With this pandemic hitting the world suddenly, many employees have been required to adapt to the new working norms (work from home) to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In the case of Malaysia, Movement Control Order (MCO) was in place since 2020. These long months of working remotely from home have resulted in the apparent decline in mental health among Malaysians.
According to Befrienders, the number of people calling in with mental health crises has increased by 52% within a year. This data does not tabulate the linear increase. Most callers are female (65%); this may be the stem of patriarchy, where men tend not to show their emotions and seek help (4). A study conducted by a local institution found that one of the significant factors that cause psychological distress is financial status; unable to support themselves/family/ others during the pandemic (1).
Suicide rates in Malaysia are at their all-time high, with 631 in 2020 and 439 in the first five months of 2021, with the majority related to pandemic struggles. Furthermore, with various reasons for mental declines, such as fear of getting infected, losing/losing their job, existing mental health issues, and developing mental health issues, some more psychological factors could contribute to the nationwide mental health crisis.
Social Isolation And Loneliness Are Real.
It is probably an introvert’s dream, but everyone still requires some form of social interaction to get their days by. Spending days or weeks without talking to another person can create disconnection with the world and people around you and make you feel alone and lonely. That’s when depressive and anxious thoughts/feelings usually appear. If you’re living alone, calling someone, video call, or even talking to your furry friends or aquatic buddies could greatly improve your mental health. If you feel like you need someone to talk to, you can always reach out to Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 or contact list by region)
Working From Home = Working 24/7
Without physically being in the office, it is hard to tell when you should finish work. Since you don’t clock in and out of work, the lines between working and resting at home are now blurred. You would try to squeeze in as much work as possible, unconsciously overworking yourself. It is rather depressing and stressful since the house is supposed to be a place you rest and relax.
One way to help separate work time and rest time in the same room is to set an actual alarm or reminder to clock off. If possible, try to use different rooms or tables for work and not use your bedroom as this would really disrupt your peace of mind in your bedroom. You would get either magnetised by your bed when you’re lying on your bed, stressed out about work more. Another way is to refrain from all work-related communications during non-working hours. This creates a boundary between work and leisure at home and prevents you from working longer than you should.
Anxiety, Stress, Depression
Being overwhelmed by the pandemic, work, financial stress, social restriction, and being your own handyman could really take a toll on your mental health. You’re taking in more responsibility than usual during your working hour and off work time. It is all overwhelming and uncertain and lacks security/confidence, which would sometimes result in anxiety, stress, and depression.
Furthermore, studies found that people with already existing mental health issues like depression and anxiety worsened during this pandemic due to their overwhelming responsibility and lack of social support. If you feel like the pandemic situation is affecting your mental wellness, reach out to your loved ones, friends, or call BeFrienders to talk. It doesn’t have to be about your mental health; having mundane chit-chat can also help boost your mood (3).
Here are some work from home self-care tips that you can try.
Tips To Improve Productivity And Mental Health While Working From Home
- Take A Break
It’s okay to take breaks when you’re working from home. I know you would feel like you’re obligated to work, and it’s not as “productive” as when you are in the office. But by the end of the day, if you feel incapacitated, you can’t get much done regardless. Get yourself recharged mentally by doing something you like, e.g., singing, baking, cooking, drawing, etc. Work can wait sometimes.
- Get Into Routines
Sometimes, we feel overwhelmed working from home cause it breaks the daily routine of going into the office and work. Why not start your own work from home’s performance and stick to it, which could help reduce the feeling of uncertainty and aimlessness.
- Do Time Management
I know it’s easier said than done, but dedicating time and compartmentalizing them may help in getting some work done. For example, 9 am to 11 am is work on task A, 11 am to 12 pm is preparing lunch for your family, 1 pm to 3 pm is to work on task A/B.
Remember to give yourself room of 15-30 minutes between each hour because no one can end things on the dot. Dedicating an amount of time to each task works as well, such as 20 minutes of email, and 4 hours of working on a task, instead of going back and forth throughout the day. There’s no perfect way to be productive, but plan according to what’s best fit for you.
- Set Tangible Goals
Setting a realistic goal that you can do, as a one-man show at your own home. Do not set goals that require you to spend 2 weeks to finish that require full effort from your team/colleagues to be completed in 4 days without your team/colleagues. You know that is a recipe for subpar results.
Instead, set goals and subgoals with your team and work towards them together. Keep in mind that not everyone can be 100% efficient when working from home. There are household responsibilities that may slow them or yourself down as well.
- Stay Connected With Your Coworkers
Keeping in touch when you are working from home helps in maintaining good work relationships and prevents animosity. This also helps in maintaining good teamwork when you are working from home. Be considerate that not everyone may have the same accessibility hence, not everyone can be their high productive self as they are in the office. Try understanding and sharing each other’s struggles of working from home could help bond and create a better working experience.
- Upgrade Your Workspace
When you are working from home, the first thing you’d miss is probably your work desk and comfortable office chair and pantry. If you are financially capable enough, upgrading your workspace at home, like your chair, tables, air-cond, etc., could reduce stress for working from home.
However, it is totally understandable that not everyone is privileged enough to upgrade their home. Hence, you can try upgrading on a smaller scale, such as getting a pot of plant for your desk, pen/stationery holders, memo board, etc. That could provide more convenience for your work at home. Also, try to declutter your workspace and always keep it clean and organised so that it can help you to get into your working mode right when you are in the environment.
- Get Moving
Not moving out of your house, but moving your body. Exercising helps release stress and produce serotonin for your body which can greatly improve your mood and feel less tense. Simple exercises such as yoga, bodyweight exercises, or taking a walk do the trick. You don’t need a gym to exercise; you can exercise pretty much anywhere, even in the comfort of your own home. Click here for some examples of simple exercises to do at home.
Going Back To The Office
With a great effort from the Vaccination program and cooperation from Malaysian citizens, most economic sectors have been opened up, and employees are welcomed back to working in the office. After about a year of working from home, we adapted to the new normal. Still, now, we are required to go back to the office, which may pose a few challenges for employees and employers.
Feeling anxious going back to the office?
After months of working from home, going back to the office does feel like your first day on the job all over again. It is understandable to feel anxious about going back to the office; with isolation for an extended period, most people would have social anxiety. It might help to reminisce on when you are still working in an office, which could help you prepare to go back to office routine.
Additionally, with the virus is still out there, the fear and anxiety from getting infected will make you feel anxious about going back to the office. Try talking to your company to understand the precautionary steps taken to ensure you feel confident and safe working in the office. E.g., Biweekly covid testing, daily sanitation, mandatory vaccination, etc. Suppose there is no proper procedure or met with resistance from your company. In that case, you can bring this matter to the Department of Occupational Safety and Health.
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- Bahar Moni, A., Abdullah, S., Bin Abdullah, M., Kabir, M., Alif, S., & Sultana, F. et al. (2021). Psychological distress, fear, and coping among Malaysians during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLOS ONE, 16(9), e0257304. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0257304
- Coping with Stress. (2021). Retrieved 17 November 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/cope-with-stress/index.html
- How to protect your mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (2021). Retrieved 18 November 2021, from https://www.unicef.org/serbia/en/how-protect-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic
- PRIYA, S. (2021). When stress hits disturbing levels. Retrieved 18 November 2021, from https://www.thestar.com.my/metro/metro-news/2021/06/18/when-stress-hits-disturbing-levels
- How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive. (2021). Retrieved 22 November 2021, from https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/10-tips-help-you-more-efficient-working-from-home.htsince