Working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic
In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone around the world is adapting to working in different ways and making changes to their day-to-day activities. As we cannot go to our usual places of study or work, our normal cues (office, library) have gone so we do not have them to remind us of our routines. Now we must create new patterns of work and change our habits to make progress with our tasks.
However, not being able to see people face-to-face is the most noticeable change, and what has the biggest impact on us. This has been the most challenging change as we are social beings and we need social connections to feel that we belong. Fortunately, digital technology has become our main tool that enables us to maintain contact while keeping physical distance. We can maintain contact, show that we care and share meaningful experiences with our families and friends.
Sharing space with others
As we are all having to get used to working at home, we may need to share the common areas to create workspace and negotiate study/work time and leisure time. Being in close contact with family members over a prolonged period can put strain on our relationships. Managing communications and keeping boundaries are essential to deal with differences of opinion and prevent potential conflicts.
It is very important to create space and time so that you (and others) can have some time apart to engage in individual activities. It is also necessary to negotiate when you can use the shared space so that everyone knows when it is work time, and when it is leisure time.
We all work at a different pace and have different habits. For example, some may want to listen to music while working, others may prefer silence. Or one may want the room to be cooler so wants to keep the window open, and the other wants the window shut because they are feeling cold.
Discussing any differences of opinion with an open mind. Focus on understanding what is motivating the other person to understand where they are coming from. Then, express your point of view using “I-statements”, without judgment. Look for common ground so that everyone can feel heard and be prepared to compromise. This will help to navigate the situations when it is more likely that solutions can be found, and preventing them from escalating into bigger problems.
Do you notice thoughts such as What-if a family member becomes ill? What-if I can’t finish my work in time?” “What-if I lose contact with my friends?” “What-if I cannot possible to find a job?” When we are uncertain our thoughts go into the future full of “what-if” questions, or we imagine negative future scenarios causing distress and lowering our mood.
Our brain has the tendency to focus on the negative scenarios. Researchers say that, in evolutionary terms, we have been designed this way to identify possible dangers so that we can prepare for them (Tierney & Baumeister, 2019). When you notice what-if thoughts, remind yourself that this is what our brain does and then bring your attention back to the present moment.
One way of processing emotions is to write about our thoughts and feelings as this will help to process and make sense of what is happening. What matters now is to focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot. By identifying something you can do and getting started, will help to restore a sense of competence and confidence.
By developing a flexible attitude, we can increase our ability to adapt and deal with significant challenges. At times like this building our resilience is what can get us through our difficulties. When we manage difficult situations, and we reflect on our experience to learn from them, we develop our strengths. It is about managing the range of thoughts and feelings that we experience when we are faced with challenges. As we recognise that these are part of the experience and trusting yourself to move forward.
Having to live with ongoing uncertainty can be very challenging, particularly when our routines are changed abruptly. It is necessary to create some structure to organise our day and manage out time. It is normal to feel more tired than usual, as we need more energy to manage our emotions and to focus on our daily tasks. Sleep can be altered increasing a sense of tiredness, making it more difficult to concentrate.
Tierney, J. & Baumeister, R.F. (2019) The power of bad. And how to overcome it. London: Allen Lane.