Essential Workers Share The Influence Of COVID-19 On Their Lives
"Gratitude and appreciation for essential workers expressed through art."
“The general public often overlooks low income essential workers. But being an essential worker is harder than you think…”
With the fear of a global pandemic comes awareness towards essential workers and the difficulties they face in their jobs. While most essential work positions are often considered inconsequential and insignificant, COVID-19 has proven that these positions provide maintenance and stability to our society. While on the front lines, essential workers are working tirelessly to aid the public throughout these challenging times. The spread of the coronavirus has altered the way we all live, reflect, and function. It has broadened our minds and made us question everything; from our relationships to daily habits. So, I reached out to four essential workers to discuss how COVID-19 has affected their lives and careers.
The following interviews have been slightly edited for clarity and precision.
“Hi, my name is Reza and I'm a sales associate at 7/11. The pandemic has altered my attitude towards my work to a certain extent because ever since [COVID-19] became a pandemic, I feel anxious most of the time. I do believe my area of work will return to its original policies considering not much has changed within the store itself, since only one person is in charge of the store at a time (sometimes there are two). Going to work has been one of the new challenges as the pandemic began because the seating capacity is reduced to half or even less sometimes, therefore oftentimes I would have to wait for the next bus. The general public often looks at essential workers as low income workers that are overlooked. [But], being an essential worker is harder than you think. We have to go through a lot of customers, problems, [so] therefore we are in need of a raise. Despite myself being anxious about contracting the virus, the workplace is pretty safe; we are provided hand sanitizer and gloves and have no contact with other customers because we have a screen between us.”
Chareese Robles, Pizza Hut
“Since the pandemic, I have realized that my job has been busier due to the fact that at the beginning of the pandemic, it chose to remain open. I’m more tired than usual coming home from work. I’m definitely being very cautious of my space and the areas I travel too. It’s very important for me to be careful when going to and coming back from work. Due to my parents health, I can’t risk spreading the virus to them and my household. As for online school, it has been very difficult for me to balance everything. Due to quarantine, a lot of my coworkers decided that staying home was the best [decision] for their families, therefore I got more shifts than usual. I have some teachers who have been really understanding throughout the pandemic, but other teachers have really just been adding more stress; assigning way too much unnecessary homework and not giving us a break. My job has been doing a great job making sure that everyone’s safety is their first priority. I do believe that the company I work for will go back to normal when/if the pandemic passes.”
Ratnam Ruban, Post Office Owner
“[At work], we have to be more careful of what we are doing; how often we clean the place and ourselves, how we serve the customer, and extra precautions we have to take to protect both the customer and ourselves. I think all the supplies and guidance we have been given has been fairly substantial. We all are new to this and everyone is learning. Every place you go, they are conducting their business differently. But some of them get angry if someone goes on the wrong side or does the wrong thing, so I feel taking things with a grain of salt and in consideration that we are all trying and adapting to the situation is key. The public has to do their own way of protecting themselves and therefore protecting others. I [believe] the pandemic is temporary and will not last forever.”
Josh De Guzman, McDonalds
“My name is Josh De Guzman. I am 17 and I work at McDonald's as a Guest Experience Leader. Before the pandemic, my role was to help out customers by asking them how their food was or ask them to fill out surveys. When the pandemic hit, my restaurant switched from doing normal orders to delivery only. Instead my role was to help make orders and hand the food over to skip or uber drivers. A huge challenge I faced was having to remember the order numbers for drivers. When I wear the facemask, it's harder for me to concentrate on certain orders and when orders aren't completed, the drivers become impatient. Recently my work has reopened and more customers have come in. Some people can eat in and take-out orders are available. From time to time, online school can be annoying to get through but they do not conflict with my work schedule mainly due to the fact that I work on weekends. For the general public, I recommend wearing masks and sanitizing when you enter the store. Currently, McDonalds is taking the right precautions in reopening. Earlier, they added hand sanitizers and screens to protect workers from contracting Covid-19.”
As reality changes before our eyes, we must learn to adapt with it. Acknowledging the difficulties of essential work, especially during such trying times is critical. Without addressing their struggles, we fail to recognize the significance of essential workers. As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it, “We all live in our own worlds and sometimes it’s hard to see experiences outside of our own, but I think one silver lining to this crisis is that people are now recognizing the inequities that have been here all along -- people saying, ‘wow, I didn’t know it was this bad.”