The One Thing We Can Agree Upon Regarding The Pandemic

by Michael Hoffman

Even if there are many things we don´t agree on regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic, there is one thing that we can agree on: it has been (and remains) stressful.

Apart from the fear of our loved ones and ourselves becoming gravely ill, probably the greatest stressor has been the isolation. Isolation from family members, colleagues, bosses, and customers, but also the bustling work environment. Yes, working from home has the added advantage of allowing you to concentrate better and longer, but as the 300-year-old proverb goes, All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.

Many of us who have never been bored a day in our lives are suddenly confronting monotony, indifference, and detachment, and with it come feelings of guilt. It is a packaged deal. 

Now if you do not know what I am talking about, you are probably in that cohort of introverted knowledge workers who greatly prefer working in isolation. If you had your way, you would never return to the office. This article could still be for you if you want to understand your more gregarious colleagues better. 

Man of us have been working from home, which despite its numerous benefits, has nevertheless added layers of stress that many are only now starting to recognize. Sure, the commute, in many cases, has been reduced from several hours per week to zero. But – and this is a BIG BUT, the downsides are as numerous as they are psychologically taxing. For the majority, never in our lives have we been and felt so isolated.

By now, the novelty of working from home has pretty much worn off. Even if you do really enjoy working from home, just the inability to physically walk over to a colleague and ask whether they could meet on Wednesday is frustrating at best. 

Don´t be surprised if you are just now going through phases of frustration and depression – over a year into this pandemic. Perhaps you are familiar with the famous frog experiment where scientists placed one frog in water that was slowly being heated, and the other in boiling water. The frog in the boiling water immediately hopped out, while the other was lulled to sleep by the increasingly warming water and eventually perished. 

Many of us (patient, understanding, resilient, as we are) have started to reach our boiling point, and due to our compliance, conformity, or complacency, we are not yet jumping – or not much. Jumping could be anything from using work time to journalize, read (non-work-related material), blog, exercise or even taking personal days. If you´re starting to get “jumpy”, it means that you are indeed human. Jumping is coping. It is nothing to feel guilty about, and the alternative is decidedly worse. 

Even if the restrictions are beginning to ease up, I think it is safe to say that we are never going back to the old way where everyone went to the office every day. Not even close. In the end, having the freedom to work from home when it suits us and the business will benefit all stakeholders, but if you find yourself struggling, let me assure you that it just means that you are human, not a binary machine that can adapt at the flick of a switch.

The isolation we have experienced , and will continue to experience for some time in the future, will gradually relent. In the meantime, call, Skype, or Zoom (not text) with a friend or colleague and let them know that you miss hanging out with them. What better way to begin the long transition to a new normalcy – whatever we, with our increased individual freedom, decide that will be.

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