Whether you are experiencing a lockdown in a major city, or just starting to prepare your resources in a small rural community — there seems to be no place on earth that the impact of COVID-19 hasn’t had its effects.

Going through a collective experience like this brings to the surface our vulnerabilities whether that’s our physical health, or our economic well-being. It also shows us that the anxieties we ruminate about as we lay in bed at night, are anxieties that people the world over share. And certainly, so many of our fellow humans, whether it’s refugees who are surviving day to day in a camp, or a person struggling with addiction and homelessness are finding it insurmountable. There is so much to think about. So many people to care about. What will our future hold?

For the LOJEL family — whether it’s our offices or the factory floor — the health and well-being of our people are paramount. Like most businesses around the world, our team has had to take drastic steps. Team members in Hong Kong and Vancouver have adapted to working remotely when needed. Our factory in China has been closed for over 60 days and production at our factory in Indonesia has been significantly slowed in order to implement strict health protocols. What does that look like? Mandatory temperature checks at our factories and our Hong Kong main office, masks as needed, and daily sanitizing procedures have all been applied.

photo by Quincy Wong

We don’t pretend that things are business as usual. But we want to go deeper and be honest with you about what this is like for us as we start to gather stories from all over the globe to share with you. Afterall, we are one big community. To start this series of dispatches, we have collected thoughts from several members of our team who are willing to share a personal side of themselves with you.

 


 

An Chieh Chiang, Managing Director
Hometown: Taichung, Taiwan
Currently: LOJEL HQ, Hong Kong

 

How has this experience impacted LOJEL?

Personally for me, as you can imagine my position will be a bit diffident. We are basically entering an unknown territory. In the past our business has slowed down, but never stopped. What we don’t know is the potential chain-reaction that this experience is creating. It is going to be a fight for a lot of business owners, between reality vs morality. It is going to be a bumpy ride, but as long as we hold on, the sun shall rise again.
 

How has this experience impacted your personal life?

If there is going to be any bright side (at least my observation), I can really see that a dilemma such as this, is bringing people closer together. Especially what I have seen in China, how quickly everyone pulled themselves together to focus on one task — to fight COVID-19.

When I was studying in the UK, I made friends with a lot of Chinese students and the relationships remain today. We have a group on WeChat that we use to keep in touch. When the outbreak happened, we had a friend who is a Wuhan native. Basically he kept updating us about the condition of the city and himself, and we all just wanted to make sure he was doing OK and if he needed any help.

On the personal level, it’s about keeping my family safe and secure. My wife prepared her own “curriculum” for the kids while schools are shut, and I just go straight home after work everyday.

For this “journey”, I would say I am just embracing this “moment” as a journey itself. I know that one day when we look back on this time, we know that as a society what we have experienced and learned will make lasting changes. I am keeping optimistic that the countries who have engaged and experienced with the virus earlier, will start to share their findings to the world so we can fight it as one.

 


 

Jose “Pepe” Munoz, Head of Operations & Business Development
Hometown: Mexico City and Madrid
Currently: LOJEL HQ, Hong Kong

 

How is COVID-19 affecting your professional life?

Like a chain reaction, projects that took me months to prepare have been cancelled or suspended at the moment. That leaves me with limited options to develop my work because so many other companies around the world are suffering similar challenges. I also had to start wearing a mask during my commute to and from work, and pretty much anywhere I go.
 

How has this experience affected your personal life?

It’s very difficult for me because my mother, siblings and friends are living in a lockdown situation at home in Spain. My grandparents and cousins are living in the same situation in California. And I have an uncle and cousins in lockdown in Switzerland too. We also have a family business in Spain (hotel/restaurant) which is now closed and means we have no choice but to suspend our contracts with all our employees for the time being. The only relief we have about this is that they will receive 70% of their salary from the government in the meantime.

Here in Hong Kong the government has recently banned public gatherings of more than four people. It was my 30th birthday few days ago and my plan was to celebrate in New York for the opening of a project for LOJEL, but now the virus has taken that away from me.

There are positives though. I became more sensitive to others as a collective. I do not protect myself because of just my health, but to protect others that may suffer more from this virus. I have been more in touch with friends and family around the world and it’s a nice feeling to have that connection.

photo by Quincy Wong

 


 

Alice Chen, Marketing Manager APAC
Hometown: New Taipei City, Taiwan
Currently: LOJEL HQ, Hong Kong

 

How is COVID-19 affecting your professional life?

For me less physical contact means more catch-up calls and text messages with agencies and partners to keep in touch. Our colleagues are working from home which means I need to be more precise and organized about the tasks we share between each other. It also means providing more support and empathy for one another when the situation is so uncertain. During a time like this I think about our community and how we can bring peace and joy of mind, when traveling to “reset” isn’t an option.
 

How has this experience affected your personal life?

I have seen people in Hong Kong giving away masks to workers like trash collectors or even old people doing recycling on the street. I also see small companies donating masks to the medical force or giving dining discounts to the medical staff to help. Community support is what helps everyone in Hong Kong overcome the situation. I make sure that I’m doing my part by wearing a mask and washing my hands often, ensuring that I’m not posing any potential virus to people who are more vulnerable.

Even though we are on lockdown I try to hike if I can. Hong Kong’s landscape offers a wealth of visual drama and experience. Around 70% of HK is natural reserves so it offers a lot of options to be in nature on the weekends. Exercising is a good way to release stress and really focus on ourselves – and ask questions like “who am I and what do I want.” I try to do that now to stay strong and positive!

 


 

Quincy Wong, Head of Marketing
Hometown: Hong Kong
Currently: LOJEL HQ, Hong Kong

 

How is COVID-19 affecting your professional life?

As a travel brand we are facing a lot of pressure to sustain our business under a difficult time. But on the other hand I see it as an opportunity. As a brand marketer, the media is open to new stories and we want to share more openly what our brand is doing under the current situation. I find that more real connections are established with colleagues and media during this difficult time.

I cannot travel now and I miss traveling a lot. I need travel to provide me with inspiration to fuel my ideas that I can bring back to the team. For now I’m reading books or watching films, and I try to visit restaurants that offer cuisine from different parts of the world. Especially in HK, which is an international city full of different restaurants from different countries.
 

How has this experience affected your personal life?

Social separation has had a big impact on my mental health. I have no chance to meet with my friends and family. I feel mentally tired everyday from going back and forth to work each day with this routine. My life is not in balance.

I also find that the city isn’t peaceful and fear and anxiety causes people to blame each other who are perceived to be associated with the outbreak, whether on social media or face to face. It’s hard to see these kinds of arguments happening each day. For me, COVID-19 isn’t just damaging to people’s physical health, but I’ve seen it be damaging to relationships between people too.

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