Challenges of making the change to working from home and isolating

by Vickashnee Nair

The roads are ghostly, not a single pedestrian or car.

This is an odd sight and sound for me as usually these roads are bustling with honking cars with differing ideas of how a traffic circle works. I miss the chattering of women walking by, holding packets full of groceries with small children in tow as they lumber behind.

I sit in the small flat that I share with my partner and it’s all so quiet. Now and again a truck labours its way through the roads to the delivery entrance that is neighbour to our complex. We hear the deliveries as they come through at odd hours of the morning and evening. I normally tune this out, or find it a nuisance; however these days it provides comfort knowing that we are not the only people left in this quiet part of Randburg.

Very occasionally, a car will zoom past our flat, always seeming to get to their destination in haste. I wonder where the occupants are coming from and where their destination is in these troubling times. Are they fetching some necessities from their local supermarket or getting medication for someone who is ill? Are they transporting medical professionals who have had a long day working at a clinic or hospital? Or are they just taking a break from the lockdown?  I wonder about this all as I sit on the couch attempting to immerse myself in theory and research.

The words swim on the page and sometimes they become blurry lines, like hieroglyphics or a foreign language. I shake off the cobwebs in my brain and try to renew my energy with a cup of coffee or a walk around our small flat. We are both confined to this space until the 1st of May 2020 and for us it’s been an adjustment. We are not allowed to walk around the complex so we resort to getting fresh air on our small balcony. Some days it’s better to keep dry and warm inside as the Johannesburg weather can be unforgiving.

I have always worked and studied in contexts where I interact with people on a daily basis and I have to travel in order to work. I am a counselling psychologist by training so naturally human interaction is part of my life and work.  I have found the lockdown and working from home a weird and even unnerving experience.

My partner works in a bank and she has often worked from home in the past and has found the transition markedly easier than I have. However, there is still difficulty in being locked in and not being able to see others or leave our flat.

I am grateful for the Zoom therapy sessions that I have every Wednesday with my psychologist. It has become an hour each week to really check in with myself and have feedback from someone outside of our little bubble. It feels like a reality check and grounds me.

We try to avoid social media and the news as it has become saturated with one thing, COVID-19 and all that accompanies it: death, illness, overwhelmed hospitals, poor leadership, people not abiding by lockdown rules, people staying in using Zoom for meetings and people generally trying to adjust to what has become a global pandemic.

For myself this saturation in the media has been overwhelming, but it’s hard to look away. The human in me is curious and it wishes to know what is happening in the world. However, at the same time it fills my heart and mind with an emptiness and anxiety that is hard to describe.

Trying to find a routine and feeling like a productive human can feel almost impossible during these times. Seeing others who seem so productive in their bread making, article writing, and exercising, it’s hard to feel productive and energized. However, there are small moments that make me feel appreciative and sane. Such as a cup of coffee in the morning looking at the rain, knowing I do not have to brave that in order to make the trip to work, or the silence and space that even our small flat can afford us.

I do not hope to be incredibly productive these days, but rather I look for small wins and try to focus on things that make me feel in control, or like a human again. And that is all I can do in a world that has become infused with war like talk, where humanity as a whole seems less hopeful. I focus on what I as an individual, with my many complex parts and abilities, can do to contribute and add, while at the same time maintaining my own balance, so as to preserve myself, my mental health and sense of purpose.

In all this, I acknowledge the many privileges I embody and possess, mindful that this is my perspective, which may look so different to many others. I do my part and I hope that each day comes.

My name is Vickashnee Nair and I am a 26-year-old Indian female originally born in Lenasia. I joined CSA&G as a researcher for the Just Leadership Programme in 2020. I have completed my Masters in Community Based Counselling Psychology through the University of Witwatersrand and I am working towards becoming a registered Counselling Psychologist. My interests include sexualities, gender, mental health, community and health psychology, and race. I have had experiences working in therapy and assessment in various communities, including the student population.