Prior to the outbreak, travel restrictions and having to stay home were beyond our wildest imagination. Today, they are par for the course. 

The battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is dragging on with no end in sight. As the country navigates yet another (and the third) MCO, local workforce and organisations have also learnt to roll with the punches and adapt to remote working arrangements. 

However, during such unique times, it is not about rinse-and-repeat. What has gotten us through the first lockdown might not work for us in the subsequent ones, especially when frustration level increases with each MCO. This is why it is so important that we keep ourselves busy by finding new ways to cope and navigate in this strange yet familiar situation. 

Lockdowns and work-from-home mandates are a definite necessity to keep us safe. While some may enjoy being alone at home, prolonged social isolation may take a toll on our mental health in a difficult time where we need each other the most.

The statistics speak for themselves. According to our new 2021 Workmonitor survey, more than 30% of Malaysians had seen an increase in their stress levels and suffered a loss in productivity amid the pandemic. 

Profound feelings of social separation, financial insecurity and loss of family and friends have become Malaysia’s major drivers of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. It is time we talk about the elephant in the room and help each other to cope during such trying times.

6 ways to cope with a lockdown

In the past year, I’ve learned many things about my employees and myself. In fact, more than I’ve ever had in my 14 years working in Randstad. Everyone has their own ways of coping with lockdown, and even as I share these six small tips, nothing is more important than learning to love and respect yourself. 

1. set daily small goals

The drawn out pandemic and start-stop restrictions can test even the most patient and resilient. Our concept of time changes, and a day may sometimes feel like a whole week. On most days, I catch myself being the kid at the back of the car asking my parents, “Are we there yet?”.

To avoid feeling like you are stuck in a mindless rut, set daily bite-sized goals for both your personal life and career. Mindful goal-setting will not only imbue a sense of positivity and refreshed purpose, but it will also make you feel more positive and fulfilled at the end of the day.

2. healthy body, healthy mind

The mind-body connection is an age-old wisdom that I firmly believe holds true till today. Our mind and body are natural allies. They work in great synergy when they are healthy. And speaking from experience, I know that this is easier said than done. It is more convenient to switch from work over to Netflix instead of changing into your exercise gear. 

The reality is that having a strong immune system and healthy mental mind is especially important during the pandemic. Each lockdown presents itself as the ultimate opportunity to eat better, reduce your stress and improve your health with daily commitment. 

I do that by setting a fixed time in my daily calendar to exercise and condition myself to get some physical activity. We can easily find lockdown activities on Youtube that we can follow for free and find inspiration to stay fit and healthy. After 21 days, the habit of exercising would likely stick with you. The endorphins flowing through your body will leave you happier, more relaxed and ready to take on the day! 

3. seek inspiration and tune inwards

Consuming too much negative news in a short period of time can have an adverse effect on anyone’s mental health. If you believe it, reading the symptoms of COVID-19 over and over again can cause “psychosomatic symptoms”, which is when your body believes what you read and starts showing similar symptoms. 

Instead of scrolling Facebook and sharing fear-mongering news on Whatsapp chats, switch off, spend more time with yourself and take the chance to clear your thoughts. This precious quiet time with your mind allows you to check and connect with yourself to help you be more aware of your pent-up or masked emotions.

how to get in tune with yourself
how to get in tune with yourself

Tuning inwards can take place in many ways. When I switch off from work, I turn to podcasts, Youtube videos about my hobbies or interests, and books that help me frame my thinking into a more positive mindset. 

Use this pocket of time wisely to reflect, unpack and listen to your deeper thoughts to make sense of things for yourself. This small yet constructive activity of getting in tune with yourself will renew your energy and might even help you shape your future better self. 

4. invest in a work space at home

Even after a year, many of us are still navigating some shape or form of hybrid work, where we are required to function productively and efficiently from the confines of our homes. This trend is likely to continue into the future  after the pandemic, as employers and workers increasingly realise the benefits of flexible work arrangements. 

So invest in building a pleasant work space that’s just for yourself. Create a space that is not only conducive for conference calls and work that requires long periods of focus, but also one that fits your style and ways of working. Own your work and do it with style! 

5. learn a new skill

All of us have these long bucket lists that we’ll only get to when we have time. There’s no better time to check them off than now! List the one thing that you’ve always wanted to do and find the best way to immerse yourself in that experiential journey remotely. 

Whether it is learning a new language, musical instrument, recipe or code, there are a variety of skills that you can teach yourself these days if you set your mind to it and apply that passion in you. Ultimately, developing and sharpening new skills will set your spirits in a more creative, upbeat mood to brave the tough circumstances. 

6. form deeper connections with a colleague, friend or loved one

Try as we might, no one is an island. We are social creatures that appreciate the company of others as we tackle challenges in life. Our human spirit does best when we connect with others to help ourselves and others. 

Use this time to engage with someone you have always wanted to get to know better. Check in on them frequently and carve out time to do something with them online. Don’t just respond to an Instagram story; reach out to them and share new moments in our lives with each other to have more meaningful conversations. The best stories to come out of the pandemic are from people who have found their true soul connections. 

Don’t treat the need to distance physically as a reason to isolate yourself from others. Reach out and talk to someone. You will thank yourself for that! 

sustaining relationships during pandemic
sustaining relationships during pandemic

let’s look after one another 

As the leading global HR services provider, we are always mindful of the need to put people first, even more so during a global crisis. This is enshrined in our “Human Forward” promise. 

Being in the people’s business for over 15 years, I am well-aware of the power of people. I remain steadfast in my belief that companies do not create value, foster cultures and drive operations - their employees do. Taking care of the health of employees - be it mental or physical - is ethically the right thing to do and makes real business sense.

If the COVID-19 crisis is a marathon, leaders should strive to ensure that every employee gets to the finish line in the pink of health. The mental health of workers, provision of ample psychosocial support and management of contractors and remote employees should remain as top priorities in these challenging times. 

It is also vital that we partner with and borrow strength from one another during the pandemic. Please reach out to us if you require strategic counsel for your workforce management and planning needs. We would be happy to discuss talent trends, market insights and best practices on employer branding and staff engagement. Likewise, we are here to help if you would like to prepare for your next steps and recovery phase. 

I thank you for your dedicated support, partnership and faith in us over the years. Let’s stay connected in a crisis that threatens to keep us apart. We will stick by you and with you for the long run.

Wishing you, your teams, your families and loved ones best of health.

randstad blue suite

The Randstad Blue Suite is a collection of personal insights from the Randstad leadership team.

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randstad blue suite hf banner
about the author

Jaya Dass

managing director, singapore and malaysia

Jaya Dass joined Randstad in 2008 as a recruitment consultant and she now helms the Singapore and Malaysia offices that collectively house more than 130 recruitment consultants across multiple specialisations.

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