COVID-19: Quintessential guide to ‘Working from Home’ and more

2020-03-27 at 19:43

The coronavirus, or the novel coronavirus has effectively changed the timelines of most governments, businesses, establishments and calendars of average people like you and me here in Sri Lanka, and around the globe.

At the time of writing, over 530,000 cases and 24,000 deaths have been linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus which first emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

The latest report from the Imperial College London states, the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe could hit 1.8 million worldwide this year even with swift and stringent measures to stop it.

Researchers estimate that tens of millions of lives could be saved if governments act fast to adopt strict public health measures, including testing, quarantining and broad social distancing.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work.

Are there any medicines or therapies that can prevent or cure COVID-19?

While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines.

Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?

Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation.

Is there anything I should not do?

The following measures are not effective against COVID-2019 and can be harmful:

  • Smoking
  • Wearing multiple masks
  • Taking antibiotics

In any case, if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your recent travel history with your health care provider.

How does COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.

People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than one meter away from a person who is sick.

You can see more details at

https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

COVID-19 in Sri Lanka

On the 27th of January, a Chinese national was confirmed to have contracted the virus in Sri Lanka marking a new challenge to the local system.

On the 11th of March, the first Sri Lankan tested positive for COVID-19 and thereon cases continued to rise.

As of 26th of March, 106 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Sri Lanka and according to Ministry of Health seven persons have recovered after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

Lockdown Sri Lanka

Considering all these guidelines and directives, the government of Sri Lanka imposed travel restrictions and other form of containment orders, popularly known as ‘lock-down’ from the 20th of March.

Island-wide curfew was lifted sporadically but expected to be in place until the situation in the country improves drastically.

From middle of March, in a bid to contain the virus, adhering to directives issued by the World Health Organization, the government of Sri Lanka has been encouraging the public to practice social distancing, one of the favored methods to reduce the spread of the corona virus.

Following further development, on the 19th of March, the government announced a work from home week.

The entire Sri Lankan population other than those in the front line or part of essential services, was asked to work from home during the period between 20th and 27th of March.

Sri Lankans requested to ‘work from home’

The directive has been extended and will be in place until at least the 3rd of April.

Sri Lankans Working from Home

So, more Sri Lankans will likely be working from home as the government and business are encouraging employees both in the public and private sector to limit travel and prevent exposure to COVID-19.

This practice will minimize the risk of you coming into contact with someone infected by the virus, most likely someone asymptomatic, so even though if I am not a health professional, I would also suggest staying indoors and working from home, if possible.

Most companies in the IT sector, multi-nationals and Non-governmental organizations have had a practice of working from home but some others are unable to practice for obvious reasons.

Thanks to the coronavirus this could be a first for many Sri Lankans and many especially in the developing world.

Working from Home will be a challenge, as I found out myself during the last couple of weeks.

So, let’s nullify some of the challenges by following guidelines.

Know your work hours…

Most of Sri Lankans are used to working, between 0830 and 1630 or 0900 to 1700. However, in an ordinary circumstance, we spend between three minutes and three hours commuting to work and back home.

So, even if you stick to the same shifts depending on the field of work, you already have more time. Working from home is not bad after all.

You may not clock in and clock out. But considering you can’t complain about traffic congestion, make sure you’re prepared to work at the start of the shift.

I am sorry, 0900 meaning 0900 not two minutes late or 10 minutes later.

Another option would be staggered hours, so the team, be it small or big can be assigned to specific tasks at different times and be available on call.

The team can be separated based on skills and efficiency that way the work can be done even if you’re working from home.

So it is important that the line manages re-design a COVID-19 roster.

Have a home office!

We all have our favourite couches, tables, areas and rooms in our houses and of course the bedroom.

However working from home means working from home, you have to move out of the bed and have a dedicated space to do your job.

Should you dress up? Yes, why not, if it is more productive. But what’s important is, depending on the work, you’re able to work and be available to work.

So, having a dedicated space does help and will give you that ‘work mindset’.

Your parents, partners and children will know you are working and will have less distraction. Not having to say ‘I am working’ over and over again also helps.

Have the essential!

You can’t work from home or otherwise, without essentials.

First thing, you need is energy to do anything, so make sure you eat and drink and have your breaks.

You need to have a book, pen, computer, phone, headsets, mic, recorder, camera, tester, torch, software, hardware and storage whatever you need. Be prepared.

Have a good communication and an internet connection.

Yes, the magical word is data, having adequate data will help you, make calls, send e-mail, accept orders, transfer files, cash and more importantly will help you know what’s happening on the other side of world.

Work as a team…

Not being able to speak and signal something to someone could lead to less productivity. Communication is a vital part of any successful operation, so we need to communicate and have to be in constant touch between team members, depending on your mode of work.

Having conference calls could be a vital part of improving productivity. One call could relay the accurate messages to team members instead of multiple email exchanges.

So use Whatsapp, Webex, Skype, hangouts or any software to communicate on a frequent basis.

Remember group meetings in-person can be difficult, but over the phone they can be absolute chaos.

Without any visual cues to signal where attention is focused, participants on group calls can end up speaking over each other for minutes on end.

So someone needs to step-in and set some ground rules.

No one likes to be ignored.

Using the likes of SharePoint and Google Docs means, several persons can read, edit and cross examine and efficiently complete documentations.

If there are software packages on your work terminal then you need a way to access them at home or if you will need to find some way to do without them.

Take your breaks

We must be concerned about productivity, especially if we are in our comfort zones but we also need to be healthy and energetic to work.

So taking breaks is an essential part when you are working from. Constant disruptions will not help your colleagues, so make a note, take the break and be back energetic to complete the task.

Eating at work is more tedious than eating at home. At work, you always have an expert and options to order in. Eating at home takes lot of planning, either you cook or order. You need to take a bit of a longer break to order or make the lunch while at home.

So knowing your breaks and utilizing them will help you, ones at home and more importantly the rest of the colleagues who expect you to work from home.

And finally, remember to work!

Working remotely has its downsides and you will be excused for lack of performances to a certain extent.

It is normal when you are home, the folks at home want a bit of attention but it’s not a time to congregate around the dining table. If you’re feeling left out, so be it, you’re working from home.

It is not easy for the whole family who are expected to work from home.  They all have to find a new routine and if there are young children, they need extra support and care and distractions even if they are of school going ages as schools too are closed at this time.

It is best if partners, grandparents and older children be all assigned tasks and times so that everyone gets a chance to work from home whatever that may entail. It will ensure that whoever’s turn it is to work gets quality time and space to concentrate.  That way everyone is not burnt out at the same time.

It’s not a time to run errands or have friends over although curfew prevents anyone from coming over and maintains the required social distancing.

If working from home is challenging, get inputs from experts, get reminders from your colleagues or even ask your managers to keep you in check.

There is no I in a team, so get the work done from home as a team.

As Sri Lanka meander through the uncertainty brought in by COVID-19, we as citizens must make use of the work from home opportunity, and help our community and overcome this calamity.

While we are on COVID-19 season you may also be interest in some not so factual things..

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters

More importantly as the government, tri-forces and the Police and also first respondents and all health sector workers are working tirelessly to contain the spread of the virus, to save lives, we must also help them by heeding all advice guidelines.

Wash your hands, follow hygiene rules and work from home…

Hazari M

hazari@tnlradio.com