Working from Home Top Tips for Newbs


A few weeks ago, most of us would commute to work for five days, and work from 8am to 5pm. But a few weeks ago feels like a lifetime ago. There have been a lot of changes. Many of us have switched to working from home (WFH). I bet this is new to many people. But as Stephen Hawking once said, ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change’. We are adapting to this new era-the era of WFH. How do we go about this? Here are some tips for you: 

Make a timetable

  • What time do you start work? Are you more productive in the morning or in the afternoon? Whichever it is, take note of it. You should also set a time when you finish work. Make your colleagues know about your WFH availability. Should you only reply to emails at 3pm? When do you make calls? There will be times when you have to start work earlier or take calls in the middle of the night especially if you have colleagues who are stationed in a different timezone. But on most days follow the work schedule that you have set for yourself.

Set up your  workspace

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  • Find a corner in your home where you could set up your workstation. A living room is not a good place for work as humans and pets frequent that area. I’d much prefer somewhere close to a window, with some natural lights coming in. If you haven’t got a table or a standing desk yet, you may temporarily use your kitchen table or your ironing board. Some people would do their work on their bed or couch but when possible, secure a desk  and a very comfortable chair that’s good for your back as you’d be sitting there for a long period. 

Set up your tech and apps

  • Do you need a noise-canceling headphone? Do you need your tablet and phone apart from your laptop? Will you need your TV as your screen in some instances? Ready all the things that you need. If you’re not using a company laptop then you’ll have to bookmark all important websites or apps like Office 365, Zoom, Skype etc. In some countries, internet connection could be slow. My friend would ask his family members to disconnect from their wifi when he’s using the internet. For work, that is.

Be ready for the noise

  • I remember a Zoom meeting I had a few weeks ago. We’d hear a rooster’s morning cock-a-doodle-doo a number of times before my colleague finally discovered the mute button. For you, that could be a meow or a woof, for me that could be my teens’ howls. Some noises couldn’t be cancelled or muted at home like children laughing or crying, cars beeping from outside the window. Some of us live in an apartment and we’d hear some people moving furniture upstairs. So learn to cope or manage the noises when working from home.

Log out of all social media accounts and turn off your TV

  • If you want to be more effective and productive, you’d better log out from all of your social media accounts. If you’re just muting them, chances are you’d check the notifications every time you take a peek. The moment your friends’ posts or photos of cats or Tiktok videos, 30 minutes will be gone before you realise it.Turn off your news channel. We want to get updates on COVID19 but we can do it later.

Strategise your breaks

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  • Take short breaks and walk outside. If you’re on lockdown like myself, walk to your kitchen or balcony or just outside the door and take deep breaths. Make coffee or tea, slice some carrots or spread peanut butter on your bread, whatever it is that you fancy. Eat a healthy lunch and take a power nap in the afternoon for more energy. Do what works for you but be strategic.

Which ones have you already been doing? Is there anything you want to add? Do leave us your top tips on the comment. Stay safe and healthy!

10 Essential Apps for Expats and Travelers in China 2020


Traveling to China this year? I have listed 10 important mobile applications people who are planning on visiting or living in the Middle Kingdom must download to make their first weeks much easier.

 

Having lived in Guangzhou and Beijing, I don’t usually carry a purse with me. You’d be surprised to know many people here don’t have paper bills with them as they move around in their daily lives. It’s almost a cashless society. They use apps for almost anything!

WeChat – This is the most popular mode of payment but you do need to link it with your Chinese bank account. People also use this app for messaging, calling, shopping, paying utility bills, buying train/plane tickets, getting a taxi, everything! This app is like Facebook as it lets you share photos or posts on its Moments and like Messenger as it lets you participate in group chats and do voice or video calls. If you could only download one app, this one is what you need the most!

Alipay – This is an online payment system which tourists can use by securing a prepaid card service from the Bank of Shanghai. I remember a friend who was so frustrated when she visited Shanghai as she couldn’t buy some of the things she wanted. Some vendors refused cash payments. This app is similar to WeChat though they don’t have the calling features. In some cities, some shops only accept payment via WeChat or Alipay. That’s why it’s handy to have them both.

MetroMan China – What’s the cheapest and fastest public transport within a city? You got it- the subway! MetroMan China covers more than 30 cities such as Beijing , Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. It constantly updates when new lines or stations are added. The app can show you the station maps, routes, schedules, number of transfers, distances, and estimated fares. 

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Baidu Maps – Think of it as Google Maps. Just a bit more advanced and more updated. You do need to know a bit of Chinese but if you have a translator app or use WeChat to translate it, you could manage to find or locate places in China. Listings and icons are available for hospitals, restaurants, schools, train or subway stations, police stations, malls, etc. Plus the app shows live updates of the traffic situation ,the speed limit for each street (including the locations of speed cameras)!

