Category Archives: Societal Issues

Succeeding in a multidisciplinary workplace

My Aussie relative, a business and marketing professional by training and experience, asked recently my significant other how he could succeed in his new job working with engineers. As an engineer, he answered: “Those who have chosen technical studies/professions are more project/object-oriented than those who work in the arts/humanities/social/business fields. Often, but not always, technical people are not at ease communicating, are more or less introverted, and do not like human interaction too much. But, one should not generalise”. He advised him to “get quickly to speed on technical knowledge because “E/engineers” do not like to waste their time with those who are unfamiliar with what they do.

Is it true that engineers are experts in their field of interest, and that’s it? Articles on this subject agree with my significant other. They are good critical thinkers but often lack communication and interpersonal skills, which are generally possessed by those in the social sciences. It’s not their fault; it can be attributed to the lack of importance given to these soft skills during their engineering education. So, what will you do if you belong to the humanities/social science domain and have to work with those in the other group or vice versa?

Does the stereotyping of professions help?

Stereotyping is a cognitive process that involves associating a character trait with a group of individuals. It is about making sense of the insufficient knowledge we have about people based on what we have read, heard or seen.  For instance, artists are free-spirited, intelligent, passionate, and un-pragmatic. Bankers are super rich and do not like paying taxes. Businesspeople are charismatic but ruthless when it comes to sales and profit. Public servants are cool because of their job security. Programmers and IT personnel wear eyeglasses and are poorly dressed.  Scientists are like Albert Einstein; they are brilliant but lack social and practical skills.

Personality experts and psychologists tell us that we use stereotypes to deal with situations without much thinking and to fit our social world, such as when we meet or work with a new person. Not all stereotypes are harmful, but they are always an incomplete picture of reality. Therefore, it should be taken with a grain of salt. (The same as “a pinch of salt” – accepting it with scepticism about its truth).

When you regard colleagues solely by the stereotype attached to their professions, you defraud them of other aspects of their individuality. Whatever profession you have and that of your workmates, what is needed is to supplant stereotype with a sense of conscientiousness. Psychology Today has this to say about conscientiousness: “comprises self-control, industriousness, responsibility, and reliability. A conscientious person is good at self-regulation and impulse control. This trait influences whether you will set and keep long-range goals, deliberate over choices, behave cautiously or impulsively, and take obligations to others seriously”. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/conscientiousness seen on 28/02/21). The article further says that consciousness is not only an essential ingredient for success in the workplace, but it is also a significant predictor of health, well-being, and longevity.

Conscientiousness, however, is just one part of our overall personality. Irrespective of our occupation, we should have a positive attitude, self-confidence, humility, and self-awareness (knowing our strengths and weaknesses). 

Masks Mia, Here We Go Again – Worse Before Better

In March 2020, I thought the pandemic would be less threatening by August; it wasn’t so, and we had to cancel our summer holiday. In November, I was sure we could spend Christmas with our sons in England; it did not happen. In December, I thought 2021 would be pandemic-free due to the rolling out of vaccines in Europe and some countries; wrong! Then, came the British, South African and Brazilian variants. Here in France, the 6 PM – 6 AM curfew was not adequate to stop the infection figures from climbing; so, the Government decided to close its borders for non-EU travellers. It’s impossible for my Aussie friends to visit me, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be Down Under for my sister’s 60th birthday.

I used to associate relaxation with watching TV and movies, reading and browsing online. Currently, these are not enough to chill me out.  With limited human interaction, I have incorporated routines that make me jump and sweat in front of my screen (either TV or computer) alone. These passive and active activities disconnect me from my teaching (which has shrunk significantly since March 2020) and house chores, which is known as psychological detachment. 

Ms Sabine Sonnentag has published an article on “Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time: The Benefits of Mentally Disengaging From Work”. According to her, “psychological detachment from work during leisure time refers to a state in which people mentally disconnect from work and do not think about job-related issues when they are away from their job” (sagepub.com). Her research demonstrates that “employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience fewer symptoms of psychological strain, without being less engaged while at work”. 

