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Work Life with and after COVID-19

"It is time to be intentional...take the time to challenge yourself, innovate, create and transform your work life. "

The corona virus pandemic has so far resulted in over 285,307 global deaths. This number is mind-boggling. It is just incomprehensible that in just a few months, planet earth has been so ravaged by this invisible enemy. Our minds can’t grasp the devastation across the globe by this pandemic – families have lost loved ones, sometimes several of them. The emotional and social impact is deep reaching, and we universally must draw on our deepest reserves to rise above the impact of this pandemic.

Work as we know it has been disrupted as organisations switched to work-from-home arrangements. Our social lives and family arrangements have been disrupted and we have had to adjust our routines, social roles and habits in our homes (including children’s school attendance) to cope. Restrictions to travel have also meant a shift in what we know as “normal”. Such drastic and sudden change in our lives means that we are bound to feel stressed, sad or anxious. The depth or spectrum of these emotions is only varied by how close to home the disease has come; as we pray fervently that close family and friends are protected. So, what do you do when your home and work life is turned upside down?

The immediate and obvious in this crisis is to protect ourselves and our families. The routine of staying to home, social distancing, masks, hand sanitizers and other precautions are now a strict routine that we must uphold. The difference only coming with incidents such as the US lockdown protests, the various stories of Kenyans who throw “corona parties” and other such defiance that infers that the corona virus precautions seem unwarranted or too restrictive to some people.

Our mental health is also critical. It is normal to feel stressed, anxious or even depressed during difficult times. Coping effectively takes us reaching into the depths of our being to rise above the situation. Maintaining a positive attitude is important and so we need to remind ourselves that while many people have succumbed to this disease, many more have recovered. We need to be flexible, knowing that we cannot strictly continue with the routines, or even luxuries, we are used to. This sometimes takes us to even limit the news or information we take in. I have had to limit how many times I check on the COVID-19 statistics – the infections, deaths and recoveries. I realized at a point that the incessant barrage of information or data was affecting my emotional wellbeing. As I said to my family: “I am not a doctor, a healer or virologist. So, I am no longer watching, reading or listening to information that does not provide immediate/ direct value to the situation or what I can do something about.” As such, aside from keeping abreast with critical information that supports personal decision-making or my responsibility as a family or community member, I am no longer partaking of all information that is thrown at me.

We all need to build or maintain our capability to cope with difficult situations; including asking ourselves reflective questions that keep us grounded. What is it that is important to you right now, in the future? What do you have control over? What can you do now, tomorrow? Some of the immediate things we can do are to ensure our physical wellbeing, eat right, exercise and rest. Avoiding habits like smoking or drinking is important as it is easy to use such to numb our fears or anxiety; or even just to fill the time during isolation.

Establishing a strong social support network is crucial in these times. This is when we can rebuild or strengthen ties with family, friends, colleagues and other networks. While religious gatherings are now impossible, religious and other social institutions have also tapped into the value of technology by having online gatherings. Families are spending more quality time together.

There is never a time as opportune as a crisis to reach deep into our altruistic nature. You can be a part of community initiatives to support those who have been affected by the current crisis. My organisation supported all staff to pool personal resources together to be sent to communities where we serve to mitigate the impact of the disease. So, give of yourself - in time and other resources that you have and can share to support others in need.

But the coronavirus pandemic is not only affecting people’s health and safety, As the pandemic hits economies across the globe, it is also impacting livelihoods. Many have lost jobs in an unprecedented trend of mass layoffs and furloughs. Successful companies, especially in the hospitality and travel industries, have had to make difficult decisions to let go of employees in millions. The truth is that millions more are going to end up unemployed. Many are now unemployed - waiters, tour guides, travel agents, etc.

We therefore need to make major adjustments to how we live in order to survive. Predictions are that the coronavirus and its effects will take at least 2 years to abate. We now are doing the immediate to limit its immediate impact and strain on health/ social care systems and healthcare workers. This strain continues with shortages reported in laboratory and testing capacity, personal protective equipment and healthcare capacity (including ICU ventilator and healthcare workforce capacity). We still don’t know if countries across the globe can ramp up to ensure testing is quick and accessible to their populations. The capacity to care for those affected is inadequate with many predicting even more deaths in Africa than we have seen in the US or Europe.

As if this immediate threat to lives is not bad enough, in the long term, many will not have adequate resources to live a “normal” life. The gap between the rich and the poor will widen. With such dire outcomes, we must prepare and be careful how we spend and what we spend on. We will need to ask ourselves if we need that new car, that new shirt … whether we can afford to pay the same tuition fees for our kids or spend that much on a dinner out. We may have to look at whether the cost of take-out is worth it, considering the savings afforded by a homemade meal. This is the time to save - don’t spend on anything you do not need.

It is also time to get an education or upskill. What is it that you can do to make yourself more marketable? Get a skill that can make money. It is time to think out of the box, and there are skills that will be more sought after than others. Internet skills, building websites, creating a sales funnel and other techie skills are more likely to earn you a buck than a standard degree. How about medicine, nursing and other medical-related professions? The pandemic has revealed am immense shortage of healthcare workers. Perhaps you need to get that medical degree that you always thought you didn’t have the time or ‘energy’ for.

Think about creating your job, rather than looking for one. With plummeting employment, many will need to be self-employed or freelance. So, go online and teach a skill. If you are a musician, can you teach online? As coach, you don’t need to be face-to-face to do a session with your client. Businesses too are adapting to the “new normal”. A new upend restaurant in New York had to revisit their model during this crisis. They changed waiter jobs into delivery ones and that is how they are surviving – they are not waiting on clients; they are taking the food to them. Flexibility, adaptability and innovation are going to be our survival buzz words.

As we grapple with the current challenges, use the time to reflect, think out of the box and take actions that are possible now. While jobs may be few on the market post-pandemic, still polish that CV and position yourself as best as you can. This is the time to proactively ensure not just your survival, you need to be intentional to thrive. So, go on – what do you need to do? Take that step. Courageously reach out and create the life you deserve. We can thrive after COVID. I am rooting for you.

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