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COVID-19: Frustration, Guilt and Working from Home in a Pandemic

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I think most of us working from home right now are thankful for many reasons.  We’re thankful that we still have a job.  We’re thankful that we have something to keep our minds off the pandemic.  We’re extremely thankful that we don’t have to risk our health going out, unlike all the absolutely amazing essential workers out there keeping us safe and healthy.  Unfortunately for many of us though, there is this underlying guilt that is following us whenever we’re not being productive. 

Over the past weeks the internet has been a constant reminder of pressure to use this extra time to be productive.  We are being told we should be tackling those projects we didn’t have time to do before.  Whether these are work projects such as reinventing our work environment, creating new systems, fixing old systems.  Or home projects like organizing every cabinet in our home, painting, renovating, gardening.  Or even self improvement projects like exercising more, cooking healthy meals, learning a language, reading more, etc. etc. etc. and the list goes on. 

Week one of quarantine we ramped up, got all excited of all the things we would accomplish, created to do lists, bought home improvement materials, restructured our calendars and made all these elaborate plans.  Fast forward three weeks and we have barely done any of those things we set out to do. Leading to feelings of frustration at our lack of motivation, and feelings of guilt, shame and blaming ourselves for not being the productive powerhouses that we were told we should be. 

I’m here to tell you that it’s completely normal you’re finding it hard to be productive right now.  For those parents who have worked from home in the past and found they were more productive at home, recognize that things are different now.  Your kids are home too, and there’s a total new routine or lack thereof.  For all of us, recognize we are not doing the same job we have done before.  It’s difficult to completely change your output and learn new methods.  Even take something as simple as a conference call, if you’ve never used this technology before, it takes some time to learn. All of our new processes will take some time to learn.

I’m also here to tell employers to have some patience and flexibility with their employees who are working from home.  We can’t expect them to be as productive as they were pre-pandemic.  Most are not able to work their typical hours at home now.  People have their families around them and need to spend time with them.  Many are learning new skills and trying to figure out new technology and researching new ways of doing things; this takes time. Some mornings they might not be able to get themselves out of bed from emotional exhaustion, because well emotions are exhausting, and this has been a very emotional couple of weeks.  Grocery stores and pharmacies have limited hours which means people are going to need to shop during the day to limit exposures from weekend shopping.  Recognize that while some employees are working more and being overly productive, others are working less and being less productive.  We need to have patience and flexibility during this time to allow our employees to be as productive as they can in their own unique changing environments.  Celebrate the small victories right now and do not dwell on unaccomplished tasks.  

And remember, it is ok that you didn’t revolutionize your industry and completely organize every closet in your home. As time progresses we will slowly learn how to cope with our emotions and our responsibilities in a healthy way, which will be different for everyone. And if you are feeling any form of guilt or shame for not being a productivity powerhouse, give yourself permission to let that go. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Christine Fuda is the Mental Health First Aid Coordinator at Ontario Shores. During the pandemic, she will be blogging regularly around the impact of COVID-19 from a mental health perspective. Send your suggestions for topics to @email

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