In other words, high involvement in one’s job during off-working hours means no psychological detachment that has ill-being consequences. You add poor working conditions to this equation, and you know what to expect — lousy mood, stress…

When we are psychologically detached from work, we do not have pressure to meet expectations, respect deadline, and face judgements regarding success or failure.  There is a sense of calmness – i.e. state of being devoid of agitation and negative excitement.

What are your psychological detachment strategies? If you have not thought of these yet, it is never too late.  Based on recent data regarding the new COVID-19 variants and the slow pace of worldwide jabbing, fighting this pandemic is a long haul. It can still get worse before it gets better. As such, there will be teleworking, homeschooling, social distancing, testing, quarantining, and job losing and seeking for a while. Stay safe.

Giving and receiving

How was your holiday? Ours what unusual and unexpected. We planned to spend Christmas in London, where our first son lives. In mid-December, London was on tier/level 4 lockdown (residents were strictly housebound); therefore, we thought of taking the train or bus to Oxford where it was level 2 (restaurants and shops were opened). We would then meet up with our second son, who lives in Canley in the southwest of Coventry near Warwick University. It was a blessing in disguise that our flight was cancelled the night before our scheduled departure because the next day the British Government included Oxford on its tier 4 list. We would have been stuck in London quarantined in a low-budget hotel without the certainty of returning to France by the first week of January 2021. Instead, we had a virtual family Christmas party on the 25th with carols and quizzes.

We’re still in the period of giving and receiving gifts. So far, what have you given and/or received?

My husband is a football enthusiast and enjoys watching the English Premier and European League; a ticket to one of their matches would have been an easy choice. As sports were televised only due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was more realistic to accompany him in our attic and watch from our bedroom’s skylight the pigeons compete over grains and worms.

What’s the perfect gift for me from him? I wanted to see purple (my favourite colour) candles on the hallway leading up to our bedroom and find our bed covered with red roses and heart-shaped white chocolates. After all, red and white were the colour motifs during our church wedding. Everyone was in red and white apparel, including the pastor. There was a five-layer white cake with red cupcakes as giveaways.

I appreciate any gift from friends. If I don’t fancy it, I’ll pass this on to my family who wants it or to my favourite charity. Such action is good for my pockets and planet. Unwanted gifts that are not regifted or do not end up in charity shops find a home in landfills and tips that contributes to environmental problems. In developing countries, regifting is a welcomed necessity; of course, it has nay-sayers. Some people think that those who regift are stingy and disrespectful. Charities sell donated items, and the money is used to help the needy.

Gift-giving during the December-January period is cultural. It can be a way of showing affection, fondness or gratefulness. It does not need to involve a big amount. Research studies and surveys show that expensive gifts are not always appreciated; for instance, many receivers associate handmade items with kindness and positivism.

There is a social pressure to reciprocate; when we receive a gift, we give one in return. Does this equate with happiness? What is the best present? Isn’t it time that family and friends spend with us (talking on the phone or online when it is impossible to do so physically)?

In 2020, we lurched from pandemic and insecurity to division and isolation. In 2021, let us take stock of our lives and find the gift of wonder and joy in our personal, social and professional relationships safely. Happy New Year!

Meanings are in people, not in words?

With globalisation and digitalisation, employees of one organisation often come from many places and cultures. They can have the same mentality driven by their company’s goals and values; however, not all of them automatically think, communicate and behave in the same manner due to such diversity.

Culture is knowledge and characteristics of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, arts, music, cuisine, and social habits. Although language is often the least difficult issue to confront, it can be a source of misunderstanding and unpleasantness at work.

What and how we speak are developed through cultural values and norms we learn directly and indirectly, which is called socialisation. In my recent English language class, a Polish student mentioned that for them “collaboration” is a negative word, i.e. siding with the Nazis – “the collaborators”. So, I suggested the use of “cooperation” or “working with” to avoid offending them.

