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Zooming out

Daydream By Diana G. Mendoza

Manila — In a recent online writing workshop, I struggled to clue in myself as I wasn’t in a good place. I told my colleagues about my condition as we mentored young writers. After the activity, I didn’t know if I made sense, but I was thankful that I pulled through.

Most of us may have had this experience of being present but are actually zoning out, or, in this era of Zoom-hosted work events, all we want to do is zoom out. There are many situations where we find ourselves in this predicament, but for varied reasons, we show up and stick it out.

I remember one day at the height of the lockdown, I already had three Zoom events before high noon so I stormed out of my place and walked outside, only to find myself in the cold embrace of the empty, spooky streets. There was nowhere else to go. For other people, it can be worse, even for just one event.

Almost everyone today is back to work, physically. While some employers adopted the hybrid setup of on-site and telework schedules for their workers, many offices and companies want to bring back the status quo – everyone back in their desks and nooks.

This means attending meetings inside the conference room, lunching out, having their mid-morning or afternoon coffee, gladly seeing the coworkers they are fond of and furious at having to encounter those they don’t particularly care for, or bracing up for the day’s insults and insensitive comments.

After struggling to work while restrained with the uncertainty and fear of the pandemic-triggered crisis, the back-to-work requirement can be a heavy transition emotionally and mentally to a workforce whose life has changed.

For those of us who are not in the required on-site work such as in construction and health care, and answered our emails from our kitchens while preparing breakfast, we tend to wonder how to go back to the old status quo. We are not okay, but we must be back at work anyway.

In this remote-work era where our personal and professional lives collide, perhaps the best tack is to just be kind because we don’t know whether the person on the other screen is processing a heartbreak while presenting a report; or the other one with the sky-blue beach digital background is actually torn and threadbare while discussing a point.

While I can think of the go-to approach to kindness as a way to soothe our flailing mental health as we continue struggling with work routines and re-openings, it helps if we also try to appreciate the fun stuff we have in our technology-aided Zoom interactions.

I just left my TV producer-head writer job after nearly five years; half of it doing tapings in-studio and the last two years working online to prepare for the nightly live broadcast, including attending the story conference – activities I just zoomed out of but which I fondly remember. There was that colleague’s dog barking in the background and someone’s baby cooing while we discuss the day’s news, anticipating what comes next.

Our humanity struggled with our journalistic duties aggravated by the enormity of what was happening in our country and the world. But then, this is why we zoom out once in a while.

Diana Mendoza is a longtime journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to

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