Working in the times of COVID-19

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

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The coronavirus outbreak is a situation that will affect each one of us, no matter which part of the globe we are in, regardless of nationality, gender, religion or social status. It is a situation both challenging and disorienting. Niebuhr’s quote above captures the essence of what each one of us should do in these difficult times. Most of the negative emotions in this situation are generated from events outside our control… but we can all try to improve what is in our sphere of influence, in particular, within our work duties.

Some of us may have to continue to go to work, especially those of us involved in providing basic services, and those in the medical profession, security forces, food-chain workers, and so on.  Ensuring our own safety and minimising any health risk to oneself or any member of the community should be our prime responsibility.

For those going to work

Here are some ways to fulfil your responsibility:

  • Abide by rules: Follow all official directives and recommendations by relevant authorities
  • Wash up: The most common way to contract the virus is through contact with other people infected or touching surfaces with virus presence. During the time you are out, wash your hands as frequently as possible for at least 20 seconds and DO NOT touch your face!
  • Protect the home:Follow a protocol to minimize chances of bringing the virus home.

For those working from home

Marcos Segador Arrebola

Many of us will be able to work from home (WFH). Our efforts are also important. We need to do the best to minimise the social and economic impact of this situation on not just ourselves, but our organisations and our respective countries. This is an unprecedented pandemic with an uncertain duration. Therefore, if this is going to be the new normal, we need to institute sustainable practices, which allow us to stay sane and possibly even thrive in this new context. I am sharing below some best practices we are implementing at the Gi Group India or which I have witnessed in or learned from different organisations and/or individuals.

Positive beginning: The most natural thing to do on waking up is to grab the phone and see what’s happening in the world. This is particularly the case in a moment of rapid change and high anxiety. Even before we get out of bed, we end up opening the doors to outside influence, which impacts our thoughts and emotions. Instead, on waking up, quickly glance at your messages to make sure everybody is ok, and then put down the phone. Do not let news manage your mood at the start of the day.

Balance: Start the day if possible with exercise or spiritual practice. Consistent exercise, not only increases immunity but serves as a mood booster. Do not procrastinate when it comes to meditating or praying. Begin the day with these activities. If it cannot be done at the beginning of the day, find a proper slot and follow it every day as a ritual.

Clean up:  Get out of your pyjamas and shower. Getting dressed for work actually increases productivity among other positive benefits.

Plan, schedule and structure: Plan the day and the week, by creating a structure

Being in a WFH situation, we need to create alternative ways for all the structures and communication paths that we naturally have by being in office with our colleagues. At Gi Group India, we build up a structure of virtual meetings during the day for each business unit, together with cross-functional interactions for all our team members. Everything is planned week-by-week. Invites are sent out to team members well in advance, and agendas and links are prepared to get the Skype or Zoom virtual rooms going.

The most important of these team calls are the ones at the start and close of the day. It is important to identify each team member’s focus projects for the day, prioritise them and evaluate the results of the work at the end of the day. Evaluation is the key to managing the job proactively, rather than reacting to other people’s priorities or to the general anxiety situation.

Focus: Staying focussed in a workspace that includes kids, family and an infinite number of other distractions can be tough. It is important to keep distractions at bay and boost productivity while working from home. Some basic productivity improvement approaches can be tried, such as the Pomodoro Technique.

Personal time: After work, it is important to enjoy your free time and focus on the good. Spend quality time with your family, try your hand at cooking, take a walk in your home if you have the space, read a book , play with kids or pets if you have. Inform yourself about the situation only from trustful sources (please do not trust all your WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram news) and switch off from social media/news/Internet at least two hours before sleep time and sleep well.

While some of these ideas will work for you, some will not. Implement what makes sense for you and think about other ideas that may make you stronger, healthier and more productive during this period. Your work and contribution to the community is needed more than ever.

Stay healthy.