, keyboard warriors, digital rumour mills and conspiracy theorists has increased exponentially.  Don’t give them more fuel! Keep a cool head when verbal-sparring and always remember to spare a kind word for those experiencing hardship if you come across these poor souls during your digital foray.

Written & Edited by : Ron Ma
Published on : 22/04/2020
Image : Source/Mohit Suthar – Unsplash

What’s happening in the dormitories? What are we doing and is it enough?

What’s happening in the dormitories? What are we doing and is it enough?

First of all, an apology to our readers that it took us so long to put up this article, there were a lot of private requests for us to touch on the dormitory issues. It’s a very important issue to all of us here in Singapore, but it’s also a very sensitive issue, especially now. We sat on our writer’s block for a long time on how we can write this article without being bias and most importantly, not to stir up the already presence of anger and sadness among the people and at the same time clearly bringing to the public’s awareness and understanding of this distress from different points.

Firstly, there are already a lot of articles out there regarding the high spike rate of Covid-19 cases in these dormitories and most of these articles are written (or questioned) with political agenda and politically-biased. Secondly, there are a lot of humanity organisations also publishing their articles questioning how much (or how little) assistance are granted to these foreign workers during this moment. Third and lastly, no one feels good reading any articles which shows social inequality and are bond to be angered or sadden by these articles in a way or another. Thus, while the topics on dormitories might be the most engaging topic for now, but it’s also one of those very challenging topic for any socially-responsible writer to pen.

While many argued that the living environment of these foreigners should have been emphasized and dealt with in the earliest moment, but what’s the point of establishing who’s right or who’s wrong especially when it already happened. The most important issue at hand is how to deal with it, shouting over the megaphone with “I already told you so” is not going to be of any help. While most of us might not be able to extend any real “physical” help out there in the dormitories now, we hope that our article can shed some light from different perspectives.

While most of us are affected by the high spike rate in dormitories and might be barking at the wrong tree, blaming or questioning what the relevant authorities and our government are doing for these foreginers now. But we need to acknowledge that most of us are not channeling our questions to the right people who should be really responsive and responsible for this incident. This is not an issue where we can go “solo” and be “hero”, Covid-19 is bigger than anything we have seen during our time. We need to work hand-in-hand with the right people and right assistance to get all of us through this.

When two countries agree on a “foreign labour” policy, both are willing parties and both seek causes and clauses for mutual benefits and also the well being of their countries. Thus during such crisis, both countries involved should be extending their assistance to these foreigners in Singapore now. As much as our government and all the relevant agencies are trying to do the best for this community now, countries’ embassy should remain open to assist their people. A quick check with these embassies revealed that some of these embassies are closed for now (most of them plainly stated as “complying to Singapore’s Government’s “Circuit Breaker” as a reason for their closure).

If an embassy can stay closed during crisis time, then it’s not fit to be an embassy representing it’s people in another country. This shows who is doing a bad job but taking up responsibility, and who’s not doing any job by simply running away from responsibility. In fact, embassies should be extending their operation hours now to assist their people through this bad patch together with Singaporeans.

To assist Singapore in our fast-paced and population-declining society, we have included “foreign labor” policies since decades back, so this is not a new policy of recent time, this has been our existing policy for a long time. Covid-19 did not spiked up because these foreigners, Covid-19 spiked up in dormitory cluster because of cultural behaviours, lack of awareness and urgency, and living conditions.

We need to understand that although these policies, were initiated by the government of these countries, the ground work, deployment and engagement of these foreigners are undertaken by private companies and establishments. So it’s not wrong to say that now in the dormitories’ case, these private dormitory’s operators should be responsible for ignoring and failing to preamplify this very possible scenario of high infestation of Covid-19 in these dormitories. Welfare, attention and awareness should have been placed as first priority of these operaters before it even worsen to this current state.

