5 Apps to Help You get through Working From Home

Transitioning to a work from home set up is not as easy as it sounds. Many people would struggle with the sudden change of environment and routine that was brought about by the community lockdowns and precautionary measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
According to experts, shifting to a work from home setting can be difficult for the mind to process as it blurs the line between the space for work and the space to rest. Employees and business owners should find the right equilibrium between achieving a better work-life balance and boosting productivity while working through a global crisis. 

Here are some mobile applications to help you boost productivity and prioritize your health as you work amid the COVID-19 pandemic: 

Leading and Managing a Team: Basecamp 3 or Trello 

Basecamp 3 and Trello are mobile apps that let you keep track of your team’s to-do lists, communicate with them through a message board or chat room, and organize and assign tasks per employee. Through these kinds of app, a ‘virtual meeting room’ where employees can post files, add revisions, and post comments may be accessible while working from home. 

Available on Android and iOS 

Keeping track of time: Flat Tomato 

Flat Tomato is an amazing and cute app which you can use to track and set a timer per task. It is based on the Pomodoro Technique of breaking work sessions into 25 minutes of intense focus broken by five-minute breaks and one 10-minute break every hour. According to studies, this technique is an effective way of boosting productivity without exhausting your brain. 

Available on iOS, similar apps are available on Android 

Background Noise to Focus: Sound Bored 

Miss the ambient sound of the office? Sound Bored is an app that offers a lot of background noise and music to help you focus and concentrate on work better. It promises ‘sanity saving office sounds to soothe your WFH situation’. According to experts, playing ambient or background office music can actually increase your focus and boost productivity while working remotely. 

Available on iOS, similar apps are available on Android 

Sanity Breaks: Take a Break Please 

One of the most effective ways of taking care of your mental health is allowing yourself to take a few breaks in between tasks and meetings. As its name suggests, “Take a Break Please” is an app where you can set aside time just to pause and breathe. This app is a reminder to take short breaks to recalibrate your focus. You can configure the time among breaks and the period of the break. 

Available on Android and Windows 

RELATED: Taking Care of Your Mental Health: Why it Matters in Time of a Pandemic 

Stress Relief and Meditation: Headspace 

Working from home, along with the drastic changes happening to life brought by the pandemic, takes a huge toll on the mental health of individuals. Taking care of your mental health should be one of your top priorities during crucial times like this. 

Headspace is an app that provides a lot of handy guided meditations that can be helpful in alleviating stress and anxiety, boosting productivity, improving exercise forms, and allowing an overall positive effect on the physical health. This app also has short SOS meditations you can squeeze in between tasks. 

Available on Android and iOS 

Ways to strengthen your immune system during a pandemic

Since the vaccine for COVID-19 is still on the works, the World Health Organization has advised the public that proper handwashing and hygiene practices, as well as social distancing, remains to be the best defense against the virus. Experts also agree that a strong immune system can keep you healthy and give you a sense of control in an uncertain time.  

Eat right and keep a balanced diet  

One of the most effective ways of keeping a healthy immune system is eating right. Begin by filling your plate with immune-boosting fruits and vegetables such as carrots, kale, oranges, strawberries, and broccoli. Eggs, milk, nuts, and mushrooms can also provide necessary vitamins and nutrients to keep your immunity up during a pandemic.  

Get active and exercise  

Physical activity can give your immune system a great boost in a myriad of ways. Researchers have shown that exercise improves immune systems. Exercising regularly improves your body’s natural production of antibodies that help in fighting viruses and infection.  

Relax and try meditation  

Living through a pandemic is a very stressful circumstance that it can negatively affect the immune system and take a toll on a person’s mental health. A recent study involving more than 1,600 people has suggested that meditation boosts their immune system. Meditation can be as simple as taking time in the morning or at night, relaxing, and breathing properly and emptying your mind.  

Stress and anxiety management  

Numerous studies have linked stress and the immune system. In fact, a study has proven that psychological stress increases susceptibility to illness. According to health experts, prolonged or chronic stress can negatively impact the immune system as it reduces the body’s natural ability to fight viruses and bacteria. Moreover, people under a lot of stress are more likely to develop poor coping strategies such as excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, poor diet, or lack of sleep which also negatively impact the immune system. 

