How to Make Working During the Pandemic Actually Work

5 tips from a psychiatrist to help boost performance at work during the pandemic and extra tips to shift work to post-Covid new normal

HAPPY Clinic’s “Working Through the Uncertainty of Pandemic - How Can We Make This New Normal Work for Work” poster with Hospital Universiti Sabah’s Psychiatry Registrar, Dr David Tan and Moderator Ijlal Nasir

The world has embraced a new normal to add defence against the COVID-19 pandemic and among them is working from home which comes with its own challenges. Dr David Tan, Hospital Universiti Sabah’s Psychiatry Registrar shared in EduCity’s HAPPY Clinic webinar “Working Through the Uncertainty of Pandemic – How Can We Make This New Normal Work for Work” that while working from home has increased more possibilities to work anywhere, anytime and help reduce pollution emitted by transportations to and from work, there are downsides to it.

“Working from home means working alone, where movement is restricted and thus individuals may feel hard to stay emotionally connected,” he said, further adding that working remotely means experiencing more isolation and being out of touch with colleagues physically.

Working anytime and anywhere are blurring lines of boundaries between work and life where there is no apparent change in environment for two different lives – work and home, and one may have difficulties to rest and stay productive. This is also employers’ worst nightmare where productivity is unpredictable with the highly motivated ones may still produce the same output at work but some may need more and constant pushes to meet the minimum requirement.

Emotional isolation, in fact, has caused distress and Dr David gave 5 tips to stay mentally healthy for employees and employers alike:

Being in the Present

Dwelling in the past may evoke regrets while thinking constantly about the future could cause worries, the best way is to simply stay in the moment and savour every minute of it. Focus on the current challenges and enjoyment.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is focusing on the moment and seeing things as they are. Any feelings one is experiencing should be acknowledged like worries and sadness instead of dismissing it.

Accept the flaws and negativity that is normal to come by at times of distress and be aware that it would come and go; a common and collective human experience.

Dr David clarifies that mindfulness did not equate to ‘relaxation’ nor would it make one feel completely at peace. Being mindful means being aware of what you are going through emotionally and mentally.

Deliberate Change

Set a workspace for you to focus on work and during working hours, change in work clothes to give a sense of control with clear boundaries between work and rest.

Mindful of Time

Abide by the working hours that are set for you and while you may be flexible, always remember to not do too much of it or risk getting the remote working isolation bug.

Transition Rituals

Time to commute to and fro work is actually the warm-up and cooling period for us to work.

Set your own ritual before you start working and also when you get off work. It could be making coffee or exercising to help tell your mind and body that you are now ready to work and rest.

When asked what employers and colleagues can do to help encourage a healthy environment while working remotely, Dr David suggested a simple, casual catch up session. Schedule individual ones if there is a need to see if the employees or colleagues need minor adjustments for them to work more effectively.