What Does It Mean for Us Now That We Are Going Back to ‘Normal’?
Our government announced plans to ease COVID-19 measures as of 5 April 2021 with up to 75% of staff allowed to return back to the workplace. It has been slightly more than a year since the start of the circuit breaker, and while this can be regarded as a sign of life going back to normal, what does it mean for most of us who have been in the default work from home (WFH) arrangement since then?
What are some possible issues we will face considering that we have generally just gotten used to working remotely? More importantly, what can be done so that we can (hopefully) transit smoothly back to normal?
I took the liberty to ask a couple of questions on my personal Instagram account to get some insights from my friends and family regarding the announcement. In this article, I share some of their responses and how they felt regarding the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and views on their current WFH situation.
In the first few questions, I wanted to know what were some difficulties and issues they face while working from home. I categorised their responses into three parts:
Unsuitable or uncomfortable home environment
- Uncomfortable (home) environments such as lack of air-conditioning and space constraints
- No proper equipment setup
Difficult to draw boundaries
- Lack of productivity and focus due to distraction as most family members are now also working from home
- Difficult to separate work and rest time
- Unable to 'switch off' from work
Communication and socialising affected
- Unable to see colleagues face to face
- Dislike online meetings and discussions
Surprisingly, despite these challenges and difficulties, when asked to rate their WFH experience on a sliding scale there was an approximate 70% satisfaction of being able to work from home.
This is probably due to the following factors:
Save time, save money
- A lot more time is saved without having to commute to work (one of them takes up to 2 hours to get to her workplace)
- Less money is spent on transport and food during lunchtime
- Save time and money on having to dress up and having the option to work in PJs
- Opportunities to run errands without having to be on leave
- More time to spend and focus on family and children related needs
- Longer lunch breaks
- No more jostling with others to get on the MRT trains and a seat at the table during lunch peak hour
- Able to be away from crowds of people
- More time with family
The last part of my question focused on possible issues that they think may arise once we go back to normal and suggestions that can help with a smoother transition. After reading through each response, I concluded that the issues raised fell under the umbrella of having to adapt to change, once again. There is definitely a lot less enthusiasm and excitement having to deal with and adapt to new lifestyle changes and other uncertainties. In fact, it could also be nerve-wracking.
Some of which include:
- changing sleeping habits
- dealing with inflexible work schedules or restrictions
- driving through rush hour traffic
- being self-conscious and feeling awkward communicating and meet people face-to-face
- wearing a mask for prolonged periods of time throughout the day
- health and safety concerns such as lacking hygiene and safe-distancing measures at the workplace and on public transport
The suggestions brought up to smoothen the transition process were mainly directed at companies, such as:
- schedule reporting back to the workplace in slower and manageable stages
- implementing a permanent hybrid model which allows employees to work from home a few days a week or month
- having programmes to help prepare employees mentally and emotionally as they go back to the office
- being supportive as employees manage and find ways to adapt to the new norm
And while companies do play a large role in ensuring a smoother transition back to the workplace, we also need to ask ourselves, what can we do on our part to adapt to these changes? What are some ways we can make things better for ourselves to ensure a better work-life balance moving forward?
Here are some suggestions we could use to ease ourselves once we step back into the office:
1. Practice patience with self and others
Depending on the nature of business a company or organisation is in, there might be a chance for things to immediately go into full swing upon returning to the office. Things that were once familiar to us may also somehow feel foreign and require some time to readjust. Adhering to new protocols such as new seating arrangements due to safe distancing measures, temperature checks and other procedures may also feel overwhelming.
It will take some time for all of us to readjust and adapt to the new normal. Hence, by being patient with ourselves and those around us, we are able to overcome these daily stresses and handle mistakes or lapses in a calmer manner. It helps us to see things in a different light and can reduce the stress and anxiety we unconsciously place on ourselves as well.
2. Learn to set healthy boundaries at work and honour others' too
It's important for us to remember to only take on as much as we can chew because we cannot pour from an empty cup. Exercising healthy boundaries at work allows us to be more productive and prevent us from being burnout in the long run. A few examples include not responding to work-related text or emails on weekends or off days; turning down tasks that are not outlined in your job scope and enjoying your full lunchtime break.
3. Implement a self-care routine
Self-care is a term that describes the action that one does consciously to care for their mental, physical, and emotional health. In short, it refers to the act of being responsible for looking after oneself. Self-care requires some time to get used to but it helps us maintain a healthy and positive relationship with ourselves and the people around us.
In our post, The 8 Pillars of Self-Care, we shared eight aspects of what constitutes self-care. Some examples include carving out time for sufficient rest; engaging in therapeutic activities such as art-making; and setting healthy boundaries at work.
When we look after ourselves, we will eventually find that we have more time, headspace and emotional energy to prioritise our needs and things that matter to us.
We understand that it can be challenging for some of us that may be filled with anxiety and dread returning back to the workplace. If you are looking for support, please do not hesitate to reach out to us, we are here to help. We provide art psychotherapy in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space to help anyone with their difficulties and challenges. For more information, you can reach us via email or WhatsApp.
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