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Working from home: the ups and downs of the shift

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the majority of University staff working off-site for the duration of the closure. How different is this from the usual day to day on-site work?

How am I adjusting from office work to working from home? To begin with, allow me to start this by asking you to pray for a close friend who caught the Covid-19 virus. With a pre-existing condition, his current state is critical and all prayers for him are welcomed. Knowing someone infected with the virus brings the reality closer home.

Michael Babu works at the Community Service Centre. His day to day work involves working with vulnerable students at Strathmore, and keeping the service to society pillar in full gear through work camps, and various activities run under the community outreach programme.

How is working from home different from the usual work at your desk on third floor Student Centre office?

Wow! Working efficiently and effectively from home is no walk in the park. The demand for discipline and, most importantly, a shift in mindset that your home can and should temporarily transition into office space is not a switch one can readily put on and off. Thus far, I have received many good tips on how this can be achieved, but for someone like me, who had intentionally created a no-work-at-home policy, I am gradually shifting goal posts. What recharges my batteries is the personal conviction in making service to society a way of life; therefore, I cannot stop living; kazi lazima iendelee (work must continue).

What has the Covid-19 situation taught you – about yourself, life?

I have to admit, the current scenes across the globe seem to be borrowed from a horror movie; India, a country with a population of 1.3 billion, is under total lock down; 1.3 billion! The nerves this virus has. The whole world has been forced to slow down and most mental frameworks are taking time to adjust. From the other news we are receiving, we can safely say; Nature is detoxing. I just had to leave this thought out there.

Back to the question: The most important lesson so far – the current situation- has given me a better understanding of the frustrations my mother has gone through over the last years. With her current medical condition, she cannot go out much, more so now, because of her low immunity. I have been trying to motivate her to get creative, be more active etc., with no clear understanding of what it actually means to have one’s movement deterred. Now, I have somewhat managed to peep into her reality.

Any challenges you have encountered?

 Well, unlike what I have seen trending on social media platforms, of office Zoom meetings gone Boom, I have not really encountered many. The occasional electricity blackouts and wired anticipation that the generator will kick in immediately, as it often does in SU, have occasionally caught me off-guard. As a department, we are managing well. Necessary support is being provided to ensure that we can be at our optimum. The downside though, the nature of my work involves working hands-on with the vulnerable in society; thus, mentally and emotionally, I can be a bit distraught, thinking of how they are coping. I have been receiving messages and calls from some who are seeking assistance and I am exploring options on how best to achieve this.

What are the positive aspects about working from home?

So far, I can confidently share the following: the demand to know and implement working schedules, respecting the purpose of the bed and understanding that it can NEVER be an office desk, and that planning and implementation, are necessary for excellence.

What are your coping mechanisms – in terms of having to stay indoors?

To start with I am social distancing from adding weight. In order to ensure that I do not end up welcoming obesity into my personal space. I am exercising and conquering the silent invitations of snacks meant to last me during this period. For mental exercise, I take breaks, in which I chew on some unread books from my mini library. I have also taken up the challenge of solving a rubrics cube, and so far I am making good progress; I have learned about the daisy.

Lastly, I am in a WhatsApp group with our student volunteers, and therein we are having many discussions pertaining to life issues. The active sharing of thoughts and ideas on various issues such as the need for emergency funds in Covid-like moments, how best to cope and handle relationships over such periods, how to optimize time usage, why is there an increase in divorce rate in China etc., is keeping us active and engaged while maintaining social distance.

Finally, allow me to conclude by saying; we stand tested not defeated, challenged not conquered; the season is here for a reason, and it is a call to all humanity to be loving and follow laid down health guidelines.

PS: I have missed food from the cafeteria, don’t even ask why; to overcome this, I think I may just end up setting up a buffet in my house with all normal SU options like beef stroganoff, mango salsa, buttered spinach and caramelized potatoes.


This article was written by Michael Babu, Community Service Centre. 

Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu