"You cannot change reality, but you can control the manner in which you look at things. Your attitude is under your own control. Weed out the negative and focus on the positive!" – Helen Steiner Rice, American Poet
Working from home is not new but it is taking place on an unprecedented scale in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 outbreak. There are proven benefits to working remotely and we actively support policies that offer flexibility for employees, whatever their individual needs may be.
However, working from home is not without challenges, and this unique time in Hong Kong requires new thinking, with structure and discipline, but also patience and understanding.
The ability for team members to work from home should not be taken for granted by employers. Space is a luxury, and many employees will be competing for space and broadband with partners, family members or flat mates while trying to focus. Parents whose children are learning online and require help, may find themselves regularly interrupted and pulled in the direction of home learning. Those who are looking after elder parents or family members with special needs may have difficulty constantly switching between the role of carer and employee.
The opposite condition can equally present problems, where people who live alone may feel socially isolated and miss the interaction and collaboration provided by an office environment. Team work requires more effort in this environment, but it is achievable.
Navigating this new way of working is a learning curve, when domestic and other demands are difficult to ignore, technology may be lacking and routines are out of sync. Managers should be aware that some people will struggle, with both practical and mental health issues coming to the fore. This may be a problem for women especially, with the pressure on women to not just ‘have it all’ but also ‘do it all’.
With some planning and patience, however, working from home can be successful. Experts agree that sticking to a routine is vital, as is keeping in touch, with both colleagues and friends, and taking regular breaks. If possible, keeping physically active is enormously beneficial, for body and mind. The cooler weather is perfect for getting fresh air, even if it's just a short stroll around the neighbourhood. Yoga or working out at home are other options and there are many to choose from online. If mindfulness or meditation appeals, this free meditation programme is worth a try. CMHA HK offers more tips and resources to help people adjust to working from home.
The key to remaining productive is to stay positive. Aim to avoid the parallel epidemic of anxiety, perpetuated by social media, by getting information from reputable sources like the WHO. Connect with colleagues, check in regularly with friends and family, and focus on the opportunities this new situation brings.
At TWF, we are sensitive to the fact that there are challenges involved with remote working, and we encourage work from home strategies that are fit-for-purpose so that colleagues can accommodate care responsibilities and home schooling arrangements, among others. Each of us are also committing to a daily 20-minute pause to focus on our well-being. As part of this, we have organised a team virtual mindfulness session this week to connect with each other and adopt some techniques to cultivate focus and positive thinking.
Let’s be kind to each other and to ourselves during this unique and uncertain time. What are you doing to stay positive and productive?
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.