Remaining in good health despite the crisis

Iris Perner is Joint Head of Health Management at Swiss Post and outlines her experiences and strategies to deal with coronavirus stress in the interview.

Simone Hubacher

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Iris Perner. Joint Head of Health Management at Swiss Post.

Before we go into detail. You’re able to work from home. How’s that going?

In the current situation, being able to do most of my work from home is really helpful. When I think of the many employees working in operations, on the counter, on deliveries or for PostBus who are ensuring Swiss Post maintains its universal service every day, I realize just how fortunate I am. However, organizing the new daily routine to balance work, family and support for elderly people is not always easy. I really miss the personal contact with my team and the people in my working environment. To ensure I remain healthy in my temporary office at home, I occasionally do a workout and ensure my workplace is set up as ergonomically as possible.

How significantly is coronavirus affecting your everyday life?

The current situation is affecting us all. In my case this is often reflected in small everyday situations. It’s things like the children no longer being able to enjoy playing with their friends or birthday celebration plans for the children being put on ice. But there’s also an upside – my part-time workload is now spread across every working day, which means each day is shorter. I’m able to meet the team for a virtual coffee break every day. I tend to take more breaks with the team now than before, albeit virtual ones.

What are the greatest concerns of Swiss Post employees at the moment? Are there big differences in this respect depending on whether you work in an office, from home or in a letter/parcel center? Or are people’s fears and concerns similar?

We share certain fears and concerns, which is currently creating a strong sense of solidarity amongst us. For example, nobody knows how the situation will develop. We also all have to show flexibility and reorganize how we do things at the moment, be it with regard to childcare or different working hours. There are specific differences in everyday working life too. Employees on the front line are currently faced with tremendous challenges, perhaps because of the huge increase in online orders or due to the fact that many of their colleagues are remaining at home because they belong to at-risk groups. This can cause additional stress, not just because of the crisis but due to the potential extra workload. Employees who enjoy customer contact and help enhance Swiss Post’s image in this way are also concerned about being infected by customers or being carriers themselves and passing the virus on to other people – despite adhering to the hygiene measures. I have the greatest respect for employees on the front line and their direct line managers.

Are people who had to overcome psychological challenges prior to the coronavirus outbreak now at an advantage as they’re used to dealing with difficult situations or are they instead under additional pressure?

It’s not the challenges per se that make us stronger, but how we learn to deal with them. We can improve our psychological resilience and emerge from a crisis stronger. For example, we can remain attentive and maintain relationships despite the crisis. Using our creativity is definitely helpful at the moment because we have to keep in touch with friends and family in a different way. What about a group video chat over a plate of spaghetti? That would definitely be a great alternative.

What pointers do you have about this challenging, abnormal everyday life which has become the new norm? How do we keep ourselves in good shape psychologically?

There’s currently no end of advice about remaining active and healthy. We’ve also considered this issue at Health Management and have prepared a summary of the key points on mental health. The main thing is that everyone decides for themselves what the best approach is for them personally in the current situation. I try to take regular breaks and to keep work and family life separate. I sometimes deliberately refrain from looking at news or social media and instead use the time to keep in touch with friends and family. I try to keep my cool when the children aren’t interested in the craft activities from nursery, the housework falls by the wayside and my mailbox starts to fill up. At moments like this, I stop for a minute to take a deep breath and am grateful that we’re in good health.

written by

Simone Hubacher