How to coexist with the coronavirus

Tess Lyons

Tess Lyons, a marketing specialist for schools and non-profit organizations, on ways to stop the crisis from disrupting both work and personal lives more than it already has

With Hong Kong edging towards its fourth month of coexisting with COVID-19, grocery store owners and Zoom shareholders seem to be the only apparent winners. In April, the city’s unemployment rate hit a decade-high of 5.2 percent, while about 1,000 Hong Kong restaurants have closed since June 2019. With kids going back to school, summer holidays impossible to plan, and most of us wishing we could go back to the way things were, mental health has become a concern.

Until that happy day, and while we wait to see if the third wave of infections will indeed hit Hong Kong and COVID-19 statistics, here are five sanity savers to ride out this crisis.

1. Communicate with your team and clients

Employees usually either have a boss or colleague within close range, making brainstorming and communication simple. However, work-from-home arrangements and staggered office attendance have removed that effortless dialogue, which means teams need to intentionally communicate in order to work efficiently and harmoniously.

Everyone needs to understand their daily priorities. Set a time to speak with managers or your team online to discuss projects, status and assignments. A 15-minute morning meeting with the team will streamline and simplify everyone’s day. A 10-minute meeting at the end of the day can also be beneficial.

2. Don’t be a statistics stalker

In times of uncertainty, people tend to stay informed by increasing their news consumption. But there’s a balance between being informed and being obsessed. Will dedicating a screen to a live coronavirus dashboard improve your life or simply increase your anxiety? A good rule of thumb to prevent information overload is to stick with three media sources and to check them a few times a day.

When speaking with family and friends, try to find other topics of conversation such as how your day went, or any TV shows you’ve enjoyed watching.

3. Focus on the good

Crises also give us the opportunity to see the best in people. Forget the hoarders and focus on news about people who are making a difference, such as those helping quarantined neighbours with their shopping and volunteers fostering animals when the owners were in hospital. The environment has also been given a much-needed breather, with cleaner skies, reduced smog and more wildlife seen in areas teeming with people only half a year ago. Look what those pandas at Ocean Park accomplished when they were given downtime! The coronavirus has given us blessings – albeit at a cost – so try to recognize them in your own life.

You can also be the good. Hong Kong has many sectors of society needing help. If you have extra time, consider volunteering for charities, for example by doing a Kindness Walk with ImpactHK, where you provide and distribute necessities to homeless people. You could also check on a neighbour who lives alone to make sure they’re all right.

4. Respect others’ choices 

Hong Kong isn’t locked down, and we need to respect that not everyone shares our personal definition of social distancing. Don’t get worried or upset if your neighbours are having another family get-together or a party on the rooftop. Don’t feel you need to defend yourself as you head into a restaurant and someone comments “what about social distancing?” The government has given residents a set of parameters – aim to do what works best for you and your family. Don’t worry about what everyone else is or isn’t doing. You don’t know their situation and they don’t know yours.

The same applies for the workplace. If you’re already a work-from-home pro, don’t assume that everyone else is. Some colleagues have not experienced it, which can negatively affect their productivity as they deal with feelings of isolation and working without a well-equipped office space. Allow extra time for them to adapt.

5. Better yourself, on your terms

Millions of people are using their COVID-19 downtime as an opportunity to expand their skill set. Online courses run by universities, including Harvard University and the University of East Anglia, and on YouTube, are just some of the options available for learning new skills or updating current ones. Online learning can be a great distraction, but bettering yourself isn’t limited to more screen time. Catching up with loved ones, tidying up the closet, exercising and reading are also forms of self improvement – and so is taking the time to rest.

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