The past two years have been suffused with simulacra. Virtual meetings. Digital boardrooms. Online social gatherings. NFTs — a concept I have yet to understand.
Living in a hyperreality, where most of my human interaction has happened through screens and wonky WiFi, I’ve often questioned the actuality of my relationships — especially those I’ve honed during the pandemic. As in: If I met this friend IRL, would I get to successfully hold a conversation? After all of this is over, would we still know each other? Et cetera, et cetera.
It would be a shame to see the end of my pandemic-era friendships because I’ve made some of the best friends during the worst of this period. Burned out over increased workload without compensation? Needed a friend. Lost and feeling impostor syndrome? Needed a friend. Drowned in tasks after taking a sick leave? Needed a friend.
And because most of the challenges I’ve dealt with during this period have had something to do with my career, my dearest and most needed friends were also those going through roughly the same thing. I like to call them my work soulmates. Throughout this pandemic, they’ve been the ones who’ve heard me out, helped me process, inspired me to care for myself. Our conversations are always judgment-free, but also insightful and sincere, so I rarely hesitate to message them. It never mattered that the foundation of our work relationship was basically built on virtual grounds.
But, alas, the pandemic has extended far too long that I’ve had to bid goodbye to a couple of my work soulmates who’ve turned in their resignation letters — without even getting to see them face-to-face.
In the face of burnout, we need our work soulmates
Anthony Klotz, the psychologist who coined the term “Great Resignation,” revealed that the reason behind mass resignations in the West isn’t necessarily uncertainties; instead, people started leaving their jobs for “pandemic-related epiphanies.” They’ve rediscovered what matters most to them, which has encouraged them to turn their backs on their 9-to-5 jobs to carve more time for themselves.
The more tremendous stress ensued by COVID-19 highlighted how temporal life is, so employees began questioning their purpose in their jobs. More folks started switching jobs to seek better compensation and fulfillment.
In the Philippines, where there isn’t much of a safety net for job hunters, pandemic-related resignations are less evident. However, a number of industries have seen this, too. Most significantly, about 40% of private hospital nurses resigned due to burnout in 2020, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAPi) reported. The healthcare sector has been massively undermanned and overworked, yet some entry-level registered nurses still only earned as little as ₱8,000 per month.
Less alarmingly, but equally valid, this resignation trend can be seen in other sectors — from tech to travel industries. Readers of TripZilla have also admittedly seen more resignations happen in their respective offices. Doesn’t that make you think that we can do more to support employees’ wellness in the country?
Working within our spheres of control, experts suggest that having a best friend at work helps employees stay in a job. The same experts admit that it’s challenging to maintain said friendships remotely. So for those of us who’ve found work soulmates in the midst of the pandemic, we might consider ourselves lucky.
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours
In the book Cool Memories IV, 1995-2000, Jean Baudrillard wrote: “Man has lost the basic skill of the ape, the ability to scratch its back. Which gave it extraordinary independence, and the liberty to associate for reasons other than the need for mutual back-scratching.”
In my case, the quid pro quo was, unintentionally, emotional support. I’ve graciously gotten this far in my job thanks to my work soulmates. On the one hand, I wrap up 2021 feeling like my professional self has barely changed since the start of the year. But on the other hand, I know I’ve become a completely different person, transformed by what I’ve been through and who I’ve journeyed with throughout the year.
I’m absolutely dreading the time I’ll be finding empty virtual spaces in place of my work soulmates’ accounts; but at the same time, I’m grateful they’ve crept outside the realms of my virtual office. I’d like to believe they’ve become my real soulmates — as in real outside work, with whom I can talk with about topics other than stressful deadlines and picky clients.
So for my work soulmates who’ve spread their wings in search of career fulfilment, I pray that life only be kinder to them, that their industries flourish, and that they find jobs that are capable of valuing the precious things they can bring to the table. As for those who’ve stayed behind, I’m thankful I can spend more hours together in our virtual office corners, growing an unfeigned friendship that extends beyond the bounds of work.
Featured image credit: FatCamera via Canva Pro