These past two weeks, I have worked from home for the first time in a 9-5pm role. It is a temporary and low pressure data entry role, with mostly online communication with one person.
The private/hidden and non-social nature of the role has meant much reduced fear and social anxiety. It has also meant an enabling of thoughts and emotions, which, ordinarily, in a workplace would be suppressed in me.
Reduced fear and greater sense of self have lead me to wider thoughts and emotions, including doubts, fears and sorrows, as I work. Focus on my work tasks can wander easily, though I am able to complete my tasks comfortably.
The absence of solidarity and affirming social interactions enables sorrowful and hopeless feelings to persist. The alternating between music and speech as a blocker or expression of feelings can increase the sense of isolation and directionlessness.
The online social interaction during the day is less fear inducing but, also, less rewarding. Doubt persists as to the emotional truth behind affirmations and pleasantries more than, I think, in physically present interaction.
The absence of changes in space has also added to the sense of directionless and stagnation, at times. Notably, not commuting has reduced my reading of newspapers which was a comforting and enriching experience for me. I have, on the other hand, greater control over my time, including, waking time in the morning.
A recent study examining the movements of a set of university students and their self-reported well-being supports the idea that daily and aggregate mobility measures, such as distance, changes in location and routine are associated with well-being. In particular, the study summary identifies time spent in social places as being connected with well-being.
I feel safer working at home, less vulnerable to the moods of colleagues, but more emotionally troubled by doubts about myself and my future. Such direct feelings may instigate action which may lead to improvement in my quality of life. However, if unable to act or receive support, it may lead to a decline in my mental health. Absence of social exposure will likely increase my sense of vulnerability with people.
The having a job and the security of income, albeit, short-term, is empowering for me, compared to being without and relying wholly on family support, as I have. On the other hand, I still feel unworthy of the pay.
Working from home in this role is a two-edged sword. It is liberating but social isolation and lack of mobility are high prices to pay. I think alternate connections are needed and a sense of longer-term direction to avoid a sense of imprisonment.
Currently, I have no such wider direction. This role will end shortly. In my remaining time, I’ll try to develop some sort of plan, however incomplete and seek to engage in more social interaction, even if also online. I am receiving weekly counselling support.
I yearn for a comfortable social environment not the painful hierarchical structures I have experienced. Whilst nowhere can be perfect, there may, perhaps, be somewhere for me to flourish.