A CRAZY YEAR
2020. Wow, what a crazy year that was – one which we will remember for a very long time.
COVID-19 has impacted the way we live, work, study and play. We have all gone through the Circuit Breaker period, Phases 1 and 2. And now, we are in Phase 3.
Events took place at breakneck speed, and we had to adapt to either ‘swim or sink’. We had to adjust our work schedules, our children had to adapt to home-based and online learning. And the fear of unemployment became very real for many.
Two big factors often play on our mental health: change and the unknown. The ability to adapt to changes can be easy for some but to many others, this could be a nightmare. If one were to have a certain Type A personality or fixed mindset, it will make it doubly harder for them to accept changes.
The fear of the unknown often attracts panic attacks and anxiety. The combination of these two factors is known to have increased some levels of stress where if experienced over a prolonged period, may lead to a state of distress and eventually burnout.
WORKING FROM HOME AND ITS IMPACT
Here are some findings on the top complaints about working from home (WFH) from a survey that was conducted by crowdsourcing platform OPPi:
- Longer working hours or working outside of their usual office hours;
- Distractions from children or family members;
- Difficult to convince bosses of their
Another survey conducted by tech start-up, Engage Rocket, echoes similar results (response from parents only):
- 68 percent said they were putting in longer hours than normal
- 66 percent cited about practical constraints, inadequate space, distractions at home;
- 47 percent found an inability to gain access to office resources and
When we work from home, that study room or desk suddenly becomes our workspace. We now bring work home, and experience blurred boundaries between work and family life. It makes life a tad stressful, and these are the reasons why:
- Devices – You will find it hard to log out of work accounts like emails and WhatsApp.
- Do – You will be doing work outside your usual working hours or putting in longer hours than
- Detach – You will experience feelings of detachment towards your work and/or a lack of
- Disconnected – You will experience the feeling of being isolated or working
- Distractions – Having family members around can be challenging if you have children and seniors at home, as they have the tendency to reach out to you at the wrong
The three factors above – the uncertainty that change brings, the mystique of the unknown and the 5Ds – put our mental strength to the test. If we do not focus, we will lose our heads.
Let me share some practical ideas that you can apply to your daily lives.
HOW CAN YOU WFH WITHOUT LOSING YOUR HEAD?
We need space. Don’t have much? Then, make some.
Create your workspace at home. This is a wonderful chance to personalise your workspace and make it as comfortable as you can. Best is to have a room where you can shut the door, so that you can minimise distraction.
Create a ritual when you start the day (morning coffee, breakfast, turning on the laptop, etc.) and end work (changing out of your work clothes, preparing for dinner, etc.). You would need to know which activities mark the start of a workday at home, and which end it. Ensure that you transition from home- mode to work-mode back to home-mode again. This will help you shift your mindset and let others know where you are at.
Control your Devices
Devices make you accessible on work matters 24/7. So, it is important to know when to shut them off.
Having devices make you potentially work longer than usual. If your boss is a workaholic or one who micromanages and lacks trust in his staff’s productivity, well, that is going to be hard. Unless your work requires 24/7 access, it is better to shut off work at the same time every day and log off.
By settling on a ‘shut off time’ and keeping to it on a daily basis, you are actually giving your brain and body much needed relaxation and rest to be ready and fresh the next working day.
Toggle your tabs
More often than not, we open multiple tabs on our computers when we work. We juggle between them, opening the main tab and minimising others. Same approach when we WFH – do know when it is work and when we have to execute family roles and responsibilities.
Here are some tips:
- Communicate your work plans with your family members, especially when you are starting a virtual
- Teach your loved ones when and how they can get your attention while you are working; use post-it
- Create a list of things to do for the day with your
- Ensure you have lunch and tea breaks with your family That way, you can still keep tabs on them.