Didi – If you have tried using Uber or Grab, then you won’t have a problem using this app. Download the English version, sign up, and link it to your Chinese bank account or WeChat and you’re good to go. You have transport options for your journey such as public taxi, private car, limousine etc. You can pay by cash or through WeChat or Alipay and you can request to have the receipts printed and delivered to your doorstep!

Dianping – It’s a food delivery app you could use almost anywhere in China- whether you’re in the capital or in Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. It’s easy to use as it is bilingual. If you search for a certain cuisine, typing it in English yields accurate results. If you link it with your WeChat or Alipay, you could pay for your order automatically. You could order hours in advance and even track the delivery staff’s location real time.

Baopals – It isn’t a separate app but rather a mini-program on WeChat. Simply search its official site on WeChat, follow Baopals then sign up and link it with your WeChat or Alipay. Its newest feature: paying via Paypal! Its main market is the expatriate population. My friends and I have been using it and we could vouch for it reliability. Its customer service is very good, so is the quality of its products.

AirVisual– Since coming to China, I now constantly check the city’s AQI forecast (Air Quality Index) before leaving for work. When it indicates GREEN (0-50), it means the air quality is good and I can  bring my running shoes with me so I can walk around Chaoyang park after work. I check this app every now and then as the AQI could change any time of the day. What might be green in the morning could be red or purple in the afternoon. It doesn’t only give forecast but also real-time readings of the air quality in your area.

Trip.com– This is a must-have for expatriates in China. With this app, you could book hotels, flights, trains, car rents, airport transfers and even tour packages. And it is all in English, including the customer service chat and call options. As with other apps, you could pay using WeChat or Alipay on this app. You could even track flights including those you didn’t book at Trip.com. 

Dear Translate – I do use Google Translate and iTranslate but I prefer Dear Translate the most. This app has text, AR, photo and voice translation. To use it, I would just speak to its mic. In a matter of seconds, it would type the words I’ve dictated and translate them simultaneously to another language. It’s quite useful in communicating with the locals, especially when going shopping. It’s user-friendly and it supports more than 100 languages. Plus it can be used offline – it’s definitely a great app to have!

 

I hope this post has been useful to you. Best of luck on your trip and don’t forget to share with us any useful app for China travelers and expats.

Tips on How to Cope with Quarantine


The world as we know it has changed since COVID-19. Many cities have now implemented community quarantine or lockdown, stringent measures which majority of the people support in order to address the pandemic. Many people understand that staying home is very important.  Along with thorough washing of hands, eating and sleeping well, taking vitamin C and practising social distancing. Indeed, our physical health is now our outmost priority.

But how about our mental health? It’s a stressful time and everything is very fluid at the moment. Whatever is the situation now may change tomorrow. The truth we know now may even change the next day. We’re learning something new each day as we get updates from the scientists and government officers. We also read ‘Keep Calm and Stay Home’. But I am far from calm. To tell you the truth I’m a natural worrier.  So how do we cope? How do we protect our mental health? In this post, I’d like to share 3 things I do or don’t do to lessen my anxiety.

  • 1. Don’t read/watch too much news

I try to read news once in the morning and once in the evening.  Some of my friends would forward me updates on COVID-19 but I refuse to open them at that instant- I stick to my schedule. Constantly reading and hearing about the pandemic can be very upsetting. So I’d say read what’s important and do not fall into the fake news vortex.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

  • 2. Talk with people at home

Expressing your thoughts and feelings with a person you trust can lessen the stress. Yes, talk to your partner or kids- the very people you’re sharing your home with. Also, discussing about different topics-any topic other than COVID 19- can be relaxing and you’d be surprised that there are still things you don’t know about the people close to you. Engage in a healthy conversation, laugh at old jokes, and reminisce wonderful memories . Better yet plan your future trips together.

  • 3. (Re)Connect with family and friends

It’s important to fight isolation during these times. We ought to keep physical distance but we should also keep in touch with our family, friends and colleagues. Send a private message, comment on their new post, video call them- stay connected. Dial up your grandparents, mum and dad and people in your life (young and old) who you think are feeling isolated at this point. Indeed, connecting with people we care about can help us cope.

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Photo by Cristian Dina on Pexels.com

There goes my list and here are other great ideas that I have seen people do these days:

  • joining the Tiktok craze
  • watching Korean dramas (CLOY is very in )
  • exercising with friends together using Zoom or Skype
  • dancing Zumba or singing songs with their neighbours from their balcony or door
  • praying and meditating

What else can people do? Leave a comment below.

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