Day 241 and the silence is killing me. Turns out working from home isn’t all fun and games.
It’s been some time since I went to the office for my first week of work in a new company. In fact I haven’t physically met most of the people I work with. Joining during Covid lockdown has been a bizarre experience.
My days start, staring at my screen, waiting for the thirty seconds of pleasantries as the faces of work colleagues pop up one by one.
“How’s your day going?” I ask with all the positiveness I can muster, as if at 8:59am they’ve done anything more than roll out of bed and up to their PC.
“Bit shit. Back to back on calls and it looks like it’s going to rain.”
“Really? Anyway…” and so the meeting begins. One hour later, the conversation repeats. And so on until Friday when people add, “…and thank God it’s Friday” as if they have been suffering some third world problem of drought, famine or disease that will be soothed by a couple of days in bed.
I had instant messaging buddies once who would tell me a joke each morning or update me with an amusing weekend anecdote. They may even have brought me cake. I knew people I could show my hip scars or bizarre holiday snaps. Now my sides no longer ache with laughter, which is a good thing, but the pain has been replaced by my belt cutting in to to the extra lockdown layers. My body is developing into the shape of a chair. As my brain gets as soft as my stomach, I can’t help feeling I’m missing a part of what life should be about.
I tried something different on a Zoom call the other day. As I pulled my trousers down to reveal my hip scar, one by one the screens clicked off in some embarrassing celebrity squares sort of way. I was left with HR for company. Apparently no one wants to see that.
So Zoom, Teams or Webex. They’re no substitute for the real thing.
It’s a biological problem, working from home
It turns out that’s biological.
If you don’t go out you’re storing up a host of problems for yourself, including:
- Posture problems from not moving enough. Curves are for other parts of your body, not your spine.
- Health problems, from not getting the right vitamins or burning enough calories
- Psychological problems…
It’s the psychological ones that interest me most. If you spend too much time alone it can lead to an imbalance in your automatic nervous system, leaving you in constantly in the “fight-or-flight” mode, aka stressed. And stress leads to? Yep you guessed it, a host of physical problems, from hair loss to heart attacks.
Furthermore, without the subtle visual cues we get from seeing people close by (eg pupils dilating, mirrored actions and genuine smiles), video calls are actually more tiring and stressful than you think. Your brain constantly struggles to read the subconscious body language, which is why the conversation can sometimes feel stilted or difficult and you’re tired at the end of a long video call..
Don’t tear your hair out when working from home
As people we need face to face, or in these Covid times, mask to mask time occasionally. To stay sane, you need to get out, exercise, and meet others in a socially distant way. One on one action. Hugging may be off the agenda, but socialising could actually be saving your life. Or your hair at least.