HOW LEADERS CAN SUPPORT WFH STAFF
Here are some tips how supervisors can help their staff:
Trust your Team
Sometimes, companies are not willing to embrace WFH because there’s an uncertainty over the staff’s level of productivity. To combat this notion, set up WFH guidelines such as emails must be responded to within a certain amount of time, use WhatsApp or texts for urgent or quick turnaround matters, and enforce a ‘no-call’ practice with staff unless extremely necessary.
Make it Inclusive
WFH is basically working solo. For the most part of it, there is a lack of social support and the nearest one to socialising is during virtual meetings. So, as much as possible schedule face-to-face virtual meetings with your teams: weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. This form of interaction and engagement will help staff feel inclusive and supported.
Stay Focused on Goals, Not Activities
It is important to manage expectations and stay focused on the goals set when embracing a remote workforce. Don’t worry about what is being done; instead, focus on what is being accomplished. If we meet our targets, then great. It is all about accomplishment, not the activity.
Use Technology Tools to Build Community
Use technology to create dedicated spaces for celebrating special days like birthdays, recognition of staff’s good work and service milestones such as years of service. Being intentional about creating community helps develop a corporate culture that inspires connection, which can result in increased productivity.
Establish Close Bonds, Support Frequently
Empathise and appreciate their life by discussing family, commonalities and shared beliefs. For the management, show you are supportive of their success by using inquiry to help them achieve their goals rather than check on their progress and numbers each time you call.
THE FUTURE OF WORK – WFH OR BACK TO OFFICE?
Sharing from Staff
After two weeks of working from home, I think I can say for the entire team that there has been no change in the way we operate. If there were, it is because we have been more productive and engaged in our work. Drafts are coming in before deadlines. People are volunteering to attend events to – gasp! – network and maintain relations.
The positive results from this WFH experiment got me thinking: if we, as a company, have been functioning so well while working remotely, why shouldn’t we be doing this permanently? Or why shouldn’t any company, for that matter?
According to a Gallup poll, 54 percent of office workers say they would leave their jobs for those that offer flexible work time. This sentiment is shared by many in Singapore. A 2018 Ministry of Manpower report stated that not having flexible work arrangements is one of the biggest factors in employee resignation.
The world had experienced an industrial revolution that transformed rural societies into urban ones and impacted the way people work.
Today, we face another revolution – the ‘WFH Revolution’. The future of work is here. This revolution is an opportunity for the human tribe to be better.
Be safe. Be strong. ⬛
1 LAI, L. 8 IN 10 IN SINGAPORE WANT TO WORK FROM HOME OR HAVE MORE FLEXIBILITY. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2020, OCTOBER 12. RETRIEVED FROM: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/8-IN-10-IN-SINGAPORE-WANT-TO-WORK-FROM-HOME-OR-HAVE-MORE-FLEXIBILITY
2 YIP, W. Y. SINGAPOREANS ARE ADJUSTING TO WORKING FROM HOME, NEW POLL SHOWS. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2020, AUGUST 17. RETRIEVED FROM: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/SPOREANS-ARE-ADJUSTING-TO-WORKING-FROM-HOME-NEW-POLL-SHOWS
3 HICKMAN, A. AND ROBISON, J. IS WORKING REMOTELY EFFECTIVE? GALLUP RESEARCH SAYS YES. GALLUP, INC. 2020, JANUARY 24. RETRIEVED FROM: HTTPS://WWW.GALLUP.COM/WORKPLACE/283985/WORKING-REMOTELY-EFFECTIVE-GALLUP-RESEARCH-SAYS-YES.ASPX
4 MINISTRY OF MANPOWER. REPORT: CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT 2018. 2019, JANUARY 16. RETRIEVED FROM: HTTPS://STATS.MOM.GOV.SG/PAGES/CONDITIONS-OF-EMPLOYMENT-2018.ASPX
Michael Chua is a Therapst/Coach who has been involved in social and community service work since 1995. He has worked at various social services agencies with a wide range of clients These days, he provides consultancy and developmental works, talks, workshops and group and individual work focusing on psychoeducation, family or parenting life, education and coaching, personal leadership and mind-body wellness.