It’s been about five months since most Americans started working from home regularly—and that unexpected long-term shift in lifestyle is having some noticeable effects on the mental health of many of those whose routines including going to the office five days a week for most of their careers.
A recent survey on the anonymous professional network Blind of its 3.6 million verified users by a Google employee showed that about two-thirds of the almost 10,000 people who responded said working from home is in fact hurting their mental health.
The results didn’t focus on how severe the mental health effects have been but the results include about 700 comments—and counting—from Blind users about why and how they feel the upheaval triggered, of course, by the coronavirus pandemic has affected their well-being.
I know working from home was the norm for a lot of people before the COVID-19 outbreak but I’m one of the millions who saw my work and home life smashed under the same roof suddenly in mid-March—and I continue to wonder when the two will ever be separate again.
I spent the first 24-plus years of my professional career going to an office, although in my newspaper days, I spent more time outside of the office at local board meetings and events and typically was only in the office to write about those meetings, events or other news going on in the communities I covered.
But, even when I went on vacation, I always knew I’d come back to my desk with my stuff on it and when I was done working, I’d drive home and veg out on the couch and start all over the next day or the following week.
Now, I wake up and get caught up on the news of the day, get ready for my workday and head upstairs to the home office to slave over a hot keyboard for eight hours or so, then turn off my computer and head back downstairs to begin the “home life” portion of my day.
I’ve tried to make sure I’m not checking my work email or talking or thinking about work-related stuff during the “home life” portion of my day but it was definitely a lot easier to have that separation when the distance between “the office” and home was about 35 miles rather than 14 steps.
I think people around me would probably say my temper has definitely been shorter since I started the work-from-home routine in mid-March and I’d have to agree with them. As much as I dread the idea of having to sit in traffic to and from work again, that time alone allowed me to decompress alone.
How WFH Affects Mental Health
Having to switch instantly from work life to home life can certainly take a toll on anyone. I wouldn’t say I’m having any sort of severe or extreme mental health issues, but there’s definitely been a difference. Your employees may be dealing with similar things, especially with lost jobs and layoffs across AV.
I’m just glad I can now blow off some steam at the YMCA pool a couple times a week since I can’t scream at the Red Sox this season—at least not in person anyway. I was walking for exercise for the first few months of the quarantine and just didn’t get the same release out of that I do with swimming.
In some ways, I’m surprised the Blind survey showed only two-thirds of employees were struggling to find balance in their lives while working from home. My guess is the other one-third of respondents are either suffering in silence or were already used to the work-from-home lifestyle before the pandemic.
Company leaders need to be more diligent than ever in ensuring the employees they don’t see every day anymore are holding up OK in the midst of all this change and disruption in their lives. That could mean a quick video check-in, a phone call or some other way to ensure everyone’s staying connected.
This isn’t just about making sure your employees have all their technological needs met. It goes well beyond that. AV integrators aren’t trained in psychology but they need to manage differently today than they’ve done in the past to meet the new needs of their employees.
We’re all going through something none of us have ever experienced so it makes sense that we’re all struggling to some degree to figure out how to navigate it. Make sure that you, as the person your employees look to for leadership, are giving them the support they need when they need it most.