When Working From Home Stops Being Fun – 7 New Reasons You Feel Low

by Andrea Blundell

You’ve read all the articles about how to make working from home a success and you were loving the experience. You’ve created a routine, worked out boundaries with your partner who also works at home, exercise daily, and you ‘turn off’ at the end of the day. 

But the truth is, you just aren’t feeling yourself. 

What are the new concerns about home-based work that might be affecting your wellbeing

The less talked about challenges of working from home

What are the new challenges of working from home we all need to talk about, beyond the obvious?

1. Loss of identity.

Working in an office, despite its flaws, gave you a strong identity. Even if some of your colleagues drove you nuts, and you loved to complain