An acquaintance gets upset every time she hears her colleagues use the word “execute”. These are the online dictionaries’ explanations of execute: a) to carry out fully or do what is required, b) to put to death in compliance with a legal sentence, c) to perform what is required giving validity to it, and d) to make or produce something – such as a work of art –  by carrying out a plan or design.

Why do they dislike the words “collaborate” and “execute”? They grew up in eastern and central Europe where their relatives and compatriots had been victims of collaboration and execution during the Second World War. Exposure to cultural cues and group narratives have contributed to their communication sensitivity.

We all associate words with various things related to our experience and environment. Unintentionally, we bring these moulds to our meeting rooms, offices and social functions that can make communication challenging or awkward.

How should we deal with misunderstanding due to elements of culture and socialisation? What about adapting our words and actions to these differences? Shall we stick to our patterns of behaviour without conflicting with those different from us? We can avoid miscommunication and ambiguity if we understand our history and culture and those of others.

During our first lesson that included a personal introduction, my student said, “I’m what others call a gipsy, but I prefer to be called a Romany”. (This is also spelt “Romani”).  We should ask questions, listen and respect others.

When I was young, my mother used the word “mulatto” to describe those whose one parent is black and the other is white. It was only when I was at university that I realised “mulatto” is offensive to some people.  Similarly, it is politically incorrect to use “half-breed” and “half-caste” to describe those whose parents have different skin colours and national origins. An acceptable phrase is “person of mixed cultures”.

Ethnicity (Cambridge Dictionary’s definition – “a particular race of people, or the fact of being from a particular race of people”), or its adjective “ethnic”, is quite all right for many people; however, it is often considered derogatory in the UK.  Ask the person which term they prefer (some people disapprove the phrase “person of colour”).

I use “foreign” to describe policies, something that comes from another country, or idea that I am not familiar with (strictly for non-human). I frown when a European calls me a “foreigner” because I am not an alien and do not feel and behave as an outsider (have lived longer in France than in my country of origin and been married to a local for nearly four decades).

We have to be open-minded and sensitive in our choice of words. Otherwise, consciously or unconsciously, we make our workplace and global village less desirable.

Death from or death with?

A fortnight ago, I read Marc Trabsky and Courtney Hempton’s article entitled “Died from or died with COVID-19? We need a transparent approach to counting coronavirus deaths” (The Conversation).  As an English language teacher for adults, I am used to answering questions on the sameness and differences in the meanings of words and phrases (e.g., work for/work with, look forward to/looking forward to, mandatory/compulsory, lease/rent, complete and finish, so forth). So, when I see articles on coronavirus, I think of the possible confusion due to the use of  ‘from’ and ‘with’.

Trabsky and Hempton explained, “Clarifying what’s being counted as a COVID-19 death is necessary for understanding the impact of the virus, and for informing public health and clinical responses to the pandemic.” In short, death from COVID-19. They further stated: “If we know who is susceptible to dying with COVID-19 because of pre-existing conditions, public health responses could more effectively target and protect potentially vulnerable people and communities”.

One of the dictionary definitions of ‘from’ is to indicate an agent cause or source; for example, I have received a motivating note from our supervisor. Whereas, ‘with’ denotes accompaniment, addition, combination, or presence; for example, I will accept the contract with two conditions. Hence, in the case of COVID-19 pandemic, who is/are responsible for the lumping of statistics that makes it confusing or difficult for the public to understand its real impact? Is it the reporters, medical practitioners, governments, or organisations or individuals with vested interests?

COVID-19, as with other pandemics, has highlighted the importance of numbers. Without statistical information, governments and relevant bodies (particularly the World Health Organisation) would not have been able to grasp this new and mysterious virus that continues to spread. However, these figures should be collected, analysed and presented to the public accurately and simply. Pundits’ data (useful or otherwise) are often quoted, requoted and forwarded quickly and widely, notably through the social media, with positive or negative consequences.