Optimizing Buildings for Disease Prevention

The connection between health and the environment becomes increasingly defined as the world learns more about the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this new coronavirus strain can be spread in three main ways:  

  • Person-to-person via direct contact;  
  • Person-to-person via airborne respiratory droplets produced when an infected person cough or sneezes;  
  • Surface-to-person via contact with surfaces or objects that hold the virus, followed by an individual touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.  

Buildings and public spaces play a huge role in disease prevention and control. From its design to operations, buildings contribute to the battle against the spread of viruses in workplaces and offices. 

Here are some modifications and optimizations buildings can adapt to prevent another pandemic in the future:  

Promote High-quality Indoor Air  

Buildings and commercial establishments should promote high-quality indoor air quality and follow a set of standards that focuses on the ventilation and air-conditioning system. This effectively provides clean air into the building and to the office spaces. Research suggests that filtration of recirculated air may be effective in reducing the transmission of airborne infectious diseases. Filters remove dust, vapors, bacteria, and fungi, and also effectively capture viral particles spread by droplet nuclei.  

RELATED: How Green Buildings improve indoor air quality, provide a healthier working environment  

Increased Ventilation  

Ventilating with outdoor air also plays a vital role in diluting airborne contaminants and decreasing disease transmission rates within establishments. According to studies, increasing the ventilation rate can effectively reduce the cross-infection of airborne transmitted diseases by removing or diluting pathogen-laden airborne droplet nuclei. It can dilute the contaminated air inside the space more rapidly and decrease the risk of cross-infection  

Maintained Optimal Humidity  

Evidence suggests that viruses survive better in low-humidity environments. One optimization buildings can implement after the pandemic is to increase humidity via heating and ventilation systems and maintain an optimal range to 40 to 60%. This can also be achieved by installing humidifiers inside the building premises.  

Improved cleaning and maintenance protocols  

Another aspect that buildings can focus on when optimizing for disease prevention is highlighting the importance of its property management teams. Workplace policies, guidelines, and protocols must also be restructured to adapt to the “new normal” as the world observe changes this pandemic brings. The modifications and strict enforcement of these procedures should be one of the most essential responsibilities of a building’s property management team during, and even after the crisis.  

A healthy building contributes to a healthy community, which, in the long run, play a central role in creating a healthy world. In addition to everyday precautions taken by individuals and employees, the real estate industry, building owners, and developers should be aware of these optimizations that can greatly contribute to virus outbreaks in the future. 

How LEED Certification can help Prevent Disease Spread in the Future

The current pandemic has brought a 180-degree change in the way people live and work. Some of these changes may be temporary, but some might be permanent adjustments that will help in preventing another outbreak or at least improve the community’s preparation for one.   

Due to COVID-19, buildings will give more emphasis to the health and wellness of their tenants. While other offices will only start implementing such changes to adapt, commercial establishments that were already certified by programs such as LEED have long been uplifting the quality of the work environment and promoting the health and well-being of their tenants—amid a pandemic or not. 

Here are some ways LEED certification can help prevent diseases in the future:  

LEED-certified buildings, like JEG Tower, were designed, constructed, and operates to high standards that prioritize the health of its tenants. Green buildings regulate water quality, air quality, and antibacterial functions to promote their occupants’ health and reduce the risks of getting diseases and viruses.   

RELATED: How Green Buildings improve indoor air quality, provide healthier working environment  

The LEED certification also ensures these buildings have increased ventilation which also improves the health and wellbeing of the tenants and drastically improves their work performance.  

In addition to providing the basic functions, LEED-certified buildings also reduce the risk of infection and prevent cross-infection inside the workplace. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) requires establishments to include measures that will control the collusion of air and pollutants, exhaust backflow of bathrooms, Green buildings are designed to set up effective water seals to reduce the risk of virus transmission through drainage pipes. Under the LEED certification, buildings should optimize the space and plane layout to enhance the effectiveness of natural ventilation. They should also be able to regulate and control air conditioning systems by zones and have a well-designed site wind environment for the dissipation of viruses and harmful gases. 

Moreover, LEED ensures that the cleanliness of the environment is greatly prioritized. Strengthened cleaning policies are followed using sustainable and safe cleaning products. Proper waste management is also observed, which plays a big role in disease prevention.  

Following the ‘People’ aspect of the triple bottom line of LEED, (People, Planet, Profit), certified buildings ensure that they are safe and healthy environment for their occupants.  

