…because of a pandemic crisis

It’s 3 weeks into working from home since the UK Coronavirus Lockdown, and it’s an understatement to call this a weird and unprecedented time. It’s like an alternate universe, unfathomably quick change and new rules which have us all wondering if we’ve fallen into some sort of dystopian wormhole. However, it’s a time where somehow I have managed to speak to all of my friends and relatives in the same week and have actually seen some of my neighbours’ faces. My bedroom is now referred to as my office, and my family has adjusted to limited chit-chat during my working hours. They seldom interrupt, but I appreciate the occasional disruption during a meeting to ask if I want a cup of tea. I mean, if there’s one sentence I thought I’d never say, it’s “my fourteen-year-old brother is a great colleague to have in the office.” He makes a good cuppa. 

With plenty of time for reflection, I’ve noted some of my first-time- WFH observations so far to share with you all, with the hopes of being useful to another first-timer.

Here’ what I’ve learnt over the past month;

  1. Don’t organise differently

A lot of people struggle with this one and I did too. You’re suddenly thrown into a different routine and receive an abundance of tips on how to organise your workspace and it’s a little overwhelming trying to juggle things in a place that isn’t your usual work environment. But don’t think that this means you have to make drastic changes in your organisation, that’s often counterproductive. For example, I’ve never been a huge fan of blocking out my outlook calendar – I usually just pop in meetings and when I’m out of office. However, when I started WFH, a lot of people were saying to put your daily schedule into outlook so that others can see your availability so I started doing it too and found myself feeling less productive and more conscious of getting certain things done just because they were on my calendar. Then I remembered that I never used this method in the office, I always had a humble daily to-do list on paper and would set myself schedules for the week. I didn’t need to change the way I organised my time just because I’m not in the office.

  1. Call your friends and family

Yes, we’re busy and not always available for calls, but that doesn’t mean those near and dear to you won’t appreciate a check-in. Being at home isn’t an ideal situation for everyone and some might struggle from loneliness, difficulties with mental health or just be in need of some contact with the outside world. Send a meme, call someone you miss, apologise to that person you fell out with, facetime your train buddy when you would usually have your commute. It seems quite obvious, but we’re all going to miss our daily interactions in some form. So far, I’ve been part of a virtual leaving do for a colleague, a virtual birthday for my mate and numerous virtual family catch-ups because I know I won’t get to see them for a while. But we have the privilege of technology, even if you’re not able to video call someone – send snaps, comment on their posts, tell each other about your day. We all need a little human interaction.

  1. You don’t have to drastically transform yourself

You might have heard this one a few times already, but you don’t have to use this time for a transformation. Yes, do use the newfound empty time for spiritual reflection, time for God and time for yourself, but remember that wishing to come out of the pandemic with a hot bod, as a master of 13 languages and an expert in classical music – are all quite unrealistic. Yeah, get your weights out and download some learning apps, but don’t expect your mind and body to undergo strenuous and exhausting transformations that could put you under unnecessary stress. Be realistic, know your limits, and consider the personal transformations that you perhaps once wished you had the time for previously. One thing that I have tried to do more of is picking up the Quran after salah, or spending some more time on the prayer mat reflecting and making du’a. Small achievable goals are usually more effective than really big ones that might not have a practical plan attached. 

  1. Time away from the news.

I cannot stress this one enough. In the first couple of days of the lockdown changes, I found that myself and the people around me would talk about nothing other than the news. Constant fact-checking, bad news notifications and bombardment of information can be really damaging for your emotional wellbeing, especially for anxiety sufferers. Tell people in your household that you don’t want to discuss the crisis during certain hours, perhaps when you’re working or over dinner, but that you’re happy to watch the news occasionally or have discussions when you’re not super busy. I’ve also made a conscious effort not to use a lot of COVID related jargon in this article because understandably, people need a break from it! 

  1. Emergency Hijab

This one’s kind of a side note, but have any fellow hijabis almost answered video conferences completely hijab naked? Because I almost did, probably three or four times. After those near misses, I decided to leave an emergency scarf next to my laptop or occasionally just on my head and shoulders so that I could fling it over before answering any video calls. Not huge, but a great way to avoid an easy slip-up.

  1. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

It’s okay to call your best mate while she’s playing ludo with her mum and have a snotty crying session because nobody turned up to your household cricket match in the garden. It’s okay to be uncomfortable and to miss normality and to miss your family and friends. None of us could have mentally prepared ourselves for all of these changes, but one thing you can do is communicate when things feel too much. If you’re not able to talk to someone, try writing it down to get it off your chest. Nobody is going to hate you for having irrational fears during a pandemic, it’s probably quite normal to feel not normal.

Illustration by @Shazmeeny

Normality has been stirred up for everyone, and there is probably an ounce of comfort in knowing that we’re all in a similar boat, we’re all experiencing something, and we can all give a little something from our hearts to support one another. Perhaps it takes a crisis to make us realise the importance of kindness, connection and contentment. I’m not going to end this piece with cliche positive quotes, but I will end it with a quote nonetheless. 

“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes a part of something, it beautifies it. Wherever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.”

Prophet Muhammad SAWS (May Peace Be Upon Him)

By Shazmeen Khalid