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With the unexpected arrival and quick spread of the COVID-19 infection across 177 countries of the world since December 2019, people from across the globe are now facing an unprecedented situation. As of March 2020, almost all the affected nations have been put under partial or complete lockdowns in order to slow the spread of this highly contagious viral infection

India is one of the affected countries, and the entire nation has been put under lockdown in March 2020. This means that just like most people around the world, Indians too are supposed to stay at home, not step out unless it’s to get absolute essentials and follow all the preventive measures to avoid contracting the disease. (Read more: Hygiene and social distancing while going out to buy essentials during a lockdown)

This also means that most people (at least those who can) have been asked by their employers to work from home. While your first reaction at being asked to work from home can be one of joy - especially during a public health emergency where being able to stay close to your family all day can be a relief - you might also face some issues.

Here’s everything you need to know about working from home efficiently, while maintaining your mental health, during a lockdown.

  1. Pursue a hobby
  2. Support your family
  3. Side effects of work from home
  4. Benefits of work from home
  5. Tips to work from home during a lockdown
  6. Doctors for COVID-19: Work From Home

Since going out for dinners, visiting parks, going sightseeing or travelling are not leisure activities you can pursue in your daily free time or during the weekends, make sure you have something else to entertain and engage you. You could take up a hobby - this could be a new one, or one you left behind in your childhood.

You could learn a life-skill that can come in handy any day, like cooking, cleaning, organising your home, redecorating, etc. Watching movies, television series, listening to music, etc are all things you can try. If you live with your family or have kids, you can involve everybody in these activities and spend quality time together. Whatever you do, remember to maintain at least an hour of leisure every day to de-stress.

It’s very important to remember that while working from home will keep you completely engaged for a large part of the day, your family needs you too - especially since everybody is living through this public health emergency together. Be supportive of your family by helping out in any way you can. These are times when household help will be needed more than ever before. 

If you have more than one member of the family working from home, maintaining meal schedules, home cleaning, etc can be more difficult to manage. You also need to ensure that everybody is healthy and coping with quarantines, working from  home, etc properly. If there’s a sick family member, they will of course need more attention, and so will children. If one or more of your family members are healthcare providers or essential service providers, they too will need more support during this public health emergency. So, communicate with your family and support them through this situation.

Most working professionals are used to separating their private and personal lives. This is not possible to maintain when you’re working from home. The following are some of the side effects you might face while working from home in general:

  • Loss of productivity due to distractions at home
  • Added stress and anxiety about performance
  • Feeling too stretched
  • Restricted mobility 
  • Cabin fever
  • Inability to maintain work-life balance

These side effects and experiences are likely to be exacerbated during a public health emergency like the spread of the COVID-19 infection. This is because a situation like a pandemic is unprecedented, unpredictable and it might seem there is no end in sight. 

Of course, all of this is bound to affect your psychological well-being. However, working from home can be beneficial in such a scenario in the following ways:

  • It can keep you engaged in productive ways.
  • It can help you maintain a semblance of normalcy.
  • It can help you maintain social distancing without isolating you.
  • Maintaining the appropriate distance of three to six feet from each other can be hard in an office setting and in public transport such as buses, local trains and Metro. In this scenario, work-from-home can reduce some of the anxiety associated with sharing office space and using public transport during a contagion.
  • It can ensure that you won’t face any financial loss during a public health emergency.

When done right, working from home can actually be quite beneficial. Of course, you have to put in the effort to make it a success. This would involve you being dedicated and figuring out, with the rest of your workplace team, efficient ways of working which can be comfortably accomplished by the entire workforce. 

Your employers will have to play a key role in coming up with a process that ensures productivity while also maintaining your physical and mental health. You, on the other hand, need to take a few very important steps on your part to be able to perform as usual and maintain your own health. The following tips can come in handy:

  1. Accept your anxiety
  2. Maintain sleep-wake pattern
  3. Plan your working hours
  4. Get some exercise
  5. Create a professional atmosphere
  6. Stay connected
  7. Get news updates

Accept your anxiety

The first step to living through a pandemic like COVID-19 successfully while working from home is to accept the fact that anxiety is normal. This is an unprecedented and unpredictable situation which neither you nor any other human can control. The best you can do is to convert your anxiety into something positive with utter responsibility: take all the precautions and preventive measures, and ensure that your family and loved ones do the same. 

Staying at home, washing your hands regularly, maintaining respiratory hygiene - all of these are steps that you should practice strictly. Remember that doctors, scientists, healthcare workers and essential service providers are working hard to keep you safe and stop the spread of COVID-19, and you should do your part by converting your anxiety into a positive and healthy approach to life.

