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Back to work in the ‘New Normal’

Dr. Laila Mahmoud, Specialist Psychiatrist at Medcare Hospital Sharjah shares top-tips for employees getting back to work

Getting back to work and a routine normal life is hard for most if not all the employees who worked from home during the last three months. Returning to the old routine is especially not easy for those who have fought Covid-19 and were cured after struggling with this stubborn virus.

Dr. Laila Mahmoud, Specialist Psychiatrist, Medcare Hospital Sharjah

COVID-19 is a new virus and the lack of information around it compounds that fact with a lot of uncertainty. With vaccinations currently in testing mode, the lockdown being eased and people getting back to work, one wonders what happens after the pandemic. What is the incidence of re-infection, what is the cure, what measures must we take to keep safe? People, especially the those who have recovered from COVID-19, often face the stigma of returning to the workplace and are fearful of facing discrimination from colleagues and peers. Add to this the anxiety around job-stability and the overall economic performance, and it’s almost a recipe for depression and mental stress.

Fear, anxiousness and worry are all accepted emotions that all of us can have at a certain point in our lives and taken during this pandemic. But how to deal with it wisely is the key to return to a healthy life in what we call the ‘New Normal’.

Here are my top tips for those getting back to work and, how they can maintain sound mental health.

For employees getting back to work:

  • Acknowledge your feeling: acknowledge that anxiety, depression, fear, stress, worry exist and that these are normal feelings that most of us are experiencing these days. Talk to yourself; tell yourself that anxiety, depression is unnecessary. Unwanted feelings can trap your thinking and hinder you from doing the right things and the proper precautions should be taken.
  • Use your intellect: Approach your problems intellectually not emotionally, and this needs training, train yourself gradually to use your intelligence in dealing with issues. Think logically; every question has a solution that requires clear thinking, not emotional decisions.
  • Reliable sources: Always update your information from reliable sources like WHO and the CDC. Don’t google it or listen to what people say. Covid-19 is just a self-limited virus like any other virus. It has an incubation period of 2 weeks, and with good immunity and a healthy lifestyle, it dies. The strains are getting weaker and a majority of cases are asymptomatic to mild-symptoms. According to WHO, the asymptomatic carrier is not infective, and the risk of transmission of the infection goes down from every person.
  • Stay clean, stay safe:  Keep taking the precautions needed and stick to SOP’s (the mask, sanitizer, frequent wash of your hand by water and soap).
  • Be optimistic: If you have overcovered from COVID-19, you should be thrilled, because you are almost immune. After all, the rate of re-infection is very rare less than 0.1%.
  • It’s worldwide not only you: The economy drop is a worldwide problem, not individual. So don’t think about the issue before it comes to you. Be optimistic. Nothing stays forever, either good or the bad. Being worried about your job, increases the risk of losing it, keep going and do your best. If this job is meant to be to for you, no one can take it from you. If not, you are not a tree, start searching for better opportunities and remember nothing stays forever, maybe it is the right time to change your life, your job or your country.
  • Accept your life changes: Adapt and cope wisely. Be yourself and live your life day by day. No one predicted Covid-19 before it came. Every day is a challenge, is a new lesson, a new life. Be prepared to learn, to fight, be ready for the problem. The challenge can teach you to be the best version of yourself.

Advice for HR managers:

You have to know that you may be the nightmare for each employer, who can deliver the message of doom.  While the down-sizing strategy is a global trend, you are obliged to follow company strategies to keep going as the whole world is struggling. It is a vicious circle that affect all.

  • Be empathic: If you are the messenger of doom, try to use options before firing employees. Will salary reductions work? Or perhaps unpaid leave? If there are no other options than dismissing the employee, give them alternatives and guide them. Ensure a notice period of at least three months so they can arrange their lives.
  • Reassurance: Employees around the world are dreading getting back to work and are fearful of about their job stability. Try to reassure those returning to work by ensuring them that they are safe. Try to introduce the idea that we are struggling together, we are one family, and we have to stand hand by hand to overcome this stage of the economy drop. You will gain their maximum support and performance.
  • Enforce a healthy work environment: Keep stressing the importance of taking personal precautions like the wearing face mask, washing hands frequently, using sanitizers and maintaining social distancing. It is important to keep the economy up and avoid unfortunate consequences like re-infection or a second wave. Stay healthy.  Stay clean, stay safe.
  • Learn from experiences: This is not the first economic drop. It was the same before in 1991 and also 2008. Sudden unexpected changes may happen either good or bad. Covid-19 appeared suddenly and will disappear abruptly, and life will return to normal. Keep living, keep learning, stay patient, have resilience.
  • Be a role model: Give your employees hope of a better tomorrow. Being optimistic will encourage them to do their best. Every change starts by an idea, a new hope builds new thoughts of change, of better tomorrow.
  • Power of remote working: Allow flexible working options – remember you have moms returning to work, who have children at home, no house help and online classes to deal with as well.
  • Be thankful: A simple word, the simple act of kindness can change people lives. Remember you are not affecting only the life of your employees but also their families in consequences, compassion doesn’t need too much money or effort, as well as harshness on the employees, make their performance less, keep them motivated. Be humble, kind and optimistic, be human; with your employees, always encourage them, reinforce them to take their best performance, what you water – grows.

Be approachable: Allow your employees to talk, to vent; discuss with them their problems. Deal with each employee on the individual level, give him the feeling you do care as he is a part of your growing family, you will take his best performance, love and care with respect can make a miracle.

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