Now that these authorities have stepped in and doing what they can do, these authories and agencies became the figure-head for criticisms and blaming. While most of us can’t be there in the frontline helping these foreigners, as a civilized person, we should spare our criticisms (at least for a better time later) and let these frontline people perform their duties wholly without any more emotional blamings. Regardlessly, these private operators need be held responsible for this outbreak in dormitories. Period.

Most of us would have noticed the number of Filipinos hanging out in Lucky Plaza started to decrease even before the “Circuit Breaker” came in place, same likewise for the Myanmar crowd in Penisula Plaza and other foreigners’ favourite meeting grounds. But unfortunately, Little India remains that crowded and populated even up to the last day just before “Circuit Breaker”.

We need to understand that although there are newly contracted foreign domestic workers among these Filipinos and Myanmars, most of them have served several contracts here in Singapore before or these new ones are also socially connected to those who have served longer terms. Information and updates reach them faster and more efficiently. And being a domestic helper, they are more connected to information and sources from the families they are working in as well. Thus one almost see a very effective and efficient self-imposed social distancing measures undertaken by these domestic helpers, vacating their favourite haunts at the drop of the pin.

Comparing to the Filipinos and Myanmars, majority of these Indian foreign workers are mostly on single term employment and new, thus their information arrives later than those compared to Filipinos and Myanmars. As commonly seen, their cultural gestures and behaviours also engaged them in a much closer physical proximity than others. Thus specifically, this group became one of the prime target to Covid-19, not because of race or dormitories, but because of age long cultural gestures and behaviours. While these behaviors are not to be discriminated, we also need to acknowledge that these behaviours is one of the main reason which led to a spike up in transmission of Covid-19 among this particular foreign worker group in Singapore.

For those who have studied abroad or worked abroad for long time, we would have some connection and engagement to certain clubs or associations or groups related to Singapore. Simply for a Sense of Countryhood and Belonging while faraway in another Foreign Country. Similarly, it’s not hard to understand and accept these foreigners hanging out in their favourite huants, for they too are seeking their sense of countryhood and belonging while away from home. But unfortunately, for the very same reason that anyone of us (regardless of races) desired to stay connected to a “home” group, Covid-19 also used this to quickly infiltrate into this particular group.

Recent footages from social media which show law enforcers in India using canes on citizens in public may have shocked most of us in Singapore. Yet, we have also seen footages of people arguing with the authorities, and simply refusing to listen to instructions. Whether these behaviour warrants a canning is an entirely different debate. However, what these citizens are doing is surely making public servants job even more strenuous, especially in a critical period such as this.

On the contrary, the police in Singapore usually aim to settle the matter verbally, and force is only applied when physical threats to the officer, the public, or even the offender himself, are present. This has perhaps misled foreigners, especially those where harsh physical punishments are liberally applied, to think that law enforcement measures are soft in Singapore, and can be brushed over easily. As such, warnings by our officers are ignored and these groups will simply find another location to gather, flouting the guidelines for social distancing.

Covid-19 did not started initially from these dormitories, but were transmitted and carried around and further carried into these dormitories, we need to understand that Covid-19 infestation in this group spiked to such a great and rapid number due to many reasons. Regardless of whatever underlying reasons which the authorities have yet to investigate, it’s pressing to do what must be done first for the welfare and safety of these foreigners.

Written by : Mike Koh
Edited by : Huang Yushan / Ling Weiming
Published on : 17/04/2020
Image : Source / Taiga Ishii –

Is this the effect Dementors have?

Is this the effect Dementors have?

We’ve just passed two weeks of staying at home for Circuit Breaker measures.

And it has taken its toll on many people, the young and the old alike.

A general mood of dark despair of varying degrees has taken over – like how I imagine a swarm of dementors looming over our usually bright sunny island of Singapore would be, sucking the joy and hope out of everyone.

Staying at home was at first something we all loved and looked forward to every weekend. What happened then? Why has this period been so rough for almost everyone?

