An image depicting the challenging task of balancing work and house demands.

Protecting Mental Health While Working at Home

Protecting Your Mental Health while Working from Home was the title of an address Clinical Psychologist in the School of Psychiatry, Mr Suntosh Pillay gave to UKZN staff.

Co-ordinated by the School of Clinical Medicine, the seminar targeted professional staff in the College of Health Sciences and focused on addressing stress associated with the new virtual environment setting posed by COVID-19.

A 2017 United Nations report found that 41% of remote workers reported high stress levels, compared to just 25% of office staff. The study also revealed association between stress and reduced productivity.

‘It is normal to feel anxious, uncertain, fearful, depressed and isolated during this period of COVID-19. The pandemic is new to all of us, thus its important knowing that we are all going through the same feelings of anxiety – you are not alone,’ said Pillay.

The disappearance of old routines and habits such as socialising with colleagues and working from your usual office space can be very challenging and can impact on competencies and accountability causing a person to feel defeated and underperforming.

Pillay, a founding member of the KwaZulu-Natal Mental Health Advocacy Group at UKZN, said customising work plans with one’s personality, emotional needs, productivity peaks and setting own limits was critical.

‘Keeping social contact with fellow colleagues and checking on them regularly can make a huge difference,’ said School Operations Manager at UKZN’s School of Clinical Medicine, Mrs Antoinette Botha.

Said Chantel Mathe who attended the seminar: ‘This seminar was informative and has provided me with valuable tips on how to balance my work and house demands without falling apart.’

Pillay provided the following tips to help cope better while working from home:

* Be patient and give yourself time and space to figure things out

* Create a routine you are comfortable with

* Discuss your needs with whoever else you share your space with

* Set boundaries, eg start and end times, weekends, cell phones etc

* Limit the intake of news and social media

* Connect with others when you need to but balance this with your work schedule

* Stay hydrated, eat healthily, do some light exercises and breathe!

* Embrace the positive aspects of working from home

Free counselling support is available for staff from the following organisations:

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group – 0800 456 78902; the Psychological Society of SA e-mail: fatima@psyssa.com, or go to: http://psytalk.psyssa.com/current-issue/; and the Durban Practising Psychologists’ Group:www.dppg.org.za or email:exec@dppg.org.za

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Shutterstock