The vaccine against the new coronavirus is yet to be developed, which means the best protection one can have against it depends on the body’s immunity and the community’s cleanliness. 

RELATED: Promoting Health and Well-being in the Workplace  

Promoting physical activity among building tenants while creating a safe and welcoming environment is the top priority of LEED-certified green buildings. These goals help in ensuring that building occupants are healthy year-round, not just during a global pandemic.  

The current COVID-19 outbreak is reemphasizing the importance of prioritizing one’s health and proper hygiene. It also reminds how easily diseases can spread in the workplace. Office buildings can either help in its prevention or aid its spread and proliferation. Building certification programs such as LEED recognize the importance of certain aspects of building design and maintenance that play an important role in disease spread and prevention of outbreaks in the future. 

Taking care of your mental health: Why it matters in time of a pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak may be stressful for some people. As the world continuously witness the world change, fear and anxiety can affect their mental health and take a toll on their general well-being.  

According to studies, stress and anxiety can greatly affect one’s health and well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported many manifestations of stress amid the pandemic including difficulty of sleeping, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, worsening of chronic health and mental health problems, and increased use of alcohol and tobacco. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is common to experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, and loneliness during this difficult time. However, it is important to manage it by learning different strategies and coping mechanisms.   

Taking care of your mental health will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Here are some ways and strategies that can be helpful to practice during the outbreak:  

Take sanity breaks  

The news from the media and social networking site feeds can be overwhelming and stressful. Practice taking mini breaks from watching, reading, or listening to the news, especially if it is about the statistics of the virus. Being informed about relevant information is always helpful but getting anxiety from too much exposure to crisis-related news can also increase stress levels.   

It is advisable to limit your time scrolling on your social media accounts. Aside from mental stress, excessive use of phones and tablets can also cause eye strain and body aches.  

Take care of your mind by limiting your screen time. It is also a good practice to turn off any electronic device for some time each day including 30 minutes before projected bedtime.  

Stick to Routines 

Changes may be stressful for your mind. Experts suggest developing and maintaining a regular schedule is very beneficial for mental health. Stick to routines such as regular bedtimes, consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, preparing for work or studying, and exercising. The predictability can make you feel more in control and would ease the brain.  

Stay busy 

Use this time to enjoy hobbies that you can do home, learn a new skill or two, develop healthy habits, and start a project that you have been planning to do. Staying busy can be a healthy distraction from negative thoughts. This can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.  

Focus on positive thoughts  

Focusing on the positive side of things is a healthy way of coping with stress and anxiety. While this can be hard for some, doing little things such as listing the things you are thankful for daily can mean a lot to your mental health. Instead of dwelling on how bad things are going, focus on the things you can control and keep problems in perspective.  

Connect with others  

Now more than ever, the need for connection is very important. Since everybody is away from each other due to social distancing and the community quarantine, hone virtual connections by video chats, phone calls, text messaging, and other similar apps. If you are working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they are doing and talk about things outside of work.  

It would be also helpful for your mental health to voice out your concerns and how are you feeling with people you trust. 

Cebu scholar develops COVID-19 contract tracing app

The local government and the whole community of Cebu City come together to fight the spread of COVID-19 within the city and in the whole region. Mayor Edgardo Labella announced that they are ready for mass testing after acquiring 30,000 test kits. 

According to his press conference, 20,000 kits were handed over to the Cebu City Health Department (CCHD) and to the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), while the remaining 10,000 test kits were donated to the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7). 

As of April 14, Cebu City has recorded 31 COVID-19 positive patients. Mayor Labella said that they expect this number to rise once they begin with the mass testing. DOH has reported six new cases today after a few days streak of no positive cases. 

More than the implementation of enhanced community lockdowns and the establishment of isolation facilities, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia endorsed a mobile application that aims to control the spread of the virus via contact tracing. Through an executive order, Garcia required every Cebuano to download and install WeTrace, an app that would expedite contact tracing for persons infected with the coronavirus disease. 

“The WeTrace app has been developed to accurately trace and monitor, with utmost privacy and confidentiality, persons living in the Province of Cebu who have Severe Acute Respiratory Infections, Influenza-Like Illnesses or have been classified as Persons Under Monitoring or those symptomatic of the COVID-19,” the EO read. 