Turns out, Dr. Sheldon Cooper is not the only one who dislikes change. Change of any kind, especially on a national CB magnitude, is not easy. All pop culture reference aside, the constant deluge of news (both real and amplified) about the COVID-19 cases and death rates has an intangibly huge negative impact on all of us.

Throw in the frustration of trying to balance your child’s home-based learning needs with your own work from home tech issues and you’ve got a real pickle on your hands. And you can’t even escape for an hour to have a stress-relief venting with your best friend over a cup of coffee at the nearest cafe.

For some, this intangible sense of anxiety and fear is coupled by real worries of losing their jobs, and being unable to support their families. And many more worried for their friends and loved ones’ safety as they fight at the frontlines to battle COVID-19.

There is also an evolutionary reason why we are more down at this moment. It’s known as the Negativity Bias. Psychologists theorise that humans are more prone to remember or imprint negative events, experiences and news more quickly because we’ve inherited the genes that predispose us to give special attention to those negative aspects of our environments that could be harmful to us. In this way, dwelling on the “bad stuff” is similar to the sensation of pain–it’s our bodies way of keeping us safe. These negative events and experiences also tend to linger longer than positive ones, and this is what is known as the negativity bias.

We are thus more likely to dwell on the alarming news rather than the positive ones during this COVID-19 pandemic. What positive news, you ask? See, there’s that negativity bias at work. In fact, this pandemic has brought out alot of good that is lost amidst the ongoing spike in numbers world-wide. Like how individuals, corporations and governments are all doing their part, and uniting to fight the pandemic, ongoing acts of kindness among strangers, neighbours and friends checking in on each other, volunteers continuing to deliver food to the needy, and world governments coordinating preventive measures with a degree of cooperation that’s not seen before. Israelis and Palestinians are uniting in a joint effort to contain COVID-19.

How about this Instagram page which shows medical staff wearing photos of themselves to make them less scary and intimidating.

It’s been a dark period, and we are looking at more bad news ahead in the upcoming days. And while on some days, it may be next to impossible to find the positive in life, now is the time for us to be kinder to others and also to ourselves, to learn to celebrate small victories and understand that there will be days of back-sliding which is part of the learning and growth process. Perhaps that’s how we can all produce that Patronus charm that can protect us from this dark period ahead.

Written & Edited by : Huang Yushan
Published on : 17/04/2020
Image : Source/Willgard Krause – Pixabay
Source / Robertino Rodriguez – Instagram

Let’s Work from Home Better

Let’s Work from Home Better

It has now been almost two weeks since Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measures were officially implemented.

Under the new measures, most of us would have spent the last week working from home. This prolonged period of homestay is probably the longest we have all have stayed at home without stepping out. This situation, as with most guidelines related to COVID-19, is a novel situation for many of us.

Flexible work arrangements have of course been a hot button topic for the last few years. With the advancement of technology and as more digital natives enter the workforce, there is more clamour for work at home arrangements instead of having to report to an office everyday.

Unexpectedly, the circuit breaker have made working from home a necessity rather than an option and have provided an extended period to test out just how feasible it really is

There are definitely many plus points in the “change in scenery”, with many glad that they now have more time with their family and with virtually zero time wasted in transiting from location to location, we suddenly find ourselves with more time on our hands.

Yet, there are also those of us who may be having trouble adjusting to this new reality. Working at home can blur the line between our work and private lives.  With our home being our work environment now, some may not be able to switch off from “work-mode”, thus leading them to feel stressed up all the time. The more insecure amongst us may even turn paranoid, and start to constantly wonder if they are doing enough to be be considered “productive”. Over an extended period of time, the risk of more people burning out can become a very real threat.

As numbers continue to spike, it is likely that the current status quo may remain, with enforcement possibly becoming even stricter. The importance and urgency of being able to adapt and getting comfortable to working from home should therefore not be underestimated!

Here’s looking at a few ways which may be able to help one adapt and make the transition more seamless!

