Come Hell and High Water Indeed

How is everyone? Well and dry, I dare to hope? I live in a high-rise building that fortunately, and quite rarely for Jakarta, is surrounded by enough lush greenery. There’s no flood around us, yet we sadly could see from the rooftop some parts of the city that were flooded, jammed, or both.

Traffic in Jakarta has been increasingly worsened and frustrating in recent years. When rising income is met with perpetually inadequate mass transportation modes is no wonder that citizens start buying and riding private vehicles. Added the poor, garbage-clogged, city drainage system into the mix, the city becomes a massive point of immovable people and vehicles once rains start to drop and pool.

And, ladies and gentlemen, rain will always come. This fertile archipelago does geographically lie on the equator, where 6 months of raining season is an ecological fact. That Jakarta is situated on a large bay that opens to a sea is another geographical fact. How the city residents and its ruling government, apparently since Dutch colonial days, have not mastered enough action plans to overcome potential flooding every raining season is a tragic historical fact.

Water is a simple element. It moves from a higher to a lower point. When its path is blocked by anything, water will stop and create puddle, and later, flood.

I’m not here to point fingers. I’d say any of us has at some point thrown garbage carelessly, spat on public places (euww!), chopped a tree, covered our yards or neighborhood sewers with cements instead of holing bio-pores, gleefully erected a fancy villa in Puncak, or been too lazy to separate our daily thrashes (let alone recycle them). And I’m sure the list would be longer if you consulted credible environmentalists or city planners.

So we’re all guilty. We all know, without waiting for Government, what we should start doing on our own, in our household, within our neighborhood, for a much more eco-sustainable lifestyle. Now, what else can we do?

An idea that has circulated and gained enough attention recently is to work from home, or from a ‘common hub’. At a glimpse, it’s a tantalizing idea. You don’t have to battle through maddening traffics or brave torrential rains, stay at the comfort of your home, with piping hot noodles at your disposal, while relying on gadgets and Net to work.

I should know how dreamy that idea sounds. I have, after all, only done it for the past 5.5 years. The consulting works I have done since leaving corporate world is the type that enables me, most of the time, to work from almost any part of the world as long as my laptop is charged and an internet connection is available. Still, there are moments when teleconference is no longer effective and I actually need to meet colleagues and clients in person, even if it’s not always in the office.

Yet as fun as that sounds, I know firsthand how the practice can only be adopted by certain types of job in certain sectors.

For example fast-moving consumer goods, where I spent most of my corporate career, require continuous, quality contacts and brainstorming between various brand team members, not to mention various employed agencies, while most of its salespeople are already on the road most of the time. Banking is also another sector that needs constant liaising and teamwork to achieve optimum goal.

No matter how highly-equipped your teleconference facilities or fast Skype gets these days, direct human contacts, still irreplaceably, enable better understanding and faster collaboration—two pivotal factors for most sectors. Working away from an office work most effectively and efficiently for jobs that relies more on individual thinking process, presumably aided with technology, than in multi-party teamwork. Working from homes or hubs because it optimizes your work performance may well be a notch closer to a first world utopia, but doing it because the city is so debilitated by traffic and flood problems are a stark reminder of a true third world living. It may instantly free some people from current headache, yet mistaken it as a long-term solution for all Jakartans is a gross and misguided generalization.

The newly-elected Jakarta governor and deputy governor have barely sat in the office for 100 days. While we can’t blame this administration for the crippling of the city, we also elected him with the high hopes of finding workable and effective solutions sooner than later.

In the meantime, let us all look within and see what more eco-sustainable practices we can adopt at home. I’m going to start poking through my fridge and see if I can cook today, instead of calling for a delivery. After all, after four consecutive days of working from home, trapped by situation instead of tempted to nestle, I think I have called every available delivery service nearby.

Should more hell and higher water come, I think I may just develop agoraphobia. Hey, do you suppose the City of Jakarta would pay for my therapy bills?

As published:

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