The Coronavirus pandemic rapidly spread through our lives causing fear, concern and uncertainty. These stress responses are absolutely normal as they had evolutionally developed as coping mechanisms for survival. The real difficulty is that even though we have been wired with a stress coping pattern as well, we are often unable to effectively use it. This is the so called „fight or flight” response that makes us either face threats or run away from them. However, in the current COVID-19 situation we don’t have much of a choice but to face it and deal with it.
How the pandemic affects our business psyche
Sudden loss of control and insecurity can trigger unexpected behaviours that help short-term coping but hinder effective adaptation on the long run. A good example here for such behaviour is marginalization when we’re thinking “oh, it’s not going to affect me” or “it’s just another media-caused mass hysteria, it isn’t really that serious”. And another one is catastrophizing when a threat seems dramatically hopeless and unsolvable, “if I catch the virus, I will surely die” or “this will never end”.
Emotionally, this is an extremely trying period that negatively impacts our psychological well-being and business psyche, turning us into stressful and anxious beings. A big part of this negative impact is caused by quarantines and regulated self-isolation that don’t only force significant changes onto people’s everyday routines and habits, but also cause a heightened level of loneliness and depression, which then leads to notable increase in alcohol and drug use, self-harm or suicidal behaviour (WHO, 2020).
The psychology of self-isolation and working from home
Self-isolation and working from home can intensify concerns for the health of our own and of our loved ones. Those with underlying chronical diseases are at even higher risk being more vulnerable to the increased levels of stress due to limited options for medical checks and availability of doctors and medicine (WHO, 2020).
Due to self-isolation and home office the lines between daily routines can get blurry causing changes in the way we eat and sleep. Setting up and following a daily schedule can provide a stronger sense of stability and supports better coping. Maintaining daily routines, like having morning coffees, taking small breaks, and having lunch the same time we would do under normal circumstances helps maintaining a sense of safety in difficult times, too.
From the social perspective, long-term relationships are also going through certain transformations as having significantly less face-to-face contact affects the quality of relationships. Not everyone is as comfortable with the online world or has proper access to it, which is why even though social distancing is necessary right now, it is also perceived as a threat. Therefore, now more than ever, it is important that we make extra efforts to keep our relationships alive. On the other hand, the current situation is just as hard for those being in isolation with their families as it is for those being isolated alone. The vanishing of personal space often leads to more frequent conflicts in relationships, which is why effective and assertive communication, and attentiveness need to be made a priority.
How can we get out of the negative spiral?
The feeling of being trapped caused by isolation further multiplies these negative feelings. At times like that we tend to question ourselves both personally and professionally:
am I good at what I do?
am I a good parent?
am I a good partner or friend?
am I useful?
am I going to make it?
The first and most important step here is to find inner security and make peace with ourselves. We face so many negative emotions every day, thus it is totally okay, healthy even, to ask for help or to offer it to those in need. Companies can have a serious role in helping their employees handle the situation and keep their business psyche healthy. This is and will stay vital now and in the future as well.
Andrea Órás – Assessment Systems
Help your people
overcome problems caused by self-isolation and remote work stress.