Remote work and Anxiety

Welcome to the new normal, whatever that is where you are, for this particular moment…. I know that’s ridiculous semantics start to the blog but the “New Normal” won’t be normal for long. However we have picked up some material changes along this Covid journey we are all on. One of them is the New Normal of working from home. As an example, myself, I haven’t been back to my office since 3/18/20. I work in a capacity now where I do a lot of meta data crunching, analytics and budget forecasting. As long as I have the data I can do this anywhere and my company as deemed people like me to be “flex staff” that means I can work from home, indefinitely. I’m happy about this, but many people out there aren’t.

I found a good article here That discusses some of the nuances with working from home and a new anxiety paradigm around the issue.

From the article: “Just as offices begin to reopen or at least contemplate doing so, a new study suggests that remote work is taking its toll on our collective nerves. Nearly half (47%) of workers say they are experiencing anxiety because of remote working — and among those, two-thirds (66%) say it has crushed their productivity.

The findings, based on responses from more than 1,000 remote workers in a survey by the Omaha-based insurer Breeze, is yet one more bit of concerning news for employers already working overtime to stay on top of the well-being of their people as the pandemic persists. Among other findings in the survey, 52% reported depression, while nearly as many (46%) experienced panic attacks. As a result of remote work anxiety, 57% have sought out professional and/or medical help. More than four in 10 said they suffered from remote work anxiety because they were working too hard or too many hours — worried their employers might think they are slacking off. Of those suffering from remote work anxiety, 43% said they planned to return to the office because of it.”

That’s a big quote and it says a lot. Now the sampling for this survey was 1000 workers which is a decent sample but I would have preferred 10K then we would have some very valuable statistics. One of the things that work does provide you with is an additional social outlet which is now, for many of us gone.

When life gives you Lemon’s, make Lemonade

Now I understand there are plenty of negative social interactions at work, it is a hub for humans to get together and interact. For those of us with Anxiety, work places can be a very safe place to be. You have social rules, there are many rules of engagement, you have clear expectations as to your role etc. We can’t minimalize this as a benefit as many with Anxiety thrive in structures social environments and work is one of those key venues.

For the last nearly 2 years now that has either been removed or altered and that has placed many of us in new situations which is uncomfortable. The article does a decent job of illustrating the issue and providing some guidance as to how to combat it. Couple this with the “Great Resignation” and companies scrambling to fill roles and the work dynamic has changed dramatically.

Is this the “New Normal?” I don’t know but I do know that the upheaval caused by Covid 19 is going to be with us for some years to come. As individuals with anxiety it is paramount for us to find a way to cope, survive and thrive. You can do this, remember, one day at a time.

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Why do people leave jobs? Is it always money?

This is going to be an opinion post but in my opinion, an extremely important one for your career. If you have been in the “game” for a while you probably have figured this out already. For my younger readers you will experience this at some point in your working life. Now this isn’t industry specific, meaning most industries this is applicable too but some it’s never really going to apply. This specific advice is for those who work for companies. The capacity isn’t important, you can be a contractor, a temp, a full time employee. This advice isn’t really applicable to consultants, small business owners etc.

People don’t leave companies they leave leaders

Let’s put it this way, most companies offer the same thing, the magnitude of what they offer might be different but it’s really all the same. They offer:

  • Pay/Salary
  • Benefits
  • Steady employment
  • Job security (most of the time)
  • Holidays or Holiday pay

Basically they all have the same premise, they pay you for your time to help them make money. You get X, and they get Y. No matter where you go in your career this is true. I know its general but you get the point, all companies essentially offer the same outline of employment. What makes or breaks a job, or a career are the people you work with.

Toxic people at work are not hard to spot.

The most important person at work is your immediate report. That person largely determines if you stay with that company or not. People leave leaders not companies, the deal you have with the company is the standard deal you’ll get anywhere. Sure you might get more somewhere else, but the core of the deal is the same. The person you work for directly though can make it an absolute nightmare.

Always be mindful of why you feel the way you do at work. Consider carefully why you feel that way and what the catalyst is. 9 times out of 10 it’s your direct leader that is at the heart of your issue. That can be fixed and you should examine if there are opportunities to enhance that relationship. In the end your direct boss is usually the sole reason why you are unhappy. Maybe they are unfair, maybe they don’t do enough, maybe they are of poor character.

Remember, people don’t leave companies they leave leaders.

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Work Anxiety: Your colleagues may be in trouble.

Many of us are still working from home and with the new delta variant (or is it Delta+/Omega/next version) more will be back at home I suspect. It’s funny how we used to go to work see people there and interact all within the context of the business. Meaning, we were all there for the same shared purpose to work. Meantime everyone has their own lives, marital issues, sick parents, pain in the ass kids (hi kids, lol) on and on. I found an interesting article here about the new realities of a covid world in the context of working.

From the article: “In the U.K., a quarter of employees feel as if they have hit a psychological breaking point. According to a new study by health insurance company Lime Group, over half of those surveyed feel a pressure to disguise to their colleagues the sinking feeling that accompanies their difficulty in coping with both the stresses of the job and the stresses of the pandemic.”

This was a UK study but I would venture to say that its applicable really everywhere. We are in year 2 of this pandemic and the fear mongering by the press, government and social media shows no sign of winding down. You bet people are stressed. Maybe you are someone who copes well with stress and anxiety, that’s great. Imagine a moment someone who prior to covid was already in a bad spot, what do you think the last 2 years have been like for them?

