Working from home — keeping it remotely normal

Summary

Here we are, in the time of COVID-19, confined as much as possible to our homes by extraordinary circumstances. Many of us have work to do, some in sudden isolation, while others need to be productive in the company of the people they love most: a partner and perhaps children, from infants in nappies to uni students now studying online.

Here we are, in the time of COVID-19, confined as much as possible to our homes by extraordinary circumstances. Many of us have work to do, some in sudden isolation, while others need to be productive in the company of the people they love most: a partner and perhaps children, from infants in nappies to uni students now studying online.

Even for the 3.5 million Australians who reported regularly working from home in the last Census, the situation is immensely altered. Our opportunities for social and business interactions beyond the home, for example, are now curtailed in ways in which we were not prepared for. But because we’re likely to be in this for a long haul, making adjustments, experimenting with new ways of household scheduling, investigating previously unexplored avenues for learning, and trying novel at-home exercise routines — is worth the effort.

How can we make the most of this new world, meet our KPIs on all fronts, and maintain mental resilience?

While some people new to home working can find it offers great synergies (more time, less commute); others, even those who are usually highly motivated and efficient, might find that, untethered from the workplace, they’re flailing in an unstructured sea.

“It’s a time of uncertainty, and it’s a normal response to feel some worry or anxiety about what’s going to happen, but there are lots of things we can do to help manage our relationships, responsibilities, and our mental health,” says Vanessa Carty, a clinical psychologist who is part of the Best Doctors network of specialists at the ready to help MLC Life Insurance customers through life’s health challenges.

Organisation and communication help you keep your ducks in a row:

It’s a hothouse situation for everyone. So how do we maintain a relatively normal and harmonious environment while keeping the income coming during the corralled Coronavirus weeks ahead?

  • Agree with your employer and co-workers on the number of hours you’ll work and when you and colleagues can be available for regular meetings. This allows flexible time management in concert with the demands of home life.
  • Maintain healthy life habits at your place Carty says, “Try to manage regular sleep, wake, meal and work/play times — it’s a great way to keep a sense of normality in your life.”
  • Factor in a couple of movement or exercise sessions each day. “This is great for the mind and body,” says Carty. It can defuse frustrations, suffuse your system with blissful endorphins, and reward all the family for completed tasks. Consider walking to buy groceries; getting into the garden or a nearby park to kick a ball with the kids; tapping in to app-led exercise sessions (yoga, cardio, weights, dance routines) for all ages; or skipping rope on your terrace or in your apartment-block driveway.
  • Sharing and reinforcing successes or stumbling blocks that happened today, can build confidence in tomorrow: tell children how their brilliant quiet time helped you achieve something; congratulate colleagues on successes; share with friends the organised chaos and funny stories of the day.
  • Having things to look forward to can help to keep everyone on track: apartment dwellers might chat between balconies at an agreed time; kids love the promise of a movie night with mini ice-creams or popcorn or a games night with prizes; or rediscover your record collection and just dance! Weaving fun things into your day, says Carty, “will help balance your mind and bring your household back to the here and now, and an appreciation of the things you can control”.
  • Be aware of how your conversation reflects your fears, especially when talking in the hearing of children. Carty recommends trying to balance the discussion, adding good stories of people helping one another, showing kindness, or finding amazing solutions to some of the problems we’re facing in the time of COVID-19. Children, on the other hand, need to voice their fears — encourage them to talk with the help of great tips at https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/supporting-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/
  • Connect with more distant family and friends It’s important for people of all ages to stay in touch with their social network: phoning, texting, Skyping, Zooming are all great ways to check in with the circle of people you care about. Schedule a shared virtual tea break with your parents, a Friday evening download with colleagues over a glass of wine; read to a niece or nephew or friend’s child before they go to sleep. “Hearing another person’s voice can make us feel both calmer and connected,” says Carty.
  • Designing your day on a shared calendar is one helpful co-ordinator. Making a list of what you need and want to do each day is another. You’ve heard it before, but breaking large tasks into smaller blocks — things you can do if the baby sleeps longer than expected, if you have time for one more job before lunch — quickly knocks over the big goals by increments. And try to include in your to-dos those movement sessions, online social times, and extracurricular activities, so that your life is rich and varied — if different — in the time of Coronavirus.

MLC Life Insurance is here to support our customers and our community

Today’s advanced communications mean we can do many things from home. As an MLC Life Insurance customer, that connectivity also means that if confinement, social isolation and an uncertain economy are constantly weighing on your mind, you can access help via the Mental Health Navigator service provided by Best Doctors.

With one call to Best Doctors, you can be connected to a dedicated Mental Health Nurse, who will help you access useful resources, assess your needs, and can coordinate a telehealth assessment with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. They can also help you find a local mental health specialist. It can be difficult when you’re tipped off balance by disruptive events to manage your own mental-health intervention and recovery; Best Doctors’ Mental Health Nurse will stick with you for up to six months, providing that navigational support.

Vanessa Carty, BSc (Hons) Master of Psychology (Clinical)

Vanessa is a clinical psychologist based in Melbourne and provides psychological assessments and treatments to adults, adolescents and children. She focuses on evidenced-based treatment

to clients with a wide variety of clinical problems, including anxiety, depression, problem gambling, pre and postnatal depression and anxiety and trauma-related problems.

References:

  1. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/lookup/6333.0Media%20Release1August%202015
  2. https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/supporting-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/

* Best Doctors is available to MLC Life Insurance customers as well as their immediate families including children, parents, partner and partner’s parents

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