This subject reminds me of a former student who took an extended sick leave and did not finish her C1 English language course. According to her colleagues, it was due to stress from work.  I believed it readily but, now, I wonder if it was “stress with work”. How about ‘stress at work’? The first scenario gave me a scene of a horrible workplace that overpowered a happy personal and social life. The second one involved an unpleasant workplace due to uncooperative and rude manager or colleague, in addition to relationship difficulty at home.  

Stress at work can be beneficial as it keeps us alert and productive, as long as it does not trigger life-threatening events, such as severe health and emotional problems. The only way to deal with stress is to identify its cause and then reduce or eliminate this. I hope you are not stressed with the distinctive use of prepositions in the English language: by, for, from, in, with, on, at, etc. (I played chess at the weekend/UK; I played chess on the weekend/US = I spent time playing chess on Saturday or Sunday, and not over/during the weekend).

Prepositions are generally short words but essential. Their misused can make a difference between a clearly stated opinion and a confusing statement. However, when used properly, they allow us to share our ideas, emails and reports more precisely and understandably.

Passion and hobby aren’t the same but both spice life and employment

Being paid for doing something that you enjoy is one of the most satisfying experiences.  However, not all jobs offer this opportunity and many people earn a living from performing tasks they are not over the moon with.

Passion often comes up when it comes to job happiness and fulfilment. Being passionate at work enhances the pursuit of excellence and increases commitment and performance. Passion can either flourish, diminish or disappear when put in certain work environments. Employers and companies that provide conducive work milieu and implement management practices that respect, motivate and reward fairly unlock employees’ passion for performing well.

Since not everyone has a passion for their profession, pursuing it outside work can also improve one’s job satisfaction and well-being. Passions are not precisely the same as with hobbies. Passion is doing something you enjoy and have an overwhelming feeling of devotion even when it is difficult and stressful, but the result is worth the effort. Whereas, a hobby is something you do when you have free time, are feeling bored, or want to relax. 

Engaging in activities with passion or having a hobby can reduce stress, provide opportunities to socialise, improve skill and confidence, and increase the level of alertness and creativity. As we have to juggle home, work and passion or hobby, we multi-task; therefore, we become skilled in organising priorities. In the process, we also develop our analytical and decision-making ability.

Passion plus hard work goes farther than natural talent. My passion is storytelling in the written form.  During the COVID-19 lockdown, I finished my novel “The Whisper of Regrets”, which explores real societal and relationship issues and is written in plain English. I have an inconsiderably slim chance of winning this August’s Amazon story competition, but as Alfred Lord Tennyson had said, “It’s better to have tried and failed than to live life wondering what would’ve happened if I had tried.” A little help goes a long way; so, I hope you’ll check it out.

Whereas, my acquaintance and fellow chess player (Said), who has postgraduate degrees in physics and engineering and works in these domains, has become a pundit on plants in Kabylia, Algeria. Likewise, my Aussie friend Loida spends nights and days drawing, painting, and taking panoramic photographs with joy and patience.

It is idealistic to say “have a passion” or “follow your passion”. The truth is that those who have a passion to follow are not numerous. Some people do not wish to have one because they have witnessed passionate people sacrificing their time and money to keep doing it with little or no visible short-term return. I believe it is easier to have a hobby than forced yourself to have a passion. Of course, a hobby can turn into a passion.

According to Good.CoTeam (https://good.co/blog/top-hobbies-boost-employability-skills/seen on 01/08/20), the top 8 hobbies that boost employability are 1. Endurance sports, e.g. running and swimming; 2. High-risk pursuits, e.g. mountain climbing and sky diving; 3. Creative hobbies tasks, e. g. cooking and photography; 4.Team sports, e.g. football and softball; 5. Strategic mind games, e.g. chess and Sudoku; 6. Creative writing, e.g. poetry, short stories or a personal blog; 7. Reading, museums, libraries; and 8. Community group involvement. These hobbies suggest that you are comfortable collaborating with others. As well, you could be seen as a particularly good personality fit for managerial roles. The caveat is that fabricating an interest in certain activities backfires. For instance, you have written ‘playing foosball’ as a hobby in your resume; when asked to join a team to compete in an inter-company tournament, you refused because you could hardly hit the ball.

