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Lottie Mayland21 Jan 2021
  • COVID-19
  • Insight
  • Lifestyle
  • Mental Health

Is Working From Home Making You Paranoid?

We have now been working from home for almost a year, and while many people will have worked from home to a certain degree before this, for most, the last 10 months have been the first time they have consistently set up an office from their front room and swapped all actual meetings for Zoom ones. While there have been huge benefits to this; no stressful commute or expensive railcard, more time to exercise/read/relax and generally a more flexible work set up, we’re now seeing a major negative - emotional office dynamics haven’t caught up with a new virtual office working environment. And for many people this is meaning working from home is playing havoc with their mental health and their paranoia about their job security.

Without any direct, in person contact it can be very hard to understand and interpret the way your colleagues communicate. For example, some people interpret full stops as aggressive on instant messages, some like small talk at the beginning of Zoom calls while others cut straight to the chase, some people answer every email straight away while others will leave it days before replying, and the list of the differences goes on and on. Essentially, everyone is unique and has their own way of communicating, but when you take out facial expressions, body contact and non-visible communication ques it can be very difficult to read between the lines and interpret what someone else means. As humans we have an instinctively inbuilt negative bias, therefore it’s only natural that when someone doesn’t reply to our email immediately, ends their very blunt sentences with full stops or doesn’t ask you how you are at the start of zoom call we jump to the worst conclusions. I’m bad at my job, I’m going to get fired, everyone else is thriving while working from home and I’m the only one suffering etc etc.

Small moments are becoming amplified and situations you’d normally let go or not give a second thought to are suddenly making you feel nervous or suspicious because you have no one to vent to and nothing to distract you from thinking them over and over all afternoon.

So, how can you make yourself feel better? Well, firstly, it’s reassuring to know that you aren’t weird for feeling this way! The fact we’re even writing about it shows that feeling paranoid and anxious is a very common reaction to the extremely strange way we are all living and working at the moment. Clear communication really is key here, while it may seem artificial to create time for ‘watercooler type’ informal conversations they are really important to ensuring you and your team all feel connected to each other. They may seen trivial but weekly ‘socials’, team chats and informal meetings all need to be put into the diary to ensure that you are on a personal as well as professional level with your colleagues. Take a look at our blog '5 ways to improve your employee wellbeing while remote working' for a few ideas on how to do this.

Additionally, a useful exercise is to look at the way you communicate and think about how what you have written could be interpreted in a completely different way to how you intended it. This will help prompt you to be as clear as possible, while also reminding you that not everything is black and white and obsessing over a full stop or perceived ‘tone’ of an email is not going to help at all.

Lastly, step away from your desk. If you feel yourself getting bogged down and feeling paranoid then it’s a clear sign that your mental health is struggling and you need a break. Get outside and go for a run or a walk, do some cooking, read a book or even just watch an episode of your favourite show. Making time to clear your head, focussing on other activities and reminding yourself that a world exists outside of your four walls and work is absolutely crucial right now and something we all need to make time for.

If working from home in your current job really isn’t working for you then please do get in touch with us, we’re always happy to offer advice or even start you on a job search should you like to see what other opportunities are out there.