Healthy Home Offices: The Psychological Impact of Working from Home While Practicing Social Distancing

All of a sudden, our entire lives have begun revolving around screens, and the line between work life and home life has disappeared. What can we do to stay sane under these circumstances? How are we coping with the transition to remote work? How are we following our leaders? How are our teams doing? Are we thinking about everyone’s wellbeing? Experts help us dig deeper and explore the invisible aspects of remote work during quarantine.

Maybe your teams are working remotely for the first time. First, it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t the perfect situation; the circumstances are a lot more complex than simply making the decision to work remotely. Now, there are a lot more variables that everyone ha to keep in mind so working from home is possible and a positive experience.

That’s why we decided to focus on the potentially adverse effects of social distancing and having teams work from home and what you can do as a leader to create an environment where everyone can continue working in the best possible manner.

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The Circumstances

The entire world population is experiencing some sort of confinement or quarantine. This is an unprecedented scenaria that directly involves 2.6 billion people in their daily life, routine, family obligations, and work.

According to the World Economic Forum, this could result in a secondary epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses during the upcoming months. It acts as an invisible trauma that causes psychological wounds. In cases where people are quarantining with children, the impact on mental health is even more pronounced. Studies show that 28% of parents in quarantine presented with “mental health-related traumatic disorders.” 

For this reason, psychologists stress the importance of taking action now to counteract quarantine’s harmful effects

These circumstances are challenging for everyone, even for people who have experience working from home. The circumstances of isolation combined with the global threat of the pandemic can make anyone feel differently from how they’re used to operating. 

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Time Management and Productivity 

The first step is to understand that these circumstances will affect productivity. This is a step toward being deeply and personally honest with ourselves about what’s happening in our realm. Uncertainty, stress, and new tasks make our brains function in unusual ways, and how we channel that energy will be different from what we’re used to. It will be a new way of recognizing ourselves.

For that reason, we don’t expect ourselves to have the same output because we’re at home with an entirely new set of circumstances to deal with.

In this context, discussing time management is fundamental. We have to constantly exercise empathy and put ourself in the other person’s shoes. We also have to recognize our own reality, accept it, and inform others about it.

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How will we adjust productivity to this new set of circumstances? It will be our personal challenge be to fin the balance between work, leisure, childcare, and chores. A major organizational challenge will be understanding the different realities and create flexible processes to accommodate these circumstances. 

Why Discuss Healthy Home Offices? 

We spoke with Marlene Pruvost, Master of Psychology and Head of Operations at Consultora Gestal. This was her vision:

“Remote work requires everyone to adopt certain habits to decrease the sensation that the line between someone’s professional and personal life has disappeared. Therefore, it’s important for people and companies to familiarize themselves with the best practices to incorporate in order to maintain a stable and productive pace of work that takes everyone’s wellbeing into account. It’s even more important to talk about these practices, especially during this time where a great percentage of people are required to work from home for the first time and change their habits because of the pandemic.”

Which factors affect a person’s well being the most during quarantine?

“What most people experience is a generalized increase in anxiety and stress levels. This is due to the high degree of uncertainty that the pandemic has caused and the potential impact or threat to factors that are vital for people (health and economic livelihood).

This result in greater irritability, mood swings, an increase in behaviors like binging on food, alcohol, or cigarettes, problems with insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, feelings of loneliness, and more.”

What can companies or leaders do to promote their teams’ well being? Remote work on its own can increase feelings of isolation in people, and this feeling can be amplified if people can’t replace the lack of social contact at work by holding social activities outside the home.

To mitigate the feeling of isolation at work, leaders can do the following:

  • Whenever possible, encourage verbal communication (by phone or videocall.) Use instant messaging and email as a supplement or when email/IM are the best forms of communication. 
  • Make sure you listen to every team member’s contributions and invite them to actively participate in meetings.
  • Promote healthy habits in terms of food, sleep schedule, physical exercise and breaks during the work day and after.” 

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