17 September 2020 Volume :8 Issue :40

Webinar Series on Work-Life Integration

Webinar Series on Work-Life Integration
Webinar presenters (from left) Dr Cristy Leask, Dr Kathryn Pillay and Professor Shaun Ruggunan.

Employees around the world have been forced to adapt quickly to working from home during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Quarantine and lockdown conditions have eroded the boundaries that once existed between the home and the office. In light of this, UKZN’s Human Resources Division hosted a three-part webinar series on home-work life integration for the University’s employees.

The webinars were presented by Dr Cristy Leask an adjunct lecturer at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership and organisational consultant at Symbiosis Consulting; Dr Kathryn Pillay, senior lecturer in Sociology; and Professor Shaun Ruggunan, Associate Professor in Human Resources Management.

As a follow up to the previous sessions that dealt with how different personality types respond to crisis and how to manage self-care and create community; the last part of the series focused on developing adaptive strategies to navigate work-life balance.

Pillay set the context for the series and explained how the three webinars were connected. She then checked in with her colleagues and the participants on how they had managed to improve self-care based on the discussions in the previous session. Leask shared her plans to adhere to a regular exercise routine, and Ruggunan mentioned how coffee with a friend had lightened his mood. The participants also shared their self-care strategies. Pillay highlighted that self-care and building community is vital to develop resilience and adaptive skills.

In examining how the human brain stores behaviour patterns, Leask emphasised the importance of understanding the difference between limbic responses which operate from a place of emotion and the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for executive functions like attention, flexibility, planning and problem-solving. 

Noting that the prefrontal cortex is more active during the morning, she said that colleagues should be aware of how they use this time - especially during COVID-19 - by avoiding things that spark negative emotions or responses. 

Drawing on Daniel Pink’s book, When,Leask listed five things that should be included in restorative time, namely, taking breaks, moving around, being social, going outside and being fully detached from electronic devices.

She encouraged managers to communicate the purpose of their organisation to their teams and emphasised the importance of employees knowing their purpose in order to work on achieving it. 

Focusing on resilience building behaviours, Leask discussed how practical everyday habits including healthy eating, sufficient sleep, exercising, taking time out to rest and limited screen time could help to avoid burnout and provide a “springboard for high performance”.

Reflecting on the presentation, Ruggunan commented that it had shown that resilience is not about endurance but rather about rejuvenation. He called on colleagues to schedule time for self-care and resilience during the day and remarked that knowing UKZN’s purpose is pivotal in enabling staff to assist one another.

In closing, the presenters reflected on what this series had meant for them. Leask said it had inspired her to practise wellness and workplace strategies, while Ruggunan noted that it had encouraged him to connect and interact with people. Pillay described the webinars as a safe platform to share experiences for people who wanted to know what tools they could use to deal with the pressures of working from home. Going forward, she urged people to be kinder to one another… ‘Because we don’t know what battles others might be going through.’

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied

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