Working from Home in Times of COVID-19; The good and the bad

Author(s): Dr Ajaz Ahmad Bhat (India/Qatar)

Everything was going right at its pace until coronavirus disease (COVID-19) struck fast and hard when the whole world was unprepared for it. Life surprises us when we least expect it. In a moment, everything turned topsy-turvy, and you begin to lose contact with reality and dreams, and everything seems hazy beyond our control. COVID-19, the contagious pandemic, has affected thousands of people worldwide. From social distancing, working from home and panic buying, life took a sudden turn for the worse. As the new normal takes a foothold, mental health has become a more prominent national concern as more people are forced to remain isolated away from loved ones and support systems. While some people have been working from home for months or even years, many of us are new to the experience, including myself. As I am writing this, I already have wiped my laptop screen and keyboard a couple of times and sanitized my hands so much that my fingers slip on pressing the alphabets. From being just news, COVID-19 has penetrated every life, affected every household and affected every country in one way or another. A virus, which is getting so much viral around the world has made us all introspect about our lives, routines and many newer concepts. From being dismissive to being panicky and anxious, this invisible being has made us go through so many phases of human emotions.

As a scientist, when I see the news, the rising cases and death toll, and the reaction of people to COVID-19, I feel that this is no longer merely a medical problem; rather, it is becoming more of a mental challenge for us all. And in these stressful moments, when everything seems so bleak everywhere, it becomes a revolutionary act to remain calm. By worrying you bring depression into your being, and that affects the quality of life and your immune system.

As I started working from home, to be honest, I didn’t like the idea, as staying at home and then being productive seemed to me, impossible. As a wet lab scientist, I need a laboratory and, students to do real experiments, and it is not possible to set a virtual laboratory at home. The work environment, daily interaction with the line manager, students and colleagues are essential ingredients to my productivity and integrity in the lab. Honestly, the first few days of stay at home were very frustrating and challenging, but then I started realizing that working from home is going to be norm or routine for few more months until there is a decline in the new COVID-19 cases and availability of the treatment. I started to train my mind very hard to adjust to an unexpected situation. By showing gratitude for the things we take for granted, one can not be hopeful. And I began to thank at least for everything that I have. I have a roof over my head, a fridge full of food, a job, a healthy mind and a healthy body, enough to be thankful and think positively. I soon realized that we could not change situations or circumstances, but we can improve our outlook and behavior towards them. An initial couple of days went by just to give me a reality check, and now I keep regular working hours and a typical schedule. I follow the usual routine, beginning with waking up at the same time, getting dressed and getting ready for work. I schedule breaks regularly during the day, lunch and time away from my desk. I have put together a quiet workspace with a comfortable chair. I arrange routine meetings or conversations with my manager and colleagues to ensure that the tasks continue to progress. This keeps us motivated and yearns to achieve more.

I regularly touch base with co-workers whom I missed seeing in the hallway or lunchroom, by sending an email or making a phone call. This is about how I keep abreast of my professional job.

I would like to conclude by mentioning that this crucial phase is a chance for us to see things from a different perspective. To see how far associated are we with each other, matured enough to understand a situation, reflect upon ourselves, and modify our behaviour accordingly. Are we ready to take the plunge towards a change? Do we see the pandemic phase as an opportunity to decipher how everything and everyone on this planet are intertwined? Do we realize which world is a better place to live in, was it a one we lived in before the lockdowns, or is it now when we have so much to introspect about?

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