In the world of work, people are still trying to defy the fact that the reality brought about by COVID-19 has disrupted the supply chain and overall productivity of firms and industries. This was partly seen by the immediate reactions of the world stock markets which plummeted.
This chain of reactions has had an impact on millions of workers world wide and considering that work, as we know it, provides a sense of social identification to us (just as does family, friends, etc), the first reaction of having to stay inside is the sense of 'routine disruption'.
Certain anticipations like meetings planned for the day create a sense of control and psychological safety.
Some people even organise their office, workspace and desk in a manner that gives them a sense of control. Disrupting that in a manner as quick as it happened means that people used to this 'routine' have to reappraise the balance between the additional burdens to cope and the availability of resources (e.g. IT) to manage it. This is stressful and in prolonged periods can generate spill over effects onto other circles of one’s life.
While some people are used to working from home, most would do it in silence and out of their own accord. Now, all of a sudden, people have been pushed unwillingly into this position.
The workplace, the office or any other space people occupy to execute productive tasks have a symbolic meaning and it influences the set of desired behaviours required to perform effectively. Being 'forced' to stay at home and elicit the same desirable behaviours is not an easy task for everyone. 'Working from home' means that one needs to struggle to keep the distinction between their 'presence at home' and 'their presence at work'.
A third change is that that such an experience may have pushed so suddenly on so many employees is 'relationships' at work.
One must also not forget those employees who have been asked to stay home (rather than work from home) because their places of work have been forced to close to contain the spread. For these, it's a bigger challenge. These employees have additional burdens culminating from a sense of job insecurity which is, as we know, linked to mental health. This sensation of helplessness (what can I do?) and hopelessness (what will become of me?) may trigger feelings like worry, anxiety and fear about their future. The financial responsibilities that people have linked to their job (e.g. loans, taking care of a family) are likely to increase significantly in this period and this may have effects on both the individual's health and also that of those that the person lives with. Of course, this does not happen overnight but slowly escalates over time keeping in mind that we are all different in the way we cope with such events.
What can be done to overcome, or at least cope effectively, with the above?
1. Manage your time
This is now more than simply timing when specific tasks are to be held but it means creating a sense of time structure. It may also be useful (if space permits) that you do work in a space in the house which is not the same where you eat or you socialise with your family. This helps to keep a distinction between 'work' and 'home'.
2. Maintain a routine
Of course, this is not easy but if one is used to writing a list of tasks for the day, do it; if you normally stop for a coffee at 10, do it.
3. Discuss with others
Try to maintain an open channel of communication with friends and colleagues and don't just discuss 'work'. This helps first by keeping you in connection with others and also provides a sense of social support which is a strong buffer against the effects of stress. While going out is not recommendable given we have to obey the principle of social distancing, do have lively chats with your colleagues and friends. The mind needs to remain active and that is a strong drug against the subtle entry of mental health problems.
5. Speak up about any issues that are troubling you
If job security is really an issue and there are things that trouble you as a consequence of that speak up! Speak to those closest to you, get the help of professionals if need be but do not leave it inside of you.
The COVID-19 will pass. It is just a matter of when. We need to ask ourselves: will we come out of this with a lesson? I think it is important that we all reflect on this and learn not to take life for granted. There are so many things we have taken for granted because they are 'free' and that are now so impossible to attain. So rather than letting go for the moment, plan your freedom for when this is all over.