It is worthwhile to discover, rediscover or harness our passion and hobby to live and work satisfyingly. These are some of the hobbies that do not cost money: aerobics or fitness exercise at home, bird watching, gardening (for yourself, neighbours and community), reading, running, stargazing, volunteering, walking, watching documentaries, and writing. 

Meanwhile, the world’s unemployment rate is alarming. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported on 09/06/2020 that the number of unemployed people in the OECD countries alone increased by 18.4 million to 55 million last April (https://www.oecd.org /newsroom/ unemployment-rates-oecd-update-june-2020.htm).  Moreover, to feed and shelter their families, millions of women and men have accepted jobs they are overqualified to do or in workplaces where they are undervalued. The passion for their career has long evaporated into thin air due to circumstances beyond their control. Also, some have their passions and hobbies constrained by time, as they have to look for work, do shifts, or take care of their children and elderly family members.

Passion can be an act of kindness; hobby can be skyping, zooming, facetiming, whatsapping or telephoning friends and relatives who live alone.

Gradual return to normality at work, home, etc.

On June 9, I resumed my face-to-face teaching after three months. Our work venue has been tailored to ensure physical distancing, and we are obliged to wear a face shield. There are arrows directing where to enter and exit; each room has information on the number of people allowed inside and a bottle of gel to hand sanitise. I have four students in an area of 18 square metres that can accommodate 20 people. According to them, my face shield produced echoed sounds. Likewise, I could not hear well what they were saying.  With our great sense of humour, we did not notice the time passing by; after an hour and a half of the lesson, the flipchart was filled with nouns, verbs and adjectives.

Confinement and social distancing have resulted in financial hardship, work stress, and relationship difficulties. Many of us have now gone back to our pre-COVID routine; however, there are still millions of people negotiating the transition back to what it used to be the “normal”.  Should common areas at home remain as workspaces? How many days per week should employees telework? Should religious service continue in car parks? Are drive-in cinemas a new vogue?

In her article “Life And Work After Covid-19: The Problem With Forecasting A Brighter Future’,  Josie Cox stated: “Our longing for a pre-pandemic existence (look no further than social media) is hard evidence of the fact that we will most likely revert to old habits and behaviors, both good and bad, when lockdowns are lifted and social distancing called off. We like the comforts and freedom of choice. In the workplace and beyond, we tend to choose a path of least resistance because that’s just the way we’re wired”. – US English (https://www.forbes.com/sites/josiecox/2020/04/14/life-work-after-covid-19-coronavirus-forecast-accuracy-brighter-future/#6732fcb765b1 seen 16/06/20).

On June 18, my husband and I went to the cinema (movie theatres opened on June 17 in Luxembourg and June 22 in France), and “Just Mercy” enthralled us. It is a compelling true story about Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative and Walter McMillian (who was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit).  We took off our masks only after we had sat down on our allocated seats. There were only eight of us in a room for 200 people. How long will it take for cinemas and theatres to attract crowds again?

Currently, in France and Luxembourg, workers who interact with customers and their colleagues are required to wear facial coverings. Unlike in China and some Asian countries where mask-wearing is a conscious act, this is not the case in cultures where it is associated with vulnerability and fear. Hence, I do not know when this “new normal” will disappear in Europe.

Even with government support programmes, many families and companies will simply not bounce back or recover overnight.  The scars of COVID-19 will always remind us of the fragility of our lives, employment and economy. On the other hand, it has made us more resilience and able to confront fear, uncertainty and impositions at home and work than ever before. It has awoken our admiration and gratefulness for the work of health care workers, home delivery people and Samaritans. It has made us think deeper about our relationships and environment.

