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Trying to work from home, pandemic threatens workers in multiple ways

Watch Rose’s story about how working from home, miles away has changed her life.
Video shot and edited by Caroline Nihill.

While many struggle with the general difficulties that the virus has created throughout the nation, others battle devastating hardships including economic instability and mental health issues. 

Those who are employed and face unemployment have faced a multitude of challenges since the shift to remote working and social distanced interactions. 

With changes in meetings, productivity and budgetary needs so do the lives of those employed within places of work. As a result of this, a lot of people struggle with what it means to work from home or the pressure of finding a new way to make ends meet during unprecedented times. 

Time Management

The issue of budgeting time, prioritizing work items and keeping a steady pace was already something that existed in shared workplaces and offices. 

With the entrance of COVID-19 on the global stage and the shift to primarily virtual exchanges, many people who are working or looking for employment are finding themselves unable to accomplish the work they would have accomplished before. 

Those who are working towards either professional or academic goals remotely are finding themselves easier to be distracted by other tasks. 

Licensed clinical psychologist William Hwang wrote for Psychology Today about why many people are finding it so difficult to remain productive in a time when procrastination has never been easier.

Hwang wrote that oftentimes the reason for lack of work is not lack of interest but avoidance from things that do not feel good. 

“During unoccupied time, our attention tends to wander toward sensations of discomfort that we label as boredom, impatience, loneliness, anxiety, depression, you name it,” Hwang said. “If we would rather not experience these feelings, it makes logical sense that we would want to kill time.”

Later Hwang offers the solutions for unproductivity, including changing one’s relationship with time. 

Woman typing on her computer.
Photo by Susanna Marsiglia on Unsplash

“Instead of thinking of time like something that you kill when you have too much of it, treat time like your own commodity that you want to protect,” Hwang said. 

A lot of people are facing environmental stressors including financial hardships, political tension and grief that can be contributing to their inability to focus on tasks at hand. 

Mental Health and Wellbeing

For some, whose jobs allow it, have faced little to no changed in their working situations as well as financial situations. Others who are looking for work face obstacles because of their situation. 

In a study by Karsten I. Paul and Klaus Moser, researchers looked at an abundance of previously collected data and explore the possibility of unemployment affect on mental health. 

Graphic courtesy of Caroline Nihill

Paul and Moser found that unemployment is a serious threat to mental health, and warned that the affect of unemployment poses an influence on other emotional factors and environmental stressors. 

“This effect is a rather broad one, since it can be detected on a large range of mental health indicators,” researchers Paul and Moser wrote. “The effect has considerable practical importance, as it is equivalent to an increase in the rates of persons with psychological problems with potential clinical severity.”

The range of mental health indicators include a reported mixed symptoms of distress, depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, subjective well-being and self-esteem. 

With the threat of COVID-19 at hand and many facing unemployment, additional research suggests that poor mental health and the diagnosis of psychiatric illness could increase a person’s risk for contracting the virus and vice versa. 

In a different study done by Maxime Taquet, Sierra Luciano, John R Geddes and Paul J Harrison explored the Bidirectional associations between COVID-19 and psychiatric disorder. 

Researchers sought to find whether a prediagnosed psychiatric illness was an individual risk factor for COVID-19 or if contracting the virus was associated with a later diagnosis of a psychiatric illness. 

“Having a diagnosis of psychiatric disorder in the year before the COVID-19 outbreak was associated with a 65% increased risk of COVID-19,” researchers said. “Compared with a cohort matched for established physical risk factors for COVID-19 but without a psychiatric diagnosis.” 

The Outlook

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

As a result of many hardships and stress caused by the pandemic along with other events from throughout the year, a lot of people have been exchanging the ideas of what in-person will look like in the aftermath of COVID-19.

While many anticipate the return to in-person work and interactions, Global Workplace Analysis predict 25-30% of those returning to in-person to continue working remotely a few days a week by the end of 2021. 

“The demand for flexibility in where and how people work has been building for decades,”  president of Global Workplace Analytics Kate Lister wrote. “While the experience of working at home during the crisis may not have been ideal as whole families sheltered in place, it will give people a taste of what could be. The genie is out of the bottle and it’s not likey to go back in.”

While the future is uncertain, those a part of the workforce or looking to gain employment soon hope for a return to normalcy and consistency in their jobs.