A poke doesn’t appear to be enough for some people.

The article does a decent job of sounding the alarm for businesses to start working on better environments for their employees. In the U.S. we have a fairly unique republic where States actually have legal authority over much of labor laws. The federal government can’t lock the country down, this is why you have some states open and thriving (and having increased covid issues) and others still locking people down. The U.S. right now is in a unique situation where we don’t have enough workers to fill jobs.

I don’t know if that’s the reality in other places. The onus is now on employers to offer more options for work and benefits that accommodate workers with anxiety. Imagine a moment you are an employer who needs a web designer and there is a spectacular one available, but she only wants to work from home she has anxiety. Would you not hire her for that? You would be losing out and making a horrible business decision.

One of the side effects of the covid pandemic is the enormous effect it’s had and will continue to have on the work place. More people will be working from home permanently than ever before. More people will be working as contractors than ever before. If companies truly want to set themselves apart and thrive in the next 5-15 years they are going to have to shift from profits first at any cost to profits with an eye on investing and enhancing the employee experience. You want top talent you are going to have to pay more for it, and provide more options for that talent to want to work for you.

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For those with Anxiety: How to tell if you have a great boss

If you are functioning with Anxiety bravo you are doing well. Given how crap the world has become with politics, covid on and on it’s a wonder sometimes any of us get out of bed. If you are now back to work (in the states) or have been going to work all along, or if you are in the midst of a huge surge like our friends in India are enduring you likely still have to deal with work stress. Number 1 cause of work stress? Bad Bosses, coworkers are a close second.

If you have a bad boss you already know it, but how do you tell if you have a great boss? There are of course so many in-between that make up the vast majority of work bosses. Everyone has good and bad days you have to understand that. Good bosses? They are out there and that ideally the norm for all of us, great bosses however do 2 things regularly. They ask the two questions below, with the following elaboration…

  1. “How you doing” – This isn’t just the passing in the hall greeting this is them coming to your work area and asking you. They elaborate by asking about your family, your personal hobbies (if they know it). This may seem like a superficial attempt to become your buddy and it may be but a boss that takes the time to ask this and does so consistently does so because they genuinely care about you. Sure it might be that they care you are doing well to better your work performance but they still care.
  2. “How can I help you win” – This, in context to the first question is in all candor likely in reference to winning at work. A great boss understands that in order for you to be very successful at work you have to be doing well in all facets of your life. This question may seem odd and again self-serving to the person asking but anyone that wants to help you win, even if it benefits them as well is an asset that you want to nurture.

Don’t confuse these two questions with some notion of attaining a deep relationship with your boss where you are having BBQ’s together and your families hang out that’s likely not to happen. It is within the context of you doing well at work. A great boss cares about you as a whole person and asks these questions genuinely to help and make your life better. As someone with Anxiety that is a huge win, we need more people in our lives that want to make things better for us, even if it means they gain as well. I’ll take all the positives I can get.

So ask yourself, when was the last time your boss asked you either of these questions? Do they ask regularly?

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The secret your employer won’t tell you (but I will)

We all have to work in some capacity. Income enables us to pay rent, put gas in the car, buy food, spend silly amounts of money on coffee… Most of us go somewhere to work, or we produce something that someone else consumes. Regardless of how you obtain your income we all have customers/employers. These are the people who pay us for our services. Now there is a whole gambit of work scenarios out there now.

Many of your Gen X friends like me marvel at the new “gig” economy. We didn’t have those options when we were 20-30 and it’s really opened up a lot of possibilities for everyone. Out there of course are all sorts of competition, we now have a global pool of people whom we can get what we want from. Outsourcing is a thing, and if you have a good Wi-Fi connection you can work from anywhere in the world.

A lot of positives I know, it’s a great time to be working (covid aside of course). Many of us though suffer from anxiety and work, or more specifically, how we obtain income can be one of our greatest sources of grief. Many of us worry daily about performance, availability of work, pay scale, coworkers on and on and on. It can really wear you down and in some cases cause serious complications to your life emotionally.

There is a secret though, something that is never on a job description. You don’t hear it in your reviews, companies don’t normally profess it.

Am I contagious?
Really? They need me? Is that why they give me money?

What is it? THEY NEED YOU

Simple right? Try convincing yourself of it though. All of these companies and individuals who want your time/expertise/product need you. Sure maybe someone else can produce the outcome you can, but then they would just need them. You are highly valuable, that Accounts Payable job at XYZ company? Why are the advertising it? Because they don’t want to do it and they need you (or someone like you) to do it.

I know this all sounds rather simplistic and it is. The problem is, the person producing the outcome other people want (that person is you) is rarely, if ever told how much they are needed. Imagine you got that AP job did it for a year and then said “I’m done” and stopped doing it? It would still need to be done, so who does it? There are no practice squad teams out there, someone else will have to be brought in (and paid) to do what you did.

They need you, and that is your leverage position. If nothing else this should give you a sense of value that, while you aren’t being told regularly, clearly exists. That job you’re doing needs to be done by someone. Don’t ever forget that your value as a person is well beyond the measure of what people say to you. Exampled above, your value is also intrinsic in the notion that you are needed to produce a desired outcome.

That’s huge and as individuals with Anxiety we should be reminding ourselves regularly of just how valuable we are.

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