Much has been written about how the pandemic lockdowns and the Great Reshuffle have fueled a surge in mental illness, but there’s another side that’s often ignored. Many have found that working from home has been beneficial for their health and happiness, but why is that case?
How the Great Reshuffle and Remote Work Eases Anxiety
If you have social anxiety, office politics can be difficult to navigate at the best of times. The switch to remote work has revealed how positive “isolation” can be for many employees.
1. Removes Discriminatory Barriers
Discrimination is rampant in the workplace, but it’s often unseen by white colleagues and employers. Marginalized employees are often the target of toxic office politics, stressful water cooler chatter, and microaggressions that are brushed off as jokes or “not really a big deal.”
Unsurprisingly, studies show that discrimination leads to a higher risk of psychological distress, and young people (ages 18 to 28) are more likely to be affected. Diversity strengthens our community, but when it isn’t found in the workplace, a remote environment is much preferable.
2. Eliminates Pressures to Conform
Remote work gives employees the opportunity to complete tasks in their sweatpants. They can eat when they want, complete errands in the middle of the day, and don’t have to put on a face for anyone they don’t like. When you work from home, you aren’t pressured to act a certain way.
For gender-non-conforming individuals or people who already experience anxiety, the struggle to conform to cultural norms can be nearly unbearable. If you feel anything less than “normal,” every interaction can feel like a ticking time bomb. If you're ostracized, work can be painful.
3. Gives Employees a Choice
The Great Resignation (now the Great Reshuffle) has placed the job market in the hands of employees, leading to more fruitful opportunities. While applying for multiple jobs at one company isn’t smart, you’ll have more access to jobs if you’re willing to work remotely.
Employees no longer have to settle for a poor work culture or a boss that doesn’t care about them, which does wonders for their health. When our employers are transparent, respectful, honest, and generous, we’re more engaged and feel less anxious about our professional lives.
4. Engaging in Healthy Behaviors
According to several work-from-home studies, working out of a home office makes us more likely to engage in healthy behaviors. We have the opportunity to pause in the middle of the day, take a walk, or go to the therapist or doctor without having to explain ourselves to the boss.
Exercise is known to ease social anxiety, but spending time with the people we enjoy can help us practice our verbalization. We can also speak to people that don’t impact our workplace social lives or bank accounts, which gives us the ability to make mistakes without much worry.
5. No More Cubicle (Office) Shock
“Cubicle shock” is a phenomenon that occurs when someone enters a new workplace. The sights and sounds of an office can be distracting, especially for someone who’s neurodivergent. Cubicle shock can cause a lot of undue stress, making social interactions incredibly difficult.
If you have chronic pain or a disability, cubicle shock will affect you much more than your colleagues. This problem exacerbates if your condition seems invisible to others. It’s hard to be friendly with your coworkers when they think you’re “faking” or “receiving special treatment.”
6. Text-Based Social Interactions
Modern workplaces commonly use text-based communication (i.e., emails) to exchange information, but they may avoid apps like Slack. However, workplaces that invest in instant text-based communication routinely win the Great Resignation because of its universal appeal.
If you have social anxiety, text-based communication takes the pressure off of responding right away or revealing too much. In video meetings, employees have the choice to turn off their cameras and use the messaging function or decline to participate altogether if they’re busy.
7. Reduced Financial Stressors
The minimum wage isn’t keeping up with inflation, causing many to forgo their wants for basic needs. In a traditional office environment, employees are asked to buy gifts, go out to lunch, and participate in expensive social gatherings. When they can’t afford to do so, they’re left behind.
These parties still occur in remote workplaces, but employees are often paid more when they switch jobs. Remote workers also save money on gas, car insurance, clothing, and more. This means they’ll have more money to spend on work-centric gatherings if they want to participate.
Make Health and Wellness a Bigger Focus
Cutting down on loneliness is an essential aspect of remote work and the Great Reshuffle, but not everyone is negatively affected by the lack of social interaction. In fact, many have switched jobs because they want to devote more time to their physical and mental health and wellbeing.