WeTrace supports a “report” feature wherein the public can disclose information given the chance that they have interacted with a COVID-19 positive patient, or those persons under investigation (PUI) and monitoring (PUM). It will prompt them to input their full name, contact information and details of their report. 

The app was developed by a homegrown talent, a Cebuano scholar of the Department of Science and Technology. This project was initiated right after the spread of the virus in the country was first reported. 

Technology photo created by nensuria – www.freepik.com

Apart from its report feature, WeTrace will also serve as a database and valid source of information of the Department of Health for statistics. The government unit can also release and disseminate information and health tips through the app. 

Bayanihan in the time of Corona: How Filipinos worked together against COVID-19

March 2020 will always go down as one of the hardest times in the country’s history. The Novel Coronavirus 2019, or now officially called COVID-19, has entered the Philippines after the DOH confirmed its first case on March 5, 2020. Merely two weeks after, the Philippines records over 200 positive cases and was put under a state of public health emergency and under community quarantine. 

More than just looking at the bright side of things (which is also one of the nation’s positive traits), Filipinos have stepped up and displayed a modern-day version of its centuries-old tradition of Bayanihan. As they call it, it is Filipinos for Filipinos—doing what they can to help their fellow countrymen. 

COVID-19 Testing Kits 

A team of UP scientists, led by Dr. Raul V. Destura, was able to develop a low-cost diagnostic kit for COVID-19 two weeks after the whole genome sequence was released by China. Before this initiative, testing kits used by the DOH were imported from South Korea and would cost around Php. 8,000 per test. 

Photo from CNN Philippines

Dr. Destura, who is a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist and deputy executive director of the Philippine Genome Center, said that this project is their contribution to their pledge of finding sustainable and equitable solutions to disease of poverty as local scientists. This is their way of serving the country and giving back to their fellow Filipinos. 

DIY Disinfectant Booths 

Just a few days after Marikina City has started using disinfectant booths to help with the city-wide sanitation efforts, a team of industrial designers and engineers have collaborated to design a DIY disinfectant booth.  

Photo from August Patacsil on Facebook

Since not all Local Government Units have the budget and resources to acquire this technology, a UP alumnus posted on his social media account that they are providing free design of an affordable and easy to build sanitation tent. The group has also called for help from the netizens to provide the contact numbers of LGUs who might find this project helpful. 

To add your LGU, you may input corresponding contact information here: tinyurl.com/covidsanitationtent  

Reusable Face Masks 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, face masks have been out of stock from pharmacies and suppliers, even leaving some affecting the supply for medical professionals and frontliners. Because of this crucial need, scientists from the DOST-Philippine Textile Research Institute have developed reusable facemasks which can be used up to 50 times. 

The masks will use a PTRI textile-coating technology for treatment and finishing. It will also collaborate with the Power Fashion Inc. to produce masks using local fiber textiles which will be donated by the latter.  
This is not only beneficial for medical professionals but also a win for the environment as well.  

Life Cycles – Transport Initiative 

The implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon left many of the frontliners  and medical professionals without transportation options for them to get to work. A cycling enthusiast netizen pitched an alternative and organized an initiative that is eco-friendly and sustainable.  

Photo from Life Cycles Facebook page

Life Cycles is an initiative formed by a group of bicycle riders and owners as an effort to provide an alternative for the employees during the suspension of mass transportation. Currently, they have gathered over 100 bikes for rent and loan for those commuting to hospitals and other government institutions. In just two days, the online community has grown with over 2,000 likes on Facebook and has raised over Php. 300,000 in cash to acquire more bicycles. 

Distributing Positive Energy 

In Cebu, the local sense of Bayanihan is very much alive as netizens are setting up online donation drives and fundraisers for the local frontliners in Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, one of the designated COVID-19 testing centers in the country.   

Photo from SunStar Cebu Facebook

Locally-grown company Visayan Electric Company also gives back to their province and announced through a statement that they will be implementing a 30-day payment extension for the bills due on March 15 to April 14, 2020. To continue providing excellent service especially during times of crisis, the company also promised that scheduled interruptions will only be limited to customer requests to ensure that there will be uninterrupted service. 

More than giving proof that the Bayanihan Spirit is truly alive, Filipinos have also demonstrated how resourceful and creative they are especially during times of crisis. Filipinos have shown that they’ve got each other’s backs, regardless of how big or small their contribution to the society is.