Workaholics Anonymous: Work-from-home mania

A space for young professionals who experience symptoms of burnout to share and learn from one another.

Quokka News

5 April 2020


On Wednesday 25th March 2020 (aka MCO Day 8), Mentalogue organized a casual meetup online for folks to talk about the work-from-home mania. It was the second session in their series for Workaholic Anonymous. It turned out to be a place to share and care in our current state of uncertainty, and a lovely pick-me-up for the midweek hump.

Clarrise from Mentalogue did a lovely job facilitating the discussion, and we had Li Hsia as the main counsellor for the session. We spent the evening sharing about what was going on for each of us, and then explored strategies that have helped some of us to get through the challenges and make the most of MCO.

What’s going on for us?

Time and work management

  • Feeling bored and unproductive can make some of us overthink life decisions.
  • A number of us felt frustrated because we have not achieved what we have planned or imagined ourselves doing

Financial concerns

  • Resigning from a job at an unfortunate time and this economic climate makes it more difficult than usual to search for a new job.
  • Work situations that depend on physical contact (e.g. teaching, organizing events, meeting clients) are the hardest hit.
  • Even when not personally affected, we worry about family members and friends who have lost their jobs or been asked to take unpaid leave.
  • Some people feel okay in the moment, but suspect that they might freak out in 3 months’ time.

Change in social interaction

  • Avoid talking to friends because everyone is talking about Covid.
  • Missing the human element, including meal times

Adjusting to new living and working situations

  • Family not understanding work hours when we’re working from home
  • Learning to work virtually (challenges include depending on self-discipline, being creative about how to efficiently get information from people and getting people to meet, oddly having to work longer hours because bosses don’t respect boundaries)
  • Some things that could have happen quickly in a physical office takes longer (response time to emails and messages are longer)

Staying healthy

  • Eating right becomes difficult, especially for those who don’t typically cook.
  • Bad eating habits has led to breakouts, and doesn’t help with immunity.
  • Exercise has dropped to the bottom of some of our priority lists since we can no longer attend gym classes. 

How have we been coping?

Productivity Tips

  • Set small goals by breaking down your bigger goals
  • At the end of each week, review and plan for the next week.
  • Use apps like Todoist or Trello to help you keep track of your to-do list.
  • Have an accountability partner; if working together with someone else helps to keep you focused, you can schedule a call with someone to do work together

Your capacity to follow a schedule depends on your personality. Rigid things don’t work for everyone, especially if you’re low in conscientiousness. Give yourself a list of things to do, but don’t set yourself a specific time to do it. “If you only do 1 or 2 of 5 things, it’s important to remember that doing 1 is better than doing none, because the default is zero”.  That is progress! 

Setting up and keeping to a routine (it’s not for everyone!)

  • Stick to pre-determined work hours
  • Set a work schedule, and explain to family that you need to focus during those hours
  • Remove distractions during work time. Using the pomodoro method can help you to stay focus on tasks while taking regular breaks. 
  • Remember that it is okay to slack a bit sometimes – just remind yourself that you’ll go back to the routine.

Your capacity to follow a schedule depends on your personality. Rigid things don’t work for everyone… “If you only do 1 or 2 of 5 things, it’s important to remember that doing 1 is better than doing none, because the default is zero”. 

Personal wellbeing

  • Choose to do things within your locus of control.
  • Include food in your diet which can help with easing anxiety –
  • Make sure that exercise is part of your routine. To start, you can check out these videos –,

Dealing with boredom and restlessness

  • Catch up on work, and do the things you couldn’t do when you were busy. Understand that once the engine starts, you’ll be busy again
  • Create opportunities for work and plan in advance so that once the economy improves, new projects can be launched

Reaching out to help others

  • Offer emotional support to family, friends and colleagues
  • Consider if any of your friends might need financial support in this difficult time
  • There’s something small that we can all do for the people out there – think of the 1% that you can do to help someone else based on your skills

Other topics we were interested in but did not have time to discuss

  • Dealing with anxiety
  • Setting boundaries (e.g. with boss or family)
  • Effects of isolation on mental health
  • Relationship issues that arise from living in close quarters
  • Existential questions: Making sense of what is happening in the world and our role in it

Let us know in the comments if you would be interested to explore of the above topics!

My personal takeaway from the event…

It was beautiful to see people responding and offering encouragement to each other.  We are all experiencing the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.

For some people, the Movement Control Order is a welcome respite from the daily hustle and bustle of life, an unexpected but surprisingly restful relief from routine. For others, the MCO has brought about significant financial stress. Even when financial pressure is not in the picture, people are dealing with the new working situation in different ways. One person’s medicine could be another person’s poison.

Regardless, it was heart-warming to see a group of strangers come together and genuinely care for each other, listen without judgment, offer solutions and emotional support. I walk away a little lighter, and with an extra bounce in my step. These are hard times, but we are truly a resilient people, and we’ll get through this together. 

This article was originally written by and posted on Quokka News

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