By AbhiAthavale (Veteran)
The world has changed dramatically over the past three months. The Chinese virus unleashed upon the world has altered the perception of what was once deemed normal. Freedom of movement, socializing, or leading a carefree lifestyle are no longer viable. Memories of attending functions, parties, spending a lazy Sunday in a mall, weekend trips, and long vacations have already become foggy.
It has caused irreversible damage to every society across the world. The new normal has been redefined as obeying Covid norms, social distancing, fear of infection, and death.
The ongoing pandemic has challenged the very definition of normal.
Covid culture, as it is called now, has spared no demographic. Of course, the first to fall prey was the workforce which otherwise went to its offices, yards, and factories in search of its livelihood. And while it has thrown up many obstacles, it has also created new opportunities. The most prominent one being the freshly minted ethos of ‘Work From Home(WFH).’ While the term itself has existed for some time now, it never found much currency among employers, and its definition , thanks to the pandemic, has certainly gone a revision, if not an complete alteration.
With increasing numbers of employees working at home, or using the home as a base of operations for at least part of the week, it is clear that there are several purported benefits for businesses, such as: Flexibility and agility in terms of work hours and a reduction in Turnaround Time (TAT) ; improved employee retention; and Increased productivity. Further, and more realistically speaking, there are certain economic advantages from an employer’s perspective such as ,savings on rent/maintenance of workspaces and offices, utility bills, and other infrastructure related expenses.
But here is the catch. In spite of the massive economic savings, there are fewer advantages to WFH than there are disadvantages.
To the astute observer, the negative aspects of full-time WFH are easily discernable. Let’s analyze them together and determine for ourselves whether the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. Firstly, employees who are at home do not have the opportunity to socialize with colleagues and may have decreased physical movements, such as loss of walking between different meeting locations. This has the potential to affect an individual’s psychological health. Essentially, WFH renders us akin to prisoners in our own homes. Moreover, while some may argue that our personal lives will only be enriched by spending more time around our loved ones, WFH doesn’t translate into family picnics. If anything, the opposite is truer; while our kids cavort around, and spouses as well as well meaning parents can interrupt work at whim, the worker is forced to sit glued to a computer for extended hours. It’s an established scientific fact that prolonged screen exposure can lead to fatigue, tiredness, headaches, and eye-related problems. But still lucky are those who have at least the ecosystem of their families to help channelize their emotional needs because for individuals who live alone, full-time WFH without face-to-face interactions and social support day after day could contribute to mental issues such as social isolation and depression. For many, blurred work-life boundaries make it difficult to detach mentally from work which can increase stress and anxiety. A common area of concern in work-life boundaries is balancing work schedules around that of other family members, however, such concerns can be aggravated for parents of younger children in particular. As work time becomes “porous” many try to take advantage of whatever free time they have to complete their household chores , or run errands in between their work meetings. In some cases, parents might even choose to sacrifice their sleep hours and work at night or early mornings since these are the only quiet hours when they can concentrate on work and avoid frequent interruptions. There are no fixed timelines for people who WFH unlike in the case with work from the office. Such frequent work-family friction, as outlined above, can lead to emotional exhaustion. The number of patients complaining of sleep disorders , according to medical practitioners, have risen exponentially since the lockdowns and subsequently, the phenomenon of WFH picked up pace.
Picture this; A joint family where both husband and wife are forced to WFH, they have children in the age group of 8 & 10. Since our two BHK apartments’ bedrooms have become the parents’ workplace, and working hours are defined at the employers’ whims, the children, who pre Covid used to go to schools, and playgrounds, are cooped up inside along with their elderly grandparents Add to the fact that children, despite being just a door away from their parents, are often strongly warned off from invading their parents’ workspaces leading to psychological distress. Though all the six inhabitants live under one roof, mentally they are miles apart. Communication has ebbed to a trickle, and interpersonal relationships are in state of confused, forced abeyance.
The unexpected disruption of the social fabric and norms has affected the behavioral and mental health of the public, including children. The mental health of children has is influenced by several factors, including , but not restricted to their interactions with the world around them, and this unprecedented situation has changed the way they typically grow, learn, play, behave, interact, and manage emotions. Such an abrupt change in the learning environments, limited social interactions, and reduced physical activities posed an unusual situation for children’s developing brains.
Uncertainty and anxiety about future education is also a worrisome problem for both parents and children. The transition away from physical classes has significantly disrupted the lives of students and their families and pose a potential risk to the mental well-being of children. Middle school and high school students are certainly severely impacted by factors such as closure of schools and college campuses, cancellation of examinations, and a lack of opportunities to socialize with friends and relatives, but even the younger kids aren’t spared the effects of this accursed pandemic. The lockdown has forced younger children to turn more and more to gaming on smart phones and computers, as playgrounds and outdoor activities are now out of bounds. Their childhood, and our future, both stand equally deprived of the simple joys of seesaws, slides, and swings. Football fields and cricket grounds today stand desolate and forgotten.
But, in my opinion, the most affected are the newborns, who due to the pandemic, have yet to experience the natural world in any significant detail, nor, in many cases, even seen or met their grandparents in person. This entire generation born just before the start of, and during the pandemic has lost their childhood; an irreparable and irreversible loss.
Signs of Financial Stress
You may be financially stressed if you exhibit the following signs:
Arguing with your spouse or family members more often. It doesn’t matter if the conflicts are related to money or not.
Hiding bills or receipts from your spouse or family members so you don’t “get caught” spending money.
Having difficulty falling and staying asleep at night.
Eating to relieve stress or a dramatic change in your eating habits.
Financial stress due to loss of employment can lead to emotional exhaustion and depression. To overcome it you need to
a) Talk to someone: Staying connected is an important part of being mentally healthy. Talking to someone about your financial problems can be one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and start feeling better.
b) Take time to recharge: Even in the middle of a crisis, you need to put aside time to recharge and relax. Whether it’s going outside or picking up a book you’ve been meaning to read, it’s important to take time to relax at least once each day.
Seek Professional Support.
Financial and other professionals will be most helpful in sorting out your finances and debts.
Practice gratitude: Coping with money problems and financial stress can be overwhelming, but remember to take time to practice gratitude. Be thankful for each day. You are taking essential steps toward financial stability.
This pandemic has wrought havoc upon the world in unimaginable ways. But humanity has a whole has seen worse and endured. It is my sincere belief that this too shall pass. That together we shall indeed overcome. That together we can. Let us pledge not to bow down to this great evil thrust upon our collective conscience! Let us unite against the terror that grips us and help and support each other in every way possible. For humanity is our only way out to a happier, healthier, and securer future!
AbhiAthavale – Veteran