British Asians and the Work-Life Balance: Coping With the Challenges of Working Through a Pandemic

Difficult times often trigger a spiral of memories. I remember an old Punjabi saying that my late grandfather used in a conversation we had many years ago that is so relevant to the current situation we are all facing today.

Je tuhade paas dina hai tuhade paas vi rata hai. - If you have the day then you also have the night.

In other words, just like day and night cannot be separated, you cannot separate the good from the bad in your life - they will always be interconnected. Before the pandemic, we as a nation repeated the same message and it slowly became a mantra - be kind. Although it was not clear who we should be kind to and we are very much aware that the world that we live in is for the most part unkind and unjust. However, as lockdown started the world became a global village where we all needed each other’s services to survive… food, healthcare, education, legal services, journalism etc.

In these austere months, young British Asians showed they could support the nation when the nation needed them the most. I myself made a minor contribution working in supermarkets and more recently the education sector throughout the pandemic. I had the honour of talking to a few young British Asian key workers who really stepped up during the past few months to help other people.

Omar Mehtab is a guy with brilliant comic timing who is currently a broadcast assistant at BBC Click which has an audience of over 330 million viewers. He has produced great social media content for BBC Click and has reported on topics linked to technology and the power of social media influencers in modern society.

“I've remained quite positive personally - I'm grateful for the position I'm in. A secure job, my programme stayed on air, and I've even gone up in my career. But I've seen many fellow journalists suffer as they're freelance or their programmes have shut down. I make sure I ground myself by always remembering that one day that could be me. Journalists play an important part in informing, educating, and entertaining the public. Our jobs never stop - in fact, we don't slow down in times of need - we ramp it up.

"Whatever my perspective holds, I make sure that it isn't limited to my own self."

Outside of the workplace, I've been fairly positive mostly because I'm quite the introvert and staying inside is quite ideal to me. But again, I empathise with the people who much prefer going out and socialising. Whatever my perspective holds, I make sure that it isn't limited to my own self. I always take in what other people are experiencing. Empathy is key. One of the largest positives is that people are at least a bit more grateful for their lives. Whether it's health, work, finance - it's all fleeting. So as great as it is to enjoy it, we must stay mindful that it can all disappear. But certainly, learning that I can work from home half the week and not go into the office to do my job is a massive plus. And the thing I've learnt about myself? That I need to look after myself more - mentally. I still stress and try to work as hard as I can with little regard for my mental wellbeing. So even though I'm keeping safe by staying at home, I now need to tend to my mental and emotional health. It matters just as much as your physical, if not more”.

"Empathy is key."

Dr Parvinder Shergill is a woman with many talents. She is a medical doctor by profession, who has also excelled in the creative arts, becoming an award-winning actress, writer, presenter and filmmaker. Her artistic flair and sharp sense of humour, which she uses to address social issues within the South Asian community, is shown in her short films such as LOVEBUG, a film about the struggle of finding love whilst self-isolating due to the COVID pandemic.

Parvinder’s short film LOVEBUG:

“I practice a lot of gratitude in the day especially as a medical doctor working in the pandemic. It can be quite stressful. The fact that I have the knowledge to help others has really helped me. My creativity has helped me on my days off and networking on social media with artists and collaborating with them has helped a lot.

"It is about keeping things in perspective and realising that superficial things do not matter as long as we have our health as health is wealth."

For me finding light in times of stress is really important otherwise it can be very difficult. I think this time is important for people to reflect on where they are at in life, the person they have been, the person they want to be, where they want to go and what is important to them. Also to realise how lucky we are to be living in a western country as we have free healthcare in the UK. It is about keeping things in perspective and realising that superficial things do not matter as long as we have our health as health is wealth. I have learnt to be resilient and independent during the pandemic and learnt how strong how I am. There were times when I did not want to be a doctor working in a pandemic without PPE, putting my life at risk, but I did it. This has made me realise what kind of person I am, what my ethics are and made me step up. I am proud of that. Also creatively the pandemic has made me plunge in and believe in myself. Now I am a female director, producer and writer. I have been the lead actress in three feature films this year and will be in more films next year. This has made me believe in myself and not let other people’s words affect me as there is a lot of rejection in creativity. While on the doctor side obviously it has been really difficult and I have to step up”.

"The pandemic has made me plunge in and believe in myself."

Simranjeet Kaur Mann is a future trainee solicitor at a top London law firm who provides free legal mentoring to South Asians looking for training contracts to contribute towards increasing diversity in the legal field.

“I was a student for most of Lockdown 1 and then was a paralegal in September for a month. I would say in the legal profession there has been generally a positive outcome with greater flexibility with working from home, which can especially help working families who have young children”.

Sundeep Shergill is an inspiring Mathematics teacher who is currently on the Leadership Development Programme at Teach First but is also a skilled marketer having previously worked as a Social Media Marketing Manager.

"I am a lot more resilient than I thought".

“It’s been difficult to remain positive whilst teaching when COVID-19 has brought about so many more challenges and you can see the educational gap in this country widening.

Furthermore, it has taken a lot of resilience and motivation to come into work every day when a lot of people are working from home. You do feel a little neglected or under-appreciated at times but thinking about my reasons for going into teaching, the important role I’m playing and support from family and friends has helped me keep a positive mindset.

A slower pace of living has definitely benefited me. It has improved my work-life balance and allowed me to explore my other interests outside of work, as well as encouraging me to prioritise my self-care and wellbeing. I have realised that I am a lot more resilient than I thought. I’ve learnt to take rejection well and keep my mindset on the end goal.

I can actually achieve a lot if I persevere through setbacks and challenges”.

Key workers have done something that the UK government has not managed to do… unite all communities during this pandemic. Whether you are a doctor working on the frontlines, a teacher education the next generation, a small business owner, someone trying to find a job in this pandemic or anyone struggling through these trying times, remember to stay positive because this time will pass.

It's important to keep a positive mindset and of course, it's a lot easier said than done. Whether you're concerned about your mental health or a loved one's, here are some support groups and helplines that can offer advice:


Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday - 9 am to 6 pm)



Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)


Mental Health Foundation



Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.

Phone: Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544


South Asian Therapists



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