As we come towards the official end of the “circuit breaker” period in Singapore, the government will be slowly easing measures in phases. For now, the workforce is still encouraged to continue working from home until further notice.
The recent pandemic has put working from home on a serious trial. With the availability of shared cloud storage and online communication platforms such as Slack and Zoom, telecommuting has been technically possible since a long time ago. But, before this pandemic, the majority of workplaces have been fairly traditional and required employees to report to the office daily.
There might also be permanent implications on work arrangements after the circuit breaker is fully lifted as firms are realising that paying rent for large office spaces may not be necessary anymore.
So, perhaps it's time to accept working from home as the new normal. What have we learnt from the past two months?
1. Ergonomic workstations are necessary
Although netizens on social media were quick to judge people who flocked to IKEA days before the circuit breaker kicked in on April 7, the fact was that people needed better tables and chairs to work on because their 9 to 5 has now been moved from offices to their own homes.
As we know, the current situation could last anywhere between four weeks to 12 months. Working on makeshift chairs and tables is a recipe for backaches and neck injuries.
A good workstation should help you maintain a neutral spine that is slightly curved. Sitting at your workstation, consciously sense how your back is like. Is it tense or relaxed? Adjust your desk height so that you are able to rest your hands comfortably and your keyboard and mouse are at elbow height. There should be space under for your legs to stretch and sit in a relaxed manner.
Make sure that your desktop monitor or laptop is well-positioned, where the middle point of your screen is slightly below eye level. If it is too low, you can prop it up with thick books or invest in a laptop stand to raise it up. If it is too high, adjust your chair height or sit on some comfortable pillows. Also, your entire forearm should rest comfortably on the table and the monitor is at least an arm's length away.
2. Set boundaries
Working from home can feel more tiring and stressful, because when everyone's home, coworkers expect replies instantly, weekday or weekend.
For working parents who have children at home, it is even more stressful because they take on additional roles such as chef, educator, and caregiver.
So, it is important to communicate with your coworkers and superiors that certain times of the day are carved out for family time, for instance, lunchtime and in the evening. If it is comfortable for you to do so, set the time aside on your work calendar so expectations are managed.
3. Share household chores
Being at home also means more domestic chores. For everyone’s sanity, divide domestic responsibilities evenly to avoid burnout, especially for mothers and caregivers.
The mental load of mothers and women are well-documented. They are not only expected to cook and clean more, but they also have to manage and tell their partners what to cook and clean. With everyone at home now, domestic responsibilities must be evenly shared to avoid burnout.
Those without a helper can survive these long periods of being home by splitting up a list of chores evenly. If a spouse cooks, the other can wash the dishes. If a spouse does laundry, perhaps the other one can fold. Heavy-duty tasks such as mopping all the floors and scrubbing toilets can be done together on the weekend.
Don’t forget to involve the children too. It is their responsibility to keep their books and toys clean, and not anyone else’s. Let them share the load, starting with simpler chores such as vacuuming or tidying their own room.
If you have a helper, remember to give her longer breaks. It’s an unprecedented time when there are constantly dirty dishes in the sink, laundry that has to be done, and things lying around the home. Helpers have been “working from home” for some time now, but now their workload is doubled or even tripled. They definitely deserve more rest.
3. Me-time is ok
The circuit breaker has turned on an insatiable need for productivity and control. People seem to feel guilty for having so much time on hand “without doing much” that they have turned to baking, cooking, and working out. These are great avenues to de-stress, but they can also turn unhealthy when taken to the extreme.
Just like setting boundaries for work and family time, there needs to be some time carved out for your own personal time as well. Rather than mindlessly consuming content on Netflix or Youtube, which is passive and does not promote mindfulness, you can write in a journal, meditate, or do some body stretches to get in touch with your mental state. Let go of any guilt and stress that may have arisen during this period.
4. Re-connect virtually
On the other hand, aside from having your own me-time, you should not forget to re-connect. Some of our closest family members and friends may be living alone now and could be feeling down from being cooped up— especially seniors who aren’t so adept at technology.
This is the time you should reach out even more to them. Give them a call or teach them how to use video conferencing apps through which you can do some exercises together or play games.
5. Tidy personal finances
With all the time on hand, it is also a good time to do some personal admin. You can start with your credit card bills. Most likely, your credit card bills would likely have halved, or more. Download past statements and start looking at what non-essential things you have been spending on but now can do without. It could be dining out, or taking too much taxi and private hailing rides, or clubbing. From such data, you can find out what you can do less of even after the circuit breaker completely lifts.
During this downtime, it is also good to review your insurance policies. Tabulate all your policies in a table for just-in-case scenarios. Also, add up all the premiums to see exactly what percentage of your income you have been spending on insurance. Are you under-insured or over-insured? Many agents are going online now so this is a good time to consult and remove some policies that no longer serve you, or buy new ones to protect you and your family.
Inform yourself with GoBear Singapore Insurance Guides
Additionally, there's no better time to refinance your home loans than now, as interest rates are falling. Get in touch with a mortgage specialist and you can be saving hundreds to thousands of dollars on interest payments.