As Europe opens its borders today (1 July 2020) and the summer holiday is getting underway, there are still controversies regarding the EU’s lists on who are allowed to enter and not. Brazil, the USA and Russia are not on the approved list; whereas Algeria, Australia and Canada are on it. The UK is neither, and China is subject to confirmation of reciprocity agreement. (Source: https://www.euronews.com/2020/06/29/revealed-draft-list-of-countries-that-will-be-allowed-to-enter-eu-when-borders-open? Seen 30/06/20).

As we go back to our pre-COVID work premises and lifestyle, let’s not be complacent. It is not yet totally safe. Therefore, we must remain alert and respect the remaining restrictions:

– Do not shake hands or greet people with kisses on the cheek.

– Respect social distancing staying at least one metre from others; otherwise, wear a     mask.

– Wash both hands often.

– Cough and sneeze into your arm and turn around/away from people.

– Use single-use tissues to wipe your mouth and face, and throw these away right away.

The good news is that we are born with immense capacity to adjust, readjust and survive. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” — Leon C. Megginson (1921-2010), Professor Emeritus at Louisiana State University, USA).

Stay safe and cheerful.

Inequality in distance learning, virtual meeting and teleworking

A few weeks ago, one of my students emailed me: “I don’t have the intention to quit the course. I have been absent because of my very bad internet connection”.  She lives in Luxembourg, which is this year’s richest country in the world based on GPD per capita (https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/richest-countries-in-the-world: Luxembourg $119,719; Norway $86,362; Switzerland $83,832; Ireland $81,477; Iceland $78,181; Qatar $65,062; The United States of America $64,906; Denmark $63,434; Singapore $62,690; Australia $58,824). Those in developing nations, where there is a vast gap between the haves and have nots, experience even more inequality in distance education, virtual meeting and teleworking.

The abrupt shift to education online has created practical, technical, and emotional challenges; and the lack of reliable technology and internet access is only a tip of the iceberg. There are issues concerning teachers’ ability to carry out their tasks remotely, home environment that favour or disfavour learning, and help (or lack of it) that students get offline.

The data compiled by the Teacher Task Force, an international alliance coordinated by UNESCO, found that half of all students currently out of the classroom – or nearly 830 million learners globally — do not have access to a computer. As well, more than 40 per cent have no Internet access at home. (https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1062232)

I teach adults at their company premises, which haven’t resumed yet. Currently, I have only two classes online. My son has been at home since the end of March finishing his first-year tertiary studies virtually and will return to Warwick University (UK) in October.  My friends and acquaintances have told me that they will continue to have video conferences instead of face-to-face meetings until the end of 2020. Whatever and wherever the situation, there is a form of inequality.

Through distance teaching, I got to meet my students’ children who needed instant parental care, men who wanted information from their wives right away and barking dogs (one of them jumped into its owner’s lap while we were discussing dog-eating people). Online lessons involve synchronous teaching in real-time, providing students with experience close to traditional classroom instruction. Overall, there are pluses: 1) active participation, 2) individual-centred teaching/learning, 3) varied materials used; 4) safe and stress-free environment. As a teacher, however, I miss observing my students doing their writing exercises and role plays. On the other hand, I save about two hours of commuting, and this gives me more time to prepare to be a better moderator and guide in their learning.

After three lessons via Zoom, my students had a stocktake; all of them expressed a strong preference for face-to-face learning over a virtual class. Their main reasons relate to social interaction and the psychological role of non-verbal communication.  Considering that two of them use their phones while the other four their personal computers with widescreen monitors, there is an inequality issue.

Almost all organisations across the globe have brought their board, committee and staff meetings and conversations into homes using technology platform and video conference software. The most used for these purposes are Cloud Meeting, ClickMeeting, ezTalks Cloud Meeting, Facetime, Freeconferencecall GoToMeeting, GroupMe, Infinite Conferencing, JoinMe, Skype, Slack, TeamViewer, WatchItToo,  Webex, Zoho Meeting, and Zoom. These obviously save travel times, but the equipment can be expensive and requires compatibility. The quality of image and sound depends on the amount spent on technology, which is not the same for everyone.

