WFH Syndrome – Social

Socially, things are in disarray. One of the major sources of discontentment around the world is
the idea of social distancing. Human beings are social creatures, we’ve evolved that way. And
while there are those who prefer to keep to themselves, most people do enjoy the ability to see
and interact with others. With social distancing becoming the new norm, and the driving factor
behind lockdown safety measures, the reality of virtual communication rings hollow.

With work from home (WFH) the new normal for business, a type of confusion has set in. Daily
interruptions from colleagues, part and parcel of physically being at work, are conspicuously
absent. The cues and daily rituals that we go through (think: water cooler chit-chat), are actually
part of a construct that helps our mind process information. They give us some form and
structure on the passing of time. We end up attaching significance to these cues to help us
navigate the workplace minefield. They help to break up the day and add a change of pace,
saving us from the monotony of our screen.

Another social discomfort involves the physical separation from those close to you. The feeling
of isolation is a sad reality for many who are separated from family, due to work, health, or other
reasons. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions are being celebrated alone. As the
lockdown continues, some are forcibly confined to their PG, as hot spots and red zones continue
to light up the map. Those who are not used to being alone will need to quickly equip themselves
to handle the possibility of a prolonged lockdown or extended WFH directives.

The idea of social responsibility can also feel like a self-inflicted guilt trip. Thoughts like ‘I
should be doing more to help’ and ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to the grocery store so soon’
are creating issues that have never been there before. Others’ actions are starting to affect you,
and suddenly you’re infinitely more aware of your own. The moral conundrum of seeing class
divisions, and the treatment of migrant workers, for example, might be more than some people
can fathom.

Hashtags like ‘#covidiot’ are examples of how social behavior has come under the microscope.
While the rules of the lockdown have been beaten to death, someone touching their face becomes
a talking point. While this might be beneficial in terms of public health, socially acceptable
behaviors are changing. Whether you accept or reject the idea of the handshake becoming
obsolete — for some reason — matters.

Remember when summer vacation ended, and classes started up again? It felt super weird for
about a week, until things got back into routine, and the excitement of seeing your classmates on
a regular basis faded. This was a huge part of our socialization process, a formative part of our
youth. Now, imagine, entire academic years of classroom education have been scrapped for
online classes. Especially in those critical years of puberty, socializing helped shape your future
adulthood. Fast forward, and we’re looking at the possibility of a transition out of the traditional
classroom based educational model. Many people are just not ready for that.

Quick fixes:

  • Follow the rules laid out by local authorities. It’s inconvenient, but it’s based on what works. Take comfort in the fact that we’re all in this together.
  • Continue social distancing but allow yourself to speak to people. Try to make a schedule and make regular appointments in your calendar to reach out and call/video chat with someone you know.
  • Adopt a mindfulness practice of ‘living in the moment.’ We can only control what we can control, not an ounce more. Allow things to happen and engage on the present moment.
  • Look for positive stories in the news. For example, the outstanding number of cases that have recovered during this outbreak.
  • Take part in a virtual class. Seeing people online while learning something new creates a type of interaction that you may be missing out on while WFH.

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