Tips on how to cope in close quarters

Professor Paula Brough

With many employees now working from home around the country, as measures to stop the spread of coronavirus hit hard, chances are your home is looking less like a port of calm in a storm and more like a conflict zone as work and home lives collide.

Griffith University’s Professor Paula Brough says many people are understandably anxious about what’s happening around the country and internationally but just as anxious about what’s happening inside their front door.

“If you are someone who’s balancing family members, children, home-schooling and still trying to work at home as productively as possible It’s obviously a very challenging and difficult situation,” Professor Brough said.

As an expert in occupational stress and coping, Professor Brough says there are three key practices which may help people cope with the current circumstances.

Three keys to coping better: Time, Physical space, Psychological well-being

“First of all, you need some separate time to yourself so set yourself some specific time which is just work only, whether that be in the early morning or late at night,” Professor Brough said.

“The second thing to think about is having a set physical space away from distractions including children and pets, partners and spouses and everything else.

“Find a quiet spot in your house, ideally (with) a desk, not your bed, where you can physically set up your workstation.

“The third is to focus on your psychological well-being by giving yourself some space and time for you.

“That might be to take yourself out for some exercise and take the dog for a walk or have a long bath or have some quiet time to yourself where you can sit and read or something.”

Couples and conflict

With many couples now working from home together Professor Brough says there’s also the likelihood of conflict.

“You may not be a couple that is used to physically being around each other for almost 24 hours a day and it can be very challenging, especially when we think this is how we might be living for the next good few months,” she said.

“There might be a lot of a lot more conflict happening and there might also be conflict with your children. I think it’s important to understand the cause of this.

“Everyone’s feeling extra, anxious, extra fractious so bear in mind that yourself and everyone else might not have the normal level of tolerance at the moment.

“I know it’s a cliche but try and communicate very carefully, and consider, especially with young children, their anxiety, and not try to respond as sternly as you may normally.”

“Try and take a breath, give everyone some love and support. Talk with your partner about conflicts that are arising in the kindest way that you can, with a focus on problem solving, not just airing grievances.”

Another area causing stress right now is job insecurity and Professor Brough says this is natural with so many stories about job losses in the media.

“You or your partner may feel highly anxious about your own position, about your own employment and the knock on effects that will have financially for you as a family unit.

“It’s important to talk about these things with your partner as calmly as you can. And perhaps think about a plan B.”

You’ve got this

Professor Brough says communication has never been more important.

“It’s difficult because we’ve never been in this situation before and it’s difficult to understand how we’re going to be, how our family unit is going to survive.

“We are more resilient than we think we are, we are more resourceful than we think we are. And we’ve already seen that we can cope with the most sudden and amazing restrictions, and so far, fairly successfully.”

Professor Brough carries out research as part of Griffith’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, with areas of expertise inoccupational stress and coping, the psychological health of high-risk workers, and work-life balance.