Sabahat Quadri Works


No Promotions, Please

I absolutely love working from home.

In March 2020, when COVID wafted through the air, and offices around the world moved their processes (as much as they could) online, I was among the lucky few who got to hang up her morning routine. I started waking up later — there was no commute, so I could wake up at 8 and still be at work by 9. I didn’t need to shower, or dress. Because my apartment seemed to be built with strangely dense material, my internet connection weakened outside my bedroom. So I worked in bed because I didn’t have a desk in that apartment. (I know that’s a terrible idea. It encourages you to stay in bed all day long. Fuck exercise and fresh air and a change of scene. I could eat there, work there, watch TV there, sleep there, and wake up in the morning to start the cycle all over again. I didn’t know this was a long-term situation back then.)

After the first month of working from home, I was still happy, working more than ever because at home, there’s no sign to end the workday. I don’t pack up and drive home. There’s no separation between the two here, especially when you’re working from your bed. Unhealthy Living 101.

It didn’t matter. I loved what I was doing, I loved the freedom of staying in my pyjamas, of being able to snack while working, of being able to smoke at my “desk” (I’ve been trying to quit since this started, because working from home has doubled my cigarette intake). I loved not having to worry about what to wear, not having to brush my hair, or put on a bra.

On 9 April, all of that changed.

It’s weird, but these dates now mean everything to me: 11 January, 22 November, 9 April. Mom died, my beloved cat Yoda died, my brother died of COVID. We went from a family of four to a family of two. There’s my sister, and there’s me.

It No Longer Sparks Joy

In March this year, the head of our department left for another job. The CEO, COO, and Country Manager called me, offered me her job.

Two years ago, I wanted that position. Two years ago, I was pissed that I didn’t get it. Two years later, I said no.

Even at a distance of 15 months, I’m not sure if my brother’s death was the last straw, or if other work-related factors have affected me, but bra-less snack-filled workdays are no longer fun.

Slowly, over the past year, work has become a weight, a heavy sack of sand on the back of my neck making me miserable. It’s a daily grind that I’m shackled to because I have a loan, bills, salaries to pay, and two elderly cats who need to be fed and kept healthy. I’m no longer eager to start work, and I’m watching the clock to see when 8 hours tick over and I can legitimately sign off. I take the full hour for lunch, and in meetings where I’m not speaking, I turn on the TV and zone out.

So I said no to a promotion.

When I said I didn’t want the job because I hate administrative tasks and management, the company restructured the entire department for me. They broke down the responsibilities so that I wouldn’t have to handle the mundane non-creative tasks, delegating to others in my department more suited to those tasks. It’s not enough. I don’t want this position, however well-paid and prestigious it may be.

Let’s be clear, it’s not the work. It’s the hours that I have to put into it, hours of my life that could be spent on more meaningful pursuits. Even the thought of going back to creating content is not enticing. The prospect simply feels like drudgery — like we’re factory workers churning out product as fast as we can.

I’d rather be painting.

I went back to painting after a 20-year break as therapy to cope with the loss of the past 2 years. I want to do that all the time now. I want to write stories, paint, read new books, re-watch House of Cards from the start, plant grapefruit trees from seed, and laze away the day watching the wildlife in my garden. I want to chat with my sister about her day and have family Zoom calls with cousins from every continent. I don’t want to spend my life managing disgruntled and overworked employees, or preparing mind-numbing presentations listing how many videos we created, or how many questions each team wrote every week.

It’s possible part of the issue is my CEO; he’s an ex-lawyer from New York who thinks paying a good salary buys him bonafide slaves. Every time a discussion around productivity has come up (he thinks we’re all lazy), his one question has been, “How many employees are working on weekends, and why aren’t they doing it more often?” He once told me how much it pissed him off that his employees left at 6 pm. The words ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ or ‘work-life balance’ are gibberish to him.

Call Me Boo Radley

I’m 3 weeks aways from stepping down from Head of Content. It’s an arbitrary, meaningless designation; random words we’ve assigned importance and prestige to. It holds value only in the context of how I project myself to society.

I don’t need that. At this point, I don’t care how I’m perceived by the world at large. I don’t have a husband or kids. I’m in my late forties, and I don’t have a big house or a fancy car. I don’t vacation in Dubai, or shop at big brands. I’m not giving TED Talks nor am I on discussion panels, or in the media. My benchmarks for my life do not include wealth or fame.

Call me Boo Radley. The people I care about most are the people whose opinions matter. They know I’m not Boo.

Everything else is just dust.

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