Vietnamese prefer to quit rather than return to office

By Quynh Nguyen   October 26, 2021 | 08:50 pm PT
As employers order workers back to office, some do not want to give up remote work and prefer to quit instead.

For nearly three weeks now Thien Nhi has not had to struggle with getting up early and commuting to work.

She wakes up at 8 a.m. and finishes her breakfast first before working in the comfort of her own home.

The 26-year-old in Hanoi saves on gas but is also more focused since she does not have to socialize and interact with co-workers. Her month's work quota was finished ahead of schedule, allowing her to take on more outside work, and her income during the pandemic was up by half.

Two months of working from home helped her realize this was the ideal way to live and work.

She says: "I can work sitting on my bed, and walk freely around my room. I can eat and drink without being reminded or judged by anyone."

Nhi is hardly alone when it comes to love to work from home.

Lan works from home in Hanois Cau Giay District on Sep. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Lan works at home in Hanoi's Cau Giay District on Sep. 21. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Mai Lan, 28, of Hanoi’s Cau Giay District, also does not want to return to office. She worked as a content marketer for a company in Dong Da District, but was told to work from home since late July as Covid.

When Hanoi eased restrictions starting Sept. 21, Lan and Nhi along with millions of other workers in the capital began to return to the office.

Nhi was late to work on the first day and sat in front of the computer the whole day but barely did anything. It was her least productive day in the last two months.

"Working in the office is tiring," she says with a sigh.

Lan found herself in a similar situation and says returning to the office full time overwhelmed her. Her workload had doubled from the work-from-home period, and she had to attend multiple meetings from morning to late evening and even had to cut short her afternoon nap.

She felt depressed having to spend time communicating with colleagues and observing their behavior.

"I didn't enjoy going back to the office," she says.

After two weeks both Nhi and Lan resigned.

"Many people say I'm crazy to quit my job," Nhi says.

She explains that working from home is more efficient and offers her the opportunity to increase her income.

Some of her friends have also switched jobs, she says.

Tran Anh Tuan, a human resources forecaster and chairman of the Scientific Council at the Institute of Training and Human Resource Development, says: "Switching jobs after the pandemic is an inevitable trend as many people have adapted or found value in working remotely".

This is also happening in many other countries.

A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics, the U.K.'s largest independent producer of official statistics, found that more than 56 percent of unemployed people are not actively looking for a new job. They also do not want to go back to their pre-pandemic jobs, or, if they do, ask to work from home.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in August alone 4.3 million workers quit their jobs, 242,000 more than in July and the highest number since December 2000.

A recent survey of Vietnamese workers who quit their jobs recently after going back to the office found most of them to be individuals who have saved money or found a new direction for their work.

Nhi says the decision to quit was not impulsive and she became confident when she saw new money-making opportunities outside her previous job.

"Job shift after the pandemic is encouraging to develop the economy and not disrupt the labor market structure," Tuan says.

According to experts, the most suitable age for remote working is between the ages of 25 and 40.

"Those who have just graduated and are inexperienced should not try switching jobs at the moment," Tuan warns.

Around the world, the lack of caregivers during and after the pandemic has also created a wave of transitions to non-office jobs.

In June last year, an online marketplace that connects caregivers with families in need of their services, published an online survey of 1,000 parents with young children that showed that 15 percent considered quitting their jobs. The rest said they plan to make suitable job changes to take care of their children.

This is also a problem that prevents Nguyen Nga, 35, in Hanoi's Hoang Mai District from returning to office.

She was told to go to the office after Sept. 21, but says: "I cannot go to go to work and take care of my children at the same time".

Faced with a widespread problem created by parents going to work and children staying at home and studying online, some businesses in Hanoi are allowing employees to bring their children to the office or work from home every other day.

Nga says her parents live far away from her and so cannot come to help with the children. Her husband's company does not let him work on certain days of the week and their children are too young for her to take them to her office. She is afraid to send them to daycare amid the pandemic.

"If the company does not allow me to work from home, I'll have to quit and find another job".

Flip side

Working from home in the recent lockdown, Hoang Tran, a 27-year-old in HCMC's District 3, was eager to return to her office.

Tran at her companys office on Sep. 21, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tran

Tran at her office on Sep. 21, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tran

After nearly five months of working remotely, she misses the feeling of working in office. She says it helps her concentrate better, and connect and exchange easier with colleagues and bosses, something that virtual work does not.

"Staying at home for too long makes me crave social interaction".

Eddy Ng, a professor at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, who did a survey last summer of 424 remote workers, says: "Young workers need relationships, close friends, people to communicate with and advise in work or life".

His research found that among people aged over 40, 45 percent wanted to continue working remotely after the pandemic compared with 30 percent for people under 40.

He says he notices a sign of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in younger participants.

This is true for Tran, an extrovert who enjoys sharing and participating in group activities and feels lonely and left out when working from home.

In early October Tran's agency began to assign work shifts for employees, but she hopes to go to work all week and life will soon return to normal.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper in August quoted Adam Galinsky, a professor of organizational behavior at Columbia Business School in the U.S., as saying that young workers who are working remotely may be missing out on important skills in the workplace.

"The thing that most concerns me is mentoring. A lot of lessons are absorbed casually in an office, but you can’t take any of that for granted in a virtual workplace."

Workers who start a new job remotely may miss the "burst of socialization and organizational energy" that happens during traditional, in-person orientations, he said.

Tuan says: "But people shouldn't think working from home is easier and more leisure than in the office."

Remote workers still have to work with high intensity on computers, closely monitor the situation and still face a lot of pressure from customers, he says.

"But no matter what, working from home is becoming a trend in the labor market."

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