All of us are locked down somewhere in the world.
As the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic handcuffs nations and borders, I'm serving my sentence in Melbourne. All this while, I've been receiving and exchanging stories of lockdown with friends from all over.
The COVID-19 Lockdown Series is a cumulation of stories shared with Affluent Society by it members and members of Platinum Circle.
Allan Timlin is a Canadian CPA with 30 years international experience in Europe and Asia. As CFO APAC with Global Blue Singapore, he heads a cross regional team of 25 Finance professionals. Global Blue is the world's leader in Tax Free Shopping solutions.
Affluent Society (AS) spoke to him about his experience with the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore.
AS: What is the lockdown like in your location?
As with most places, lockdown or circuit breaker in Singapore, saw the staged closing of all non-essential business and services. Going outside requires a mask at all times unless one is engaging in rigorous exercise.
At first the prevailing sentiment was one of curiosity mixed with mild concern. As the weeks and now months went by the curiosity turned to frustration and mild concern became fear as deaths and job losses became a daily reality.
AS: What challenges did you face when the lockdown started?
The initial challenges were mostly dealing with confusion and communication as we (in the office) were not ready for the magnitude of this crisis. Some team members struggled with connectivity issues and system response times when working from home. Once alternative lines of communication were open, we then had to deal with some minor logistical problems as a result of not being 100% digital.
Special arrangements were made to collect hard copy invoices and cheques to ensure completeness in the month-end close. Once when digital signatures were not accepted, we had to courier documents between Singapore and Malaysia. Year-end audit presented its own unique challenges, but our auditor proved themselves to be world-class and processes were in place to share large volumes of documentation efficiently.
AS: How are you coping with the lockdown?
Early on I realised that coping would require some special adjustments. It was important to quickly establish some routines with a heightened level of self-care and exercise. With the gym closed, the condo presented a unique fitness opportunity in stairs climbing. The boredom could be overcome by setting mini-goals (for example, climb the 1,576 stairs of the Empire State building). I also decided to not sugar coat anything associated with the crisis…this was going to be bad and taking it head-on generated more positive energy than was previously ever required in my personal life and career.
AS: Anything positive came out of staying and working from home?
There were definitely some upsides particularly the savings in commute times which allowed me to re-focus on things like mandatory continuing professional development hours. On the personal side my best friends and I took on a one month no drinking challenge. Some thought this was the wrong time to take up such a challenge, but we thought the opposite. It was certainly not easy coming from a culture where Friday and Saturday drinks are the norm. Bottom line..we did it and completing the challenge gave us a significant mental boost at a very important time.
AS: What's happening to return to normalcy?
There is now a gradual lifting of restrictions and active monitoring to ensure a second wave of infection is avoided. The government has provided extensive financial and other support to give people and business the tools needed to bounce back. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it will be very interesting to see what the new “normal” has in store for us all.
Next up: We speak with Ricardo Marek about his COVID-19 lockdown experience in Brazil.
The COVID-19 Lockdown Series is brought to you by the Partners of Affluent Society including Crystal who redefines the way the world views luxury travel. Crystal Cruises is the World’s Most Awarded Luxury Cruise Line, having earned top honors in Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader Choice Awards for 26 years, including winning “Best Medium-Ship Cruise Line” in the magazine’s 2019 awards, and voted “World’s Best Large Ship Cruise Line” by Travel + Leisure readers for 23 years.