Career Advice
June 25, 2020

#ResilientAsiaChallenge Session 4 — What is happening in my environment that is getting in my way of changing my habits and shifting my mindset towards stress?

Session #4 of the Resilient Asia Challenge gives those of us floundering under the weight of our stress some much needed pointers.

While some might be lucky enough to find their inner ‘zen’ through meditation, exercise or a Netflix binge, many of us often have bigger environmental factors preventing us from changing our habits. Whether it is working with stir-crazy, homeschooled children, trying to be productive in a matchbox apartment or frazzled nerves triggering our self-doubt, it can be hard to quash stress during this virus.

Session #4 of the Resilient Asia Challenge gives those of us floundering under the weight of our stress some much needed pointers. We explore ‘What is happening in my environment that is getting in my way of changing my habits and shifting my mindset towards stress?’ and how parents and remote workers alike can alleviate environmental stress. Leading this session is Raatha Ganesh, The Disruptor in Chief (or mischief, depending on who you’re asking) at Resilio. She is once again joined by Sally Leonard as the moderator of this session along with two expert guest contributors — Dr. Nutsa Kobakhidze and Rajiv Bhandari.

Let’s dive straight into this reality by asking…

How are parents’ stress levels being impacted by the virus right now?

Everywhere you turn, shops, schools, businesses and whole communities are being shut down due to the virus. Who would have thought 6 months ago we’d all be working from home? Parents definitely didn’t! Now, they are hit with a reality they never thought they’d be subjected to — being thrown in the deep end of homeschooling and childcare for months on end. Having been a teacher myself, it gives me great anxiety imagining the chaos, tantrums and tears that could erupt as the line between parent and educator is blurred.

Session four’s first expert contributor, Dr. Kobakhidze understands that this can be an extremely difficult situation to navigate when you’re acting out the role of both a professional and a parent. Going on, she notes that Asia in particular has very diverse schooling available from local elite schools and international schools to less technologically advanced or well resourced schools. This means while the former may provide interactive online teaching, the latter in contrast may only give study material via post. Complicating matters, while some families may have computer access, others don’t which makes things all the more challenging and unequal right now.

From her professional experience, Dr. Kobakhidze is aware of how much parents in Asia value education and academic performance with many being coined ‘tiger parents’ (imagine extracurricular classes over sleepovers and playdates). So in extraordinary times like this, she explains that parents in Asia especially are feeling extreme pressure to provide adequate learning from home. While some parents are able to enlist the help of online tutors, many are being left to their own devices at this time and hoping not to crash and burn in their new multifaceted role.

How can parents take care of the emotional wellbeing of their children during this time?

While we’d all like to see our kids become ‘child prodigies’ in some form, their emotional wellbeing is just as important as academic achievement. Dr. Kobakhidze highlights the fact ‘fear’ plays a massive part in parents’ stress and the concern that remote learning won’t be adequate for their child. She believes that social and emotional learning should always be the priority while academic learning is secondary. She goes on to give some much needed tips to struggling parents out there:

  • Provide structure and routine — so that the day is clearly defined when it comes to play and learning. In turn, kids should behave and respond better when their day follows a schedule.
  • Reinforce that your kids are loved — provide them with a supportive, caring environment to learn in. Don’t morph into the full-time crabby disciplinarian you remember from your own school days. Keep the balance.
  • Allow teenagers to connect with friends — make sure they still have a social outlet along with their learning.
  • Talk to them and discuss their feelings — make sure you have age appropriate conversations with your children about how they feel during the virus.
  • Don’t forget about maintaining your own sanity — ‘put your own oxygen mask on before attending to your kids’ as Raatha reminds us. Take a break and recognise your own stressful situation, communicate your emotions with your kids and other parents.

While some of you are counting your blessings you don’t have to stress about childcare for little ones right now, working from home can still provoke the same degree of stress. Luckily for us, Rajiv Bhandari goes on to tackle stress related to working in a home environment.

How do we maintain a work/life balance while working in a home environment?

Over the last couple of months, many people are getting to grips with expectation versus reality when it comes to remote working. At the beginning, it may have even felt like a bit of a holiday with sleep-ins, Netflix binges, adjusting your hours to suit you…then maybe that came crashing down when tech glitches, isolation and an inability to balance work/leisure from home kicked in. Four months into 2020, the novelty of working from home is wearing off for a lot of people and the benefits are no longer cutting it.

Rajiv explains how ordinarily we disconnect from work with the change in scenery when we get home . However, working remotely you could find yourself still at your desk glassy eyed and starving at 8pm.

Again, he says creating a balance is key. Routine isn’t only beneficial when homeschooling, it’s also important for professionals working remotely too. Rajiv emphasises having self-discipline and enforcing a daily routine. In his case, he makes sure he has dedicated downtime and breaks throughout the day to stretch his legs. For you, this may be having a coffee, chatting with loved ones, catching up for a hike or a walk around the block. Likewise, he suggests having an awareness about your technology use. Even though it’s always at your fingertips, you need to disconnect at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be an appendage! Rajiv explains that most people thrive from face to face interaction and working remotely removes that healthy emotional connection. It can leave people feeling isolated from family, friends and colleagues. He suggests allowing employees to return to their family bases during the virus and being more flexible in management right now.

You might be feeling at your wits end, but Rajiv and Dr. Kobakhidze agree there is a glimmer of hope with unexpected, positive results from working at home. Along with the obvious advantages, like no peak hour commute to work, Rajiv has also seen his own team’s productivity increase and engagement levels rise. Similarly, Dr. Kobakhidze has had the opportunity to get to know her son better both emotionally and academically. She has also noticed a great deal of solidarity between teachers at this time as they build new social forums and share resources.

So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, or your inner ‘tiger parent’ rears its head, remind yourself of today’s expert advice, ‘the key to balance is empathy AND productivity’. ‘Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing’.

Remember to complete your registration for the fifth and final #ResilientAsiaChallenge session next week by clicking the link: https://www.resilientasiachallenge.com/

Produced by Black Dog Consultants and Resilio

Footnotes:

  • Dr. Nutsa Kobakhidze, Nutsa Kobakhidze is Assistant Professor in Comparative and International Education in the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong. Her PhD dissertation won prestigious Gail P. Kelly Award 2016/2017 for outstanding doctoral dissertation from the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES), USA
  • Rajiv Bhandari, IT Principal — Productivity, IT Strategy, Planning and Core Capability, at one of the largest Telecom companies globally.
  • Eric Toh, is our moderator. He is also an experienced facilitator, executive coach, business consultant, and futurist. With extensive international commercial in-house experience in Asia, Europe, and Australia.
  • Sally Leonard, is both our Top Dog and our Solution Alchemist at Black Dog Consultants. Sally specialises in developing leaders through a variety of innovative tools and workshops delivered in an engaging, stimulating and challenging way.
  • Raatha Ganesh, is a certified organizational coach (Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership) and The Disruptor in Chief at Resilio.
  • We were happy to work with Happyer on these blogs, Happyer provides a holistic view into jobs, companies and cultures.
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