Maintain sleep-wake pattern

The first thing that is likely to go for a toss when you’re working from home is your sleep-wake pattern. Simply put, the sleep-wake pattern is the 24-hour cycle you follow every day to maintain proper biological functions. Usually, the ideal sleep-wake pattern consists of eight hours of sleep and 16 hours of staying awake during which you perform all the essential tasks of life - including eating, exercise, work, leisure activities, etc.

If you start staying up late or do not get enough sleep, then this pattern will be disrupted and the hours during which you’re awake will not be used optimally. Fatigue, sleepiness and irritability, etc., are bound to come up. So, maintain your regular sleep-wake pattern while working from home. Go to sleep at the time you always did, and wake up on time every day.

Plan your working hours

A routine always helps you stay focused and maintain concentration levels. Simply because you’re now working from home does not mean that you should work in an unplanned way and not maintain a regularised routine. Make a complete to-do list every morning before starting work. Involve your colleagues and managers in this process to ensure proper communication and accountability.

Then, also let your family know what your workday at home will look like so that they know when not to interrupt you. This will ensure that you can focus on just yourself and your work during the working hours. Try to maintain the same hours and pattern of work as you did while in office - so, take tea and lunch breaks at precisely the same times.

Get some exercise

Now that you’re working from home, it’s unlikely you’ll get a similar level of physical activity every day. You are not going to travel to your workplace and come back every morning, which is bound to disrupt your activities. Going to the gym or going to the park for a jog or walk is not possible either. So, how can you maintain physical fitness during a lockdown?

The easiest way to get some exercise is to devise a stretching, meditating, yoga or exercise routine for right after you wake up in the morning. The other thing you can do is to get some exercise during the timings you would have spent travelling to and from work. This will ensure that you get some exercise at least twice a day.

Create a professional atmosphere

People working from home often make two basic mistakes: they work in bed and they work in their “home” clothes. Avoid both these mistakes and create a professional atmosphere while working from home. Working from home anyways involves a merging of the workplace and home. If you don’t create an ideal work environment at home, you’re likely to suffer more due to this merging.

Select a separate place of work within your home - preferably a place away from any noise and distractions. Keep this area clean and uncluttered. When you wake up every morning, follow your usual work routine by bathing, getting dressed and then moving to your workstation at home. This will make you feel like a professional even when you’re at home.

Stay connected

Communication is everything when you’re working from home. While in office, you could walk up to people and communicate with them. Since this is not possible while working from home, you have to use every other means of communication available to maintain regular workflow. Use phone calls, video calls, emails, etc., to keep in touch with your colleagues throughout the day. Keep your managers in the loop and ensure that you make a list of the work done throughout the day and send it across. 

Once the workday is over, switch off from your colleagues and communicate with your family and friends. Maintaining communication with loved ones, especially during a pandemic, is extremely important for your mental health and everybody else’s too.

Get news updates

You know it’s not possible to completely cut-off from the world outside, ever. It’s especially impossible when you’re working from home while the world is in the throes of a pandemic.

You may be concerned about the spread of the disease, whether healthcare professionals and scientists are close to finding a cure or vaccine, knowing if your neighbourhood, home or loved ones are at an increased risk and if essential supplies are available or not - these are likely to dominate your thoughts, and even increase your anxiety levels. 

So, take some time out during fixed times throughout the day to get updates about the pandemic and the news in general. This will help you stay grounded and updated even while maintaining social distancing, and help you take better care of yourself and your family.

Dr. Ajay Kumar

Dr. Ajay Kumar

Psychiatry
14 Years of Experience

Dr. Saurabh Mehrotra

Dr. Saurabh Mehrotra

Psychiatry
24 Years of Experience

Dr. Om Prakash L

Dr. Om Prakash L

Psychiatry
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Anil Kumar

Dr. Anil Kumar

Psychiatry
12 Years of Experience

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RemdesivirRemdesivir Injection15000.0
Fabi FluFabi Flu Tablet3500.0
CoviforCovifor Injection5400.0
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References

  1. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak
  2. Mental Health Foundation [Internet] London. United Kingdom; Looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak
  3. United Nations Children Fund [Internet] United Nations Organization. New York. United States; How teenagers can protect their mental health during coronavirus (COVID-19)
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Stress and Coping
  5. Park, Seon-Cheol and Park, Yong Chon. Mental Health Care Measures in Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak in Korea. Psychiatry Investig. 2020 Feb; 17(2): 85–86. PMID: 32093458
  6. Xiang, Lu-Tao. et al. Timely Mental Health Care for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak Is Urgently Needed. Lancet Psychiatry , 7 (3), 228-229. PMID: 32032543
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