Keep to your morning routine as best as you can

It is not advisable to start work immediately once you wake up.

Maintain basic routines, such as washing up and having your morning coffee, or even change into your work clothes. Basically, do as per what you would do on a work day before the circuit breaker, i.e. get yourself into the right frame of mind first before you begin work!

Maintaining certain activities will help you to mentally draw a distinction between the “home you” and the “work you”. If wearing a shirt and tie at home is too much for you, then do change out of your pyjamas at the very least.

Acknowledge that there will be changes to your daily schedule and change your timetable accordingly

This may sound contradictory to the above point, but the reality is that you are based at home, together with your family and not at office with colleagues. Parents would have HBL obligations with their kids, your parents would be asking you to check on why the WIFI is not working properly again and your sibling will pop in every now and again to borrow some stuff from you- the distractions can be endless, and you would be naive to think otherwise.

You should embrace all of these chaos. Accept that your schedule will have to be fragmented and plan a new timetable that can gel better with your new environment.

For instance, get a head start to the day by starting before the children get up. Then, focus on your kids as they begin their day or their cyber-lessons. Then, resume work when they are on their breaks or having their naps.

If the environment simply becomes too distracting to work, your time may be better served taking a break or better still, slot in pockets of time to enrich yourself through reading a book or listening to podcasts, rather than just feeling frustrated. Own the situation instead of letting the situation own you.

Focus on the most important work

At the same time, the amount or the kind of work which you have to do or are able to do now, may also differ now that you are working from home.  What used to equate to productivity in the office may not necessarily mean the same now that you are working from home.

With resources, such as “distraction-free time” or equipment being more limited, it is important that enough time is spend on giving quality to significant tasks rather than urgent but trivia matters.

Avoid working in your bedroom or demarcate a clear working space

Or even worse, work on your bed!

For most, our bedroom and our bed is our one true sanctuary. If you are constantly working in your bedroom, soon, you will associate the bedroom with work and the stress that comes along with it mentally. That means that you would find it even harder to relax at night, and find yourself constantly coped up by the pressure of work, even after the workday has ended and you are lying on bed resting.

Living in HDB flats plus the fact that everyone is basically under stay home orders means that unfortunately, not everyone will have the luxury of space to not work at their bedrooms.  It is then important to mark out a specific area of the room which will be for work only.

Get out

Well, of course we should not be heading out unnecessarily during this period. However, do not get holed up at your work station for hours/days on end. Get to the balcony for some fresh air, or just go say hi to your neighbour (while maintaining social distancing guidelines).

The COVID-19 is unparalleled in our generation and extreme measures may be needed to be put in place to neuter its threat to us. Along the way, the pandemic has changed our lives irreversibly, including the way we work.

However, unprecedented period can bring along with it unprecedented opportunities. Instead of getting agitated by what we cannot control, it is up to us all individually to take advantage of this unique period during the circuit breaker to reflect and to prepare ourselves personally for what may just be the “new future”.

Written by : Ling Weiming
Edited by : –
Published on : 16/04/2020
Image : Source / Envato  Elements

Should All Businesses Be Going Virtual?

Should All Businesses Be Going Virtual?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and our local Circuit Breaker (CB) measures, online counterparts of activities such as watching movies and shopping have already become booming industries with well-trodden paths, whereas for others, not so much.

For education-based businesses such as tuition centres, digitalisation appears to be a natural next step as everyone began rushing to put their curriculum online. But for sectors such as travel, arts and events, the options appear limited, though that did not stop people from trying.

Remember when Singapore ordered the shutdown of all entertainment venues on 24th March? “Cloud Clubbing” became a thing where DJs performed live via social media and video-conferencing platforms. Some people were impressed, while others couldn’t hide their sarcasm.

Most recently, event planner Invade also announced that their upcoming Taiwan night market-inspired Shilin Singapore will be launched as an online event featuring livestream performances and food delivery options from vendors. Once more, reception to the news is mixed.

