Annette Phung

“Solastalgia really is about redefining our emotional responses to a landscape that has changed.” Justin Lawson, 2015

“As in, maybe, your home becoming your cage when before it used to be a place of solace and refuge.” Cassidy Randall, 2020

As a writer and learning designer, I really believe in the power of words. One thing that fascinates me about language is that it grows all the time; we are constantly making up new ways to express things that previously didn’t have a name. My favourite word I learned this year is ‘solastalgia’ — a term coined by philosopher Glenn Albrecht to describe ‘the homesickness you have when you are still at home’. No other word in my vocabulary has been so effective in summing up my personal experience of the global coronavirus pandemic, which continues to impact our lives and our mental well-being. 

When Australia first began its COVID-19 restrictions, we were forced to adapt to a very different kind of lifestyle within a very short space of time. Some people needed to work from home, while others needed to stop working altogether. We were told to stay home unless we had an essential reason to go outside. As a result, our relationships with our homes changed. Instead of feeling safe at home, we felt locked up. One friend who considers herself an introvert told me “I’d probably be at home with or without this pandemic, but I miss having the choice.”

In the first month of COVID-19 restrictions in Australia, a study found that mental health problems (including clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety) were at least twice as prevalent as they were in non-pandemic circumstances. The Black Dog Institute has found that around 80% of Australians felt their mental health was affected due to COVID-19 lockdowns. As of September 2020, mental health consultations in Australia have skyrocketed to nearly 6 million since March, and some psychologists are fully booked until 2021.

Like many Australian businesses, Savv-e transitioned to remote working in March of this year so that every employee could be as safe as possible. With social connection and mental health at the forefront of our minds, we held daily meetings to catch up with each other. We had game nights on Jackbox.TV, and we even wore our finest attire for ‘Fancy Dress Friday’.

We were also consistently encouraged to call the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) anytime we need support. The service is completely anonymous, and we can talk about any issues that are troubling us, from professional stressors to personal difficulties. Here are just some of the topics that can be discussed with the EAP counselor:

  • Improving relationships/communication with others
  • Facing crisis and trauma
  • Grief and loss support
  • Strategies for handling conflict with colleagues or managers
  • Facing alcohol, drug or gambling addictions
  • Feeling depressed or down
  • Improving work performance
  • Assistance with financial and legal distress

The rise of remote working has meant that eLearning is now a huge necessity for many organisations. Savv-e is making the most of this momentum to promote mental well-being through our professional work, by taking on projects that we know will have a positive impact on people’s lives. In recent months, we’ve made eLearning modules on mental health, remote working, virtual meetings, and psychological safety, just to name a few.

I’m proud to work with a company that takes its social responsibilities so seriously, especially in a time like this. It’s challenging to overcome solastalgia and the psychological unease that comes with it, but I know that ‘home’ isn’t just the place where I sleep. It’s also the people who support me in life, whether from 1.5 metres away, or from behind a screen on the other side of the world.

Discover how your business can help destigmatise mental health by creating an interactive wellness eLearning series.