By Ekaette Udoekong
My name is Ekaette Udoekong. I am the ZonaI Representative for the South-South office Calabar. I work alone at the zonal office. I work from 8am to 5pm. My typical day begins with going through the previous day’s itinerary and incomplete tasks and setting a new to-do-list for 8 hours. I make early calls to confirm or reschedule meetings and appointments, set tasks, prioritise and take action. As the only staff at the zonal office, I am accountable for everything that happens there. Therefore, I read through the business plan of the organisation everyday and try to articulate where the zonal office is headed in the next months/year and how well I could develop both personally and professionally.
While working alone may help me focus, it eliminates collaborative and creative problem
solving that comes from sharing ideas from brainstorming in a group. I do not experience office
politics and decision-making is fast reaching. Despite having to meet with peopledaily, it is tough working alone and it is somewhat difficult to overcome the isolating feelings of loneliness which sometimes is ignorantly stigmatised or aligned with weakness (similar to depression). Sometimes I even doubt my abilities. This wears down on my strengths subconsciously. Some days at the office I wish to be bossed around, I wish to share my accomplishments, challenges, frustrations or even gossip with a colleague. However, I do this twice a month with my Line Manager but on Skype!
I have managed to cope with this lonely feeling by cutting down calls and meeting with people either at their offices or at the zonal office. Working with colleagues from other NGOs/CSOs, sharing experiences at meetings because reaching out to others and getting my problems off my chest helps put me in the right frame of mind. Furthermore, talking things through provides ideas to help combat my feelings. It is said that a problem shared is half solved! I also let my mind think wild and wide in the solitude of the noise-free office which leads to hours of unbroken concentration. With the Foundations’ focus on mental health, I plan my day to speak to at least one person and find out how he/she relates his/her situations with mental health and how its impacts productivity. It is one thing to understand and spot that you are lonely at the office but it is very crucial to face the challenge and be productive. Someone once said and I quote “do not limit your challenges but challenge your limits” I have learnt to challenge the lonely office and motivate myself by long-thinking and trying new things daily.