Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, have all chosen to quarantine in our homes for the upcoming weeks. If you’d been told in January that you’d be able to work from home for months on end – dodging overcrowded travels and office issues in the process – it might have sounded like a start-of-the-year bonus. The reality, of course, is not so enjoyable. As the world adjusts to the coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest changes is enforced home working. Staying motivated, retaining work-life balance and video conference etiquette are just some of the challenges. No travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of isolation. Here are a few pointers that could help you survive spiralling negative thoughts about this uncertain time.
Reframe “I am stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on my home and myself” : As dismal as the world may feel right now, think of the mandated work-from-home policy as an opportunity to refocus your attention from the external to the internal. Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, reorganize, or create something you’ve always wanted to. Approaching this time with a mindset of feeling trapped or stuck will only stress you out more. This is your chance to slow down and focus on yourself.
Stay close to your normal routine : Try and maintain some resemblance of structure from the pre-quarantine days. For those individuals with children, sticking to a routine might be easier; however as you work from home, it could be tempting to fall into a more lethargic lifestyle, which could lead to negative thinking. Wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals, shower, adapt your exercise regimen, and get out of your PJ’s. Do laundry on Sundays as usual. Not only will sticking to your normal routine keep you active and less likely to spiral, it will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.
Avoid obsessing over endless Coronavirus coverage : Freeing up your day from work or social obligations gives you plenty of time to obsess, and if you have a tendency to consult Google for every itch and sneeze, you may be over-researching the pandemic as well. Choosing only certain credible websites for a limited amount of time each day (perhaps two chunks of 30 minutes each) will be in your best interest during this time.
A chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind : With all the uncertainty happening outside your home, keep the inside organized, predictable and clean. Setting up mental zones for daily activities can be helpful to organize your day. For example, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa- just as before, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk. Loosening these boundaries just muddles your routine and can make the day feel very long. Additionally, a cluttered home can cause you to become uneasy and claustrophobic of your environment- so keep it tidy.
Start a new quarantine ritual : With this newfound time, why not do something special during these quarantined days? For ex-ample, perhaps you can start a daily journal to jot down thoughts and feelings to reflect on later. Having something special during this time will help you look forward to each new day. As well as switching off the laptop at the end of the day, make sure you do pleasurable activities for mood elevation Also take this time to catch up with friends and family and get to know them like never before. “It’s important that we stay in touch with people but also that it’s not just a touch-base focus on the coronavirus. Actually show interest in the other person,”
Arrange a meeting (or three): A commonly told joke at the start of the pandemic said that one thing the coronavirus would teach us is whether all those meetings could have been emails after all. Excess meetings may have been a bugbear of the pre-COVID-19 workplace but right now, they’re essential. And not just for much-needed human contact. “The individual manager’s role is suddenly more important than ever before. “Reassure, motivate and make your team feel secure. Don’t just email people. You have to do it eyeball to eyeball.” Use technology like Skype, Duo and Webex, especially when problems arise. This will minimise misinterpretations and prevent time-wasting chains of emails that devour your day. It might also make your team more effective. A study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that teams who met regularly for debriefs produced more innovative solutions to problems. Appoint somebody to lead the meeting, review recent work and brainstorm ways of improving.
Work out to work well : In 2019, the Journal of Human Sport And Exercise reported on a 12-week exercise programme conducted in a Greek prison. In line with all the existing evidence, it found that participating inmates felt a greater sense of self-esteem and quality of life than those who didn’t take part. Even low-intensity activity can boost your energy levels. Now that COVID-19 has us all confined to our homes, we should all be doing the same as those Greek prisoners. Because as well as the health benefits and the regular dose of serotonin, getting a sweat on can also improve your work. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that even low-intensity exercise can boost your energy levels, making you better able to face your to-do list.
Combat loneliness: “Remember we’re social animals,” Part of the reason we go to work is that we love being with other people.” Nobody should take the threat of loneliness lightly during the pandemic because it can lead to poor mental and physical health in other areas.
Learn something new: Work is likely to slow down for many people during the pandemic, but this in itself can create an opportunity. “Think about what else you can do during this period to develop another line to your work,”. “Maybe an IT course, maybe a language, do something to keep yourself cognitively active. You might never get this kind of window to learn something again. Use it.” Take up a new learning course, develop a new skill set. As well as bolstering your long-term employability, lifelong learning is proven to improve happiness as well as cognitive traits like memory. And the Internet is full of tips to help you learn more effectively.
Finally remember nothing of this is permanent. This too shall pass…….Enjoy
Sudhindra Sarnobat, Chief HR.