After the pandemic, virtual teaching and meetings are here to stay. Can we erase inequality? How can we reduce this?

Meanwhile, if your concern is making the most of distance learning or meeting, check out the following articles to start with:

“7 tips for effective virtual learning” https://www.quizalize.com/blog/2020/03/10/7-tips-for-effective-virtual-learning/

“How To Run A Successful Virtual Meeting” by Ashira Prossack on https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashiraprossack1/2020/03/30/how-to-run-a-successful-virtual-meeting/

“How to Run Effective Virtual Meetings Communicating Well With Technology” by Mind Tools Content Team on https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/running-effective-virtual-meetings.htm (seen 11/05/20)

All the best.

Personality and coping mechanism

Before I get into the subject of my article, I would like to mention that today is a public holiday in more than 80 countries that observe International Worker’s Day or May Day. Here in France, May 1st is known as “Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity.”

As a freelance English language teacher, my livelihood was destroyed by COVID 19 on March 13. None in my family and social circles have asked me how I have been coping financially. It is most likely because they are concern more about my health than non-existing wealth. As well, money is a pet peeve for many of us.

There have been tens of thousands of deaths around the world, and I do not have words to describe the sorrow of their families and friends. I can only contribute to the discussion about this pandemic’s economic and psychological impacts, as I have lived it.

According to the United Nations (UN), the four sectors that have experienced the most “drastic” effects of the disease are: retail and wholesale (482 million workers); manufacturing (463 million); business services and administration (157 million); and food and accommodation (144 million). I belong to the third group. The UN ILO chief stated these four sectors “add up to 37.5 per cent of global employment, and these are where the ‘sharp end’ of the impact of the pandemic is being felt now (https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061322).

If you want a detailed analysis of this issue, you can visit https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/04/10/covid-19-economic-impact-human-solutions/ (COVID-19: Economic impact, human solutions By Edward Lempinen) and https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business (COVID-19: Implications for business – Executive Briefing by McKinsey and Company).

Regardless of whether or not you have lost income during this period, we are all in the same boat when it comes to social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus.  Our personalities, predicaments and interests, which are different from one person to another, determine how we respond to social isolation. Logically, one would think that introverts come out better than extroverts in this situation because they enjoy being alone. Well, I belong to the latter, and I am doing all right.

Since the lockdown in March (the French government has announced that this will be lifted on May 17),  I have written a novel; improved the full draft of a non-fiction book; participated in 4 online chess tournaments; made about 300 pancakes; and baked a dozen apple and banana cakes. As well, I have Zoomed, Whatsapped and Skyped with friends and relatives in three continents; done lone aerobics while watching movies at least 20 times; and consumed two tubes of hand cream to appease my itchy and red hands due to over washing and sanitising. 

Prof Luke Smillie and Prof Nick Haslam, in their article  published in The Conversation on 9/04/20, have this to say:

  • Differences in extraversion-introversion emerge in early life are relatively stable over the lifespan. They influence how we respond to environments.
  •  In a recent study, extraverts and introverts were asked to spend a week engaging in higher levels of extravert-typical behaviour (being talkative, sociable, etc.). Extraverts enhanced their mood and feelings of authenticity. Conversely, introverts experienced no benefits and reported feeling tired and irritable.
  • Research shows people who are emotionally stable, self-reliant and autonomous, goal-oriented, friendly, patient and open tend to cope better in conditions of extreme isolation.
  • A counterpoint to the so-called loneliness epidemic is the study of “aloneliness”, the negative emotions many experience as a result of insufficient time spent alone. (Anthony Storr – “A return to the self, solitude can be as therapeutic as emotional support, and the capacity to be alone is as much a form of emotional maturity as the capacity to form close attachments”).

Irrespective of personality differences, we should be patient yet purposeful, self-reliant but banding together, and optimistic thinking globally while acting locally. (The big five personality traits are openness, agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism and conscientiousness).

Let us continue to respect scientists’, medical professionals’ and sane governments’ advice on ways to stay safe and healthy.