One might simply congratulate these businesses on their digital ventures and ignore the naysayers. Afterall, hadn’t the government been encouraging businesses to innovate and explore technology all along?

Invariably, many concerns and questions will surface due to the speed and rate at which businesses are taking stabs at maintaining profit despite the pandemic — just look at Airbnb’s recent Online Experiences proposal to allow those stuck at home to “travel virtually”. Needless to say, the move would have been more impressive had Airbnb settled the more pressing issue of refunds for existing cancellations beforehand. 

Comments under the official Airbnb announcement of Airbnb Experiences on Facebook filled with complaints about lack of refunds for prior cancellations due to COVID-19

At this stage, we expect to see many more attempts from hard-hit sectors looking to venture onto digital platforms — and we should be cheering them on for trying. But as for whether these attempts are successful hinges on a multitude of factors; the most basic of which is whether the business or group is aware of the immediate issues faced by society in crisis. Although it is important to ensure the business survives, we should also be thinking of how to do it without coming across as insensitive. 

Another issue that has become evident as observed by theatre artist and writer, Nicholas Berger, in an article on the sudden proliferation of artists taking their works online is the awkward justification behind these actions: “It seems desperately important not to let this virus slow our production of art…Quality? I hardly know her. This is a pandemic, we need Quantity!”. As our own local arts groups/performers take turns jumping on bandwagons of collaboration videos and pandemic-themed artworks on social media, it does bring to mind the question of whether these contents were done out of creativity or desperation.

And what about art forms that depend on social interaction such as theatre going live online? Some remain doubtful about whether these can be fully appreciated if conducted through a screen. Just as clubbing, a social event, becoming an online music appreciation session; or the hustle and bustle of a night market becoming an opportunity to eat delivered exotic foods…can a play also become just any other online video? More importantly, should it?

The COVID-19 ride may be short, but the road is long afterall. At the moment, everyone else seems to be struggling with the word “Quality”: what it really means to digitally enhance for long-term rewards instead of for instant boosts that will become forgotten when the crisis is over. Will the next business, product or service please make their bid for virtual territory with grace? When the storm blows over, it’s not the quantity or speed of action that will tide us through but well-planned, sustainable actions that enables us to truly emerge as victors, ready to face the next wave when it comes.

Written by : Ron Ma
Edited by :  Ling Weiming
Published on : 16/04/2020
Image : Source / Jesus Kiteque –

The “Essential Kit” to going out in Singapore

The “Essential Kit” to going out in Singapore

With the implementation of the Circuit Breaker measures, do remember, only leave your house if it is for “essential” purposes, as you risk exposing yourself to the coronavirus.

If you do need to go out, here’s a list of items which you should have with you at all times:

  1. Mask- either surgical or reusable. Surgical masks are able to filter bacteria more effectively, but the reusable mask given to all households still serves as a form of basic protection. Be sure to wash the reusable mask with warm water and soap after use.
  2. Hand sanitiser. Washing your hands with soap is the best way to protect yourself. Viruses, with the coronavirus being a prime example, may have an outer protective layer. Soap can break down this layer of the virus and to help them get washed away (together with other impurities) more effectively. If there is no available sink nearby, hand sanitisers are your next best option as the alcohol content can help to kill pathogens. So, keep one handy (no pun intended).
  3.  Reusable containers. If you are going out to buy food, you are encouraged to bring along your own containers. Not only does this alleviate the stress on the hawkers’ disposable containers supply, you will be doing your part to save the environment too!
  4. Water. Drinking water will not “flush the virus” out of the body, but it is always a good idea to stay hydrated, especially in times like these! Although we really shouldn’t, but drinking enough water is something that’s easy for many of us to overlook.

Water regulates our body temperature, helps to carry oxygen to body cells and remove toxins, amongst its many benefits. The lack of water weakens our immune system and make us more susceptible to diseases, which can really make you a sitting duck during this period!

While these few tools in this kit may protect you to a certain extent, the best protection  would still be to stay home as much as possible, wash your hands with soap regularly, and always maintain a safe distance from the people around you.

Stay safe!

Written by : Cheong Shu Yin
Edited by :  Ling Wei Ming
Published on : 16/04/2020
Image : Source / Envato Elements

“Circuit Breaker” : Are we braking Covid-19 or breaking under it?

“Circuit Breaker” : Are we braking COVID-19 or breaking under it? Why the number of COVID-19 infections are spiking so rapidly even when we are already in a “Circuit Breaker”?

Most of us would have noticed that during this period of “Circuit Breaker”, there are sudden, alarming spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases. Amidst this rising statistic, there are also fake amplified stats of COVID-19 cases from private WhatsApp and other message groups. One might question : is the “Circuit Breaker” working? Or is it breaking? Why are the numbers of COVID-19 infections still spiking so rapidly even when we are already in a “Circuit Breaker”?

Reason One : “Circuit Breaker” is not a cure for COVID-19.

As researchers work tirelessly on finding more treatments and vaccines for Covid 19 (which might take months), “Circuit Breaker” is the ONLY intervention available to help individuals stay healthy, to break the chain of transmission, and also to allow more vulnerable populations (or COVID-19 identified clusters) a fighting chance of surviving this pandemic.

Reason Two : It takes time for the “Circuit Breaker” to contain COVID-19.

Research has shown us that while COVID-19 virus spreads easily and quickly (via close contact) from one person to another, the incubation period of this virus varies from person to person, with some showing symptoms within 3 days and others as long as 3 weeks. Some research also shows a majority of infections are mild or even asymptomatic. Thus it’s very possible that someone who has already been infected with COVID-19 may be carrying and transmitting this virus to others unknowingly until the virus becomes full blown.

Remember this : You are not just isolating yourselves from COVID-19, you are also assisting those in the identified cluster with a better fighting chance to survive this pandemic.

One of our earliest COVID-19 identified clusters is The Life Church and Missions (of Singapore), which can be traced from the initially identified case of Singapore’s COVID-19 Case 8th and Case 9th and to Case 90th (belonging to a sub-cluster of this cluster and the first fatality of COVID-19 in Singapore). From all these official records, it is easy to understand that the incubation period of this virus varies from people to people (source).

Reason Three : Individuals and groups not taking this “Circuit Breaker” seriously enough.

Fools – period.

True and false. While certainly there are some “covidiots” out there still having a ball of their time, there are also people out there who are really in need of help and ought to be spared from any tongue lashings. We have seen cases of elderly people still loitering outside alone during this “Circuit Breaker” period, some of these stayed alone and they felt safer to be out there in the open then to stay alone at home. There are people out there with depression and anxiety, these people need help and what we can do is not to publicly shame them and call them names.

We might not be able to comprehend what these people are going through and why they are out there loitering about, but without understanding their actual plight, it’s not kind for us to go labeling them as such and posting them virally to friends.

It’s important to study the statistics from other countries which have also issued different degrees of social distancing measures. These countries are also experiencing irregular spikes in their numbers of infection. These statistics should never be taken in a “matter-of-fact” manner, but more as an understanding that most of countries and people are yet to be readied for such a pandemic.

We should be concerned that the number of COVID-19 patients are spiking. At the same time, we should also understand that although as a country, we have gone through other crisis together before and pulled out of it mostly intact and well, COVID-19 is a pandemic no one is prepared for and everyone is learning as much and trying to deal with it as much as well. During this period of spiking, it’s not a time to question whether the “Circuit Breaker” is working, it’s not a time to lose our faith in the system due to the spiking, it’s not the time to blame or shame others, but it’s a time to show again how as a united nation, we can stand together as one in one of the hardest times.

Written by : Mike Koh
Edited by : Huang Yushan / Ling Weiming
Published on : 15/04/2020
Image : Source / Shutterstock