Working from Home!
ArticlesApril 22, 20201 CommentsKituo Cha Sheria
A psychologist’s perspective in these COVID-19 pandemic times
A majority of us have had predetermined set schedules an 8am-5pm job with clear lines between our homes and the work place. Since early March, 2020 these walls came tumbling down and no one knows exactly when they will be rebuilt, although we are asked to keep hope alive. The world is faced with a virus so lethal and cruel which has not just put our humanity to test, but also gripped us with fear and lots of introspection.
Man must live! Life must go on! Bills must be paid!
Most importantly we must safeguard our HEALTH as well as look into rebuilding after the turbulence is over. How are we transiting? To what extent has our resilience been pushed to? How is the experience of working from home as foreign as it sounds?
From a mental health perspective experts and pseudo-experts across the world have put forth some recommendations- people are wired differently but here are some cues:-
Drastic changes require drastic adjustments: For most of the people who have always separated the office and workplace function, the sudden shift of the office to your home means re-adjustment to bring the office amenities to the household. Beyond the need for infrastructure (computer, internet); is the need for a quiet working space, and for most people this has become either the dining table or the bedroom but if you have the little running, hyper active and over energized soldiers then your best bet is the bedroom working under lock and key.
Time management is an utmost discipline: Suddenly we all have a lot of time in our hands but confronted with very few options. An old adage goes, to whom much is given, much is expected, and this time we are almost all equally gifted with long extended hours at home. Managing this time becomes critical to achieve an effective work and life or is it home balance. Once we have attended to the work needs, we have been forced to become creative in spending time to make the stay at home interesting.
Technological savviness is inevitable: With the transition almost all services have become virtual, with technology being employed in sharing, meetings, group tasks and even conferences. Suddenly distant IT terms like ‘Microsoft teams, drop box, we transfer, documents collaborations, etc have become inevitable. Needless to say some people are more challenged than others, but one thing that is clear is that we cannot avoid technology. Virtual IT support has become the norm but this means you have to work on the nuts and bolts of learning software yourself. But take it in stride; it’s all in the learning curve!
Work life balance taken literally: For the longest time we’ve been guilty of tossing the statement work-life balance and especially in relation to the family. However the full experience had been limited to the weekends that are further disrupted by personal errands, limiting it to a few hours of interaction. However, the experience of being under the same floor with our families for extended hours- 24/7 is almost surreal. Gone are the days families would exchange small talk and pleasantries between catching up on news, doing homework and having dinner together before catching sleep for a few hours before the routine replays. With no school or much engagement outside, there is all the time and suddenly there is need to have longer and hopefully meaningful and impactful conversations as a unit. Consequently, many people are relearning their children, spouses, and partners and even rediscovering themselves and their hidden talents and gifts, given the time in our hands.
When to hold and when to let go: When initially catching up on the news every second was critically important for most people, as the pandemic evolves, some people have sometimes opted to have a media block. This could be so as to avoid unnecessary panic but also to focus on work or maybe it’s the adjustment setting in, that actually working from home can happen. In the face of such a pandemic, psychologists have advised that keeping off the negative news is important, as it may have negative consequences on your health.
The true value of colleagueship: Once upon a time before COVID-19, weekends and sometimes working away from the office was one of those welcome breaks from sometimes monotonous office spaces with the same people and same vibe. But as the days go by, and with every consultation coming at a cost, and brainstorming sessions having to be pre-planned unlike when you’d just walk up to a colleague to pick their brain on an issue; the invaluable importance of the these engagements is becoming avid. We are slowly learning that the 8 hours that sometimes came across as toilsome, offered a lot in terms of comradeship that we may have often downplayed. Boundaries have not just been challenged but thoroughly redefined.
Health is the greatest wealth; with the globe grinding to a halt because of the virus, there has been great introspection of what ones health and the health of a nation means and the need to safeguard health as the greatest wealth.
As we continue to novel our experiences, we must remain positive and hopeful, because after this tide, we have an opportunity to not just rebuild but to better what we had previously.
Stay close to your normal routine: Try and maintain some semblance 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 Corona virus 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 (who.int or Kenyan Ministry of Health or is it Mutahi Kagwe daily briefs??) fora 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 dining table and work at your desk or an equivalent. 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 example, perhaps you can start a daily journal to jot down thoughts and feelings to reflect on later. Or take a walk every day at 4 pm, connect with your loved ones over phone every morning, or start a watercolor painting which you can add to everyday. Learn a new recipe. Just be innovative….and stay safe!
The article was compiled by Shem Alubala a psychologist at MHPSS- Kituo Cha Sheria with pieces drawn from a number of articles online.
MHPSS: Kituo Cha Sheria and GIZ have worked together since 2017 in providing mental health and psychosocial support to refugees in urban areas through the Mental Health and Psycho-Social support Services (MHPSS) which is under the Forced Migration Program. The MHPSS program at Kituo cha Sheria is part of urban refugee MHPSS working group comprising of UNHCR, RCK, HIAS, DRC, CVT, ReFuShe, NCCK, Hesed Africa, AAA, MSF and REFUGE POINT. The program is also an active member of SGBV (sexual gender based violence) and IPPL (integrating psychosocial peace and legal) working groups. MHPSS’s focus is on refugees and the host community with emphasis on mental health awareness creation, individual counseling, group counseling, community forums, training of key stakeholders like the police, judiciary and other government officials on the mental health concerns among the persons of concern (refugees and host community). In addition, the program offers self-care and team training to the Kituo staff and has been of support to the team in terms of debriefing and emotional support.