Pandemic Unemployment

Pandemic Unemployment or, What It’s like Losing Your Job During the Pandemic.  An article dedicated to everyone in the Hospitality, Tourism and Service Industry, and beyond. 

Pandemic Unemployment: Day 1

One day, you are groaning about your alarm clock, dragging yourself to get ready and complaining about the massive traffic to get to work. 

You arrive at work and go about your usual day griping about your workload.  Or laughing with your co-workers and fussing over the cafeteria food.

You make yourself a cup of coffee and drink half of it.  You then forget about the rest of it, as you go through your long to-do list for the day.

Office desk with laptop, files and a cup of coffee. Article Pandemic Unemployment by MY RANGGO Hospitality Magazine

Then, it happens. The President announces a lockdown, effective in a few hours. Suddenly, the air around you fills up with tension. The dangers of the virus, you try so hard not to freak out over, suddenly becomes a grim reality.

You try to calmly pack your things and finish whatever work you can. You say goodbye to your co-workers. Maybe you joked about seeing them next year.  You try not to feel sad that you can’t give your co-workers a hug. 

You tell each other to take care and to stay safe. Then you change out of your uniform for what you don’t know would be the last time.  It is the start of your pandemic unemployment!

On your way home, it feels strange and apocalyptic.

Buses are filled to the brim with people panicking to get home. Rows and rows of commuters are stranded waiting for a bus, a jeepney or whatever form of transportation that can get them home to their families. You see people walking along the highway. 

During your journey home, you suddenly remember your half-filled cup of coffee sitting on your desk. Oh well, you’ll take care of it when you get back.

Later on that night, you watch the news and see that some of those people you saw queuing actually walked 6 to 10 hours just to get home.  You weren’t to know then that some of them walked for days to get back to their provinces.  Some were stranded in the destination where they were working, far from their families. For months!

Pandemic Unemployment: Week 1

The next few days are spent happily sleeping in. A luxury! You find yourself watching Netflix nonstop and losing yourself in TikTok.  You are glad not to be exposed to the outside world. And that you finally have time to spend with your family. You are glad and grateful that the company is still paying your salary. And that you are even getting extra money from the government.

So, you spend your days making Dalgona Coffee. Burnt Basque Cheesecakes. Ube Cheese Pandesal and Sushi Bakes. You see your friends and colleagues posting about their own cooking or baking achievements on Facebook and Instagram.  

hands holding a cellphone looking at a picture of a cupcake on Facebook. Article Pandemic Unemployment by MY RANGGO Hospitality Magazine
Your friends are posting about their baking achievements on Facebook

Week after week goes by.

You wait to be called back to work.

The lockdown just keeps getting extended.

Pandemic Unemployment: 1-6 Months

Eventually some of your colleagues are asked to report back to work. You hear that it’s on the condition that they stay in the hotel. And that they do multiple jobs, across different departments. The hotel will be operating with a skeleton staff team. Suddenly, the bellmen are now delivering room service as well. And cleaning rooms.  Front Desk agents are doubling as F&B receptionists.  

Not being part of the essential workforce, you wait for further instructions about when you will be able to get back to work.

Pandemic Unemployment: 6 Months +

Months pass by and you are getting restless. You miss your job, your co-workers. You even miss your uniform.  The situation is not getting better and too many friends continue to experience pandemic unemployment.  Just like you.

People are still getting sick, and the numbers keep rising. Travelling and staycations seem like a far-fetched dream. You start to hear about hotels closing down for good. Hotels you know.  And airlines that are going bankrupt.

It is starting to dawn on you that you will not be going back to work anytime soon.

The hotel is running out of ways to sustain everyone’s salaries. They are struggling to stay afloat after months without paying guests.

You are asked to go on furlough for six months.  They say you can temporarily apply for another job, while you wait to be called back to your old job. Without losing your benefits! You feel like there is no other option anyway. So you take the furlough. And you hope for the best.

The next few months, you do whatever it takes to survive. You sell food, skincare, clothing. You apply for online jobs. You even try your hand at vlogging, to see if you can somehow earn from it. Anything to help pay the bills that keep on coming.

You occasionally think about that cup of coffee. You worry about what it looks like now. You wonder if someone spotted it and cleaned it. 

Office desk with laptop, files and a cup of coffee. Article Pandemic Unemployment by MY RANGGO Hospitality Magazine

Finally, despite valiant efforts, the company makes the decision to let some of its people go for good. You saw it coming. It’s not exactly a surprise. But it still hits you hard. 

You are now part of the population that is unemployed, because of the pandemic.

You go to the hotel for the last time to process your papers, to collect your things and to say goodbye.  How do you say goodbye to a job you loved so much? Sure, you loved to gripe about work with your teammates. But that’s part of it, right? 

How do you say goodbye to a career that you are so passionate about? An industry wherein you thrived but which you are now seeing disappear before your very eyes? 

How do you say goodbye to co-workers you love? When some of them are now gone forever, due to this pandemic?  You wish you’d had more time with them. You wish you had saved more money. You wish you had complained less. And appreciated your job more.

You wish you never took any of it for granted.

But you couldn’t have known what was coming!

You gather your personal belongings. You empty your locker and head to your desk for the last time. You see that the half-filled coffee cup, that’s been on your mind, has been sitting there all this time. It has grown a small ecosystem. You toss the cup into the trash. It’s unsalvageable now.

Office, desk and coffee cup covered in cobwebs and mould. Article Pandemic Unemployment by MY RANGGO Hospitality Magazine
Your half-filled coffee cup has grown its own small ecosystem

You visit every department to finish your clearance. 

You want so much to hang around and talk to everyone. But you know that every second with other people exposes you to unknown elements. So you keep it short and sweet.  You wish you could see their faces. But they are all concealed behind masks.  

You say your final goodbyes. Still no hugs.

As you leave you look back at the building you love. And you whisper a hopeful prayer that some day, the industry will be able to rise again.  That you can once again proudly wear your uniform. That you will be able to take in the signature scent of its lobby. And hear the pipe-in music, mixed with the bustling sounds of conversations, bells and rolling trolleys.  That you will once again laugh with your colleagues, and smile as you welcome your guests.  

You pray for the world to heal so that one day, you can call yourself a hotelier again.

Be Strong, Be Safe, Hoteliers

Last year, in June and July (2020) MY RANGGO carried out a survey with Hospitality workers.  You can read the full findings here 2020 Sentiment Survey  

80% of the total number of employees surveyed said they were not working or earning. 6% of these were stranded in the destination where they worked, with no income or way to get back to their family.

20% said that they had received no financial assistance or support, since the start of ECQ in March 2020, and the loss of their job (4 months into ECQ).  

79% of employees said they were not sure or confident that they would have a job to return to.

33% said they had already found non-hospitality work, or created businesses, or they were unsure if they would return to their jobs. 

Were you one of the people to lose your job? 

Leave a comment, with your story 

What do you think?

Written by Angel Lam Ko

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