Work from home: Professionals complain of stress, insomnia, anxiety

PTI, Apr 28, 2020, 1:15 PM IST

New Delhi: Insomnia, backaches, restlessness, stress and anxiety are among the side effects people are facing from prolonged work from home as the country entered the fifth week of the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Many companies and firms shut office operations after the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 25. Initially imposed for 21 days, the lockdown was extended to May 3 as the number of COVID-19 cases increased in the country.

Suresh Sharma, a Delhi-based techie, said he spends most of his time either in front of his laptop screen or on his mobile phone, sometimes hours at a stretch.

“I was initially enjoying working from home. However, with the passage of time, I realized it had taken a toll on my health. While working in my office space, I would be attending meetings and interacting with people. But, now, absolutely everything is online,” he said.

Sharma says back problems have cropped up and headaches have become frequent.

For Geeta Malhotra, a techie based in Bengaluru, work from home has not only blurred the line separating her personal and professional life but has also made her insomniac.

“I am eating whenever I want. Sometimes two meals a day, sometimes four times a day. The little walking I used to do has also stopped. I have put on four kgs of weight since the lockdown and I am having trouble sleeping at night so much that I have been sleeping for less than four hours,” she said.

Like Sharma, she too complained of suffering from headaches frequently. Several large IT companies, according to estimates, has 90 to 95 percent of its employees working from home.

Health experts have advised people to practice meditation and do physical exercises to keep the mind and body fit. People should also use this opportunity to pursue their hobbies to de-stress, they said.

Clinical psychologist at the Paras Hospital in Gurgaon, Preeti Singh, said people might be experiencing these issues as they are not getting enough opportunity for physical activity. This is also sometimes due to lack of motivation or anxiety, she said.

“Workload has increased along with responsibilities at home, this has left people exhausted. Insomnia might have become a problem as many are tensed over job security,” Singh said.

Shailaja S, who works in Bengaluru as an architect, said she has been having “anxiety attacks and nightmares”.

“When at work, I would see my colleagues, go on coffee or lunch breaks, but now I am sitting at home the whole day working,” she said.

“I am always restless, I keep checking my phone assuming there is a message from the office. There is no respite even after working hours are over, as I keep getting work messages,” said Shailaja.

Rahul Kumar, a consultant with a Gurgaon-based multi-national company, said his body posture has worsened and he is suffering from severe back pain, restlessness and anxiety.

“In the first two weeks, I was relaxed but as time passed, I have been restless and anxious. My diet and exercise routine have all been hit. Now all I do is sit in front of the computer and work in my room,” Kumar said.

Some health experts also said that distressing news on the novel coronavirus pandemic is also taking a toll on the mental health of people.

Pankaj Gupta, president, Indian Institute of Health Management Research University, in Jaipur, said distressing information related to the coronavirus is making people scared and worried about their and their family’s health.

“We know that good mental health promotes good physical health, therefore involve yourself in dancing, yoga, gardening that brings in positive thoughts and happiness,” he said.

“Practising meditation early in the morning, and devoting time to reading and spiritual activities will generate positive vibes around you and your loved ones. Keeping the house clean and bright with lights, walking on the roof will help them stay mentally healthy during this tough time,” Gupta said.

Shanu Srivastava, a senior psychologist at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre advised people to limit news consumption on COVID-19.

He said frequent updates on the pandemic is creating anxiety and insomnia in many people. The government has launched a toll-free helpline number – 08046110007 — for people who may face any mental health issue due to the ongoing countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In a document ‘Minding our minds during the COVID-19 pandemic’, the Union Health Ministry said staying at home can be quite nice for some time, but can also be boring and restricting.

It advised people to stay busy and distract themselves from negative emotions by listening to music, reading, watching an entertaining program on television, pursuing hobbies, and doing simple indoor exercises.

The deadly coronavirus disease has claimed 934 lives in the country and currently, there are 21,632 active cases, according to the health ministry. On the bright side, 6868 people have been cured of the infection.

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