The emotional cost of working from home

The coronavirus pandemic is creating a vicious cycle

The emotional cost of working from home

The economic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has left employees – who are still working full time – feeling less productive and more mentally and emotionally drained.

More than half of workers (51%), surveyed by US health services firm OptumHealth, said their mental health has suffered in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, a similar percentage (54%) reported their social well-being has worsened.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Simple ways to save workers' mental health

“Without having both a treatment and a vaccine already in place, there’s a huge unknown around COVID-19 in terms of what the future is going to look like. That uncertainty creates a lot of angst,” said Seth Serxner, chief health officer at OptumHealth.

“On top of that, not having the physical human contact we’ve had in prior months is very stressful,” added Serxner who led the study on employee well-being.

The pandemic is creating a vicious cycle: the lack of physical and social connection causes anxiety, which in turn is resolved primarily through the presence of supportive colleagues, friends and family.

This is especially true now that workers have lost, albeit temporarily, the workspaces dedicated to team collaboration.

“The typical work environment involves dropping into an office, asking a question, having a meeting around a table with lots of opportunity for interaction and connection. People aren’t used to having to do this virtually,” said Serxner.

READ MORE: COVID-19: WHO offers physical and mental health advice

More than four in five respondents (84%) work for companies that have transitioned to remote working, yet two in five workers (40%) reportedly feel less productive in their home environment.

This decline in productivity, particularly among Americans, can be attributed to the pressure of working “in close quarters,” Serxner said.

“Imagine a husband needing space, a wife needing space to work, a child needing space to go to school virtually. And everyone’s routines being disrupted,” he explained.

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