WFH Syndrome – Psychological
Stating the obvious, WFH is here to stay for the conceivable future, and it is messing with
people’s minds – many are seriously stressed out. From a psychological standpoint, stress plays
an enormous role in overall well-being. The sources of stress are numerous and can be
interwoven, creating a tough tapestry of mental hurdles to work through. Most people aren’t
suffering from only one type of stress, but the accumulation of several stress-causing incidents.
A persistent item on a to-do list, for example, that never seems to get crossed off. An inability to
concentrate, organize, or get into a routine is also a huge source of stress, and can lead to
irritability and low productivity.
While some folks are taking it easy, others are grinding it out, fearing for their job’s security.
Some employees, especially those designated as management or in charge of a team, feel the
need to be available around the clock. Tasks assigned at work weren’t always taken home. Since
the idea of the workday appears arbitrary now to many employers, leaders are actually put in a
tough position to meet demands, and are forcing themselves to work on an entire team’s random
schedule. When errors pop up, which they invariably do, it’s up to the manager to solve it as
soon as possible. It is much easier to put the pressure on the team in the office than it is to crack
the whip during the online meeting. The frustrating baton relay of missed phone calls, WhatsApp
messages, and emails, only adds to the misery of the situation.
Time is also an issue with employees not used to working from home. Especially in the earliest
days of the lockdown, it was common to form all kinds of bad habits regarding sleeping
schedules. Sleeping at odd hours, forms negative cycles for your body, as humans are typically
diurnal, or active during the day. Going against this natural rhythm sets us up for an uphill battle,
where our natural tendencies have to be ignored, and we’re forced to be active when our body
would rather be at rest. With added work pressures, sleep sometimes comes at a premium, and
many people are afraid of falling behind in their work by sleeping the normal 7–9 hours. By
sleeping less, more serious issues surrounding sleep deficit disorder crop up. Not getting enough
sleep has been compared scientifically to being inebriated, where regular cognition is impaired.
The biggest issue is formed when pain meets stress. Rampant stress can lead to anxiety, panic
disorders, and depression. When physical pain gets added to this complicated mix, chronic pain
disorders are usually around the corner. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, it gets difficult
to figure out which way is up. Pain causes stress (in addition other mental stresses), stress creates
havoc in the body, which in turn causes more pain. This is a classic example of a ‘vicious
cycle’ — probably the MOST vicious cycle out there. Chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and
panic disorders are all on the same spectrum of health issues, which is why it is important to
identify problem areas early.
Picking apart the issues is challenging work. There are many layers of stress: managing a home,
family, work, social responsibility, uncertainty, health, wealth, future. Which of these is causing
pain? In extreme cases, all of these things are causing stress. In most people, these are concerns,
where deliberate consideration is required. Not everyone has the tools to overcome challenges in
one or more of these issues, and in these cases, simple obstacles become unscalable mountains.
Intervening in this situation could be as simple as speaking to a qualified counselor. The third-
party objectivity from a mental health professional could be the breakthrough necessary to bring
clarity to a murky problem. Stigma be damned, consulting a professional for mental health is no
different than a routine physical — you’re seeking improvement and taking care of your own
health. All counselors are bound by confidentiality, so you can be sure that your conversations
will remain private.
- Carve out some “me time” every day — 10 min of self reflection goes a long way.
- Take. A. Deep. Breath. Often.
- Look for a mental health professional to help you sort out complicated issues.
- Use technology for some peace of mind — My favourite is Calm — a mobile app for meditation
- Fix your posture. Studies show that even if your mood is low, sitting up and maintaining good posture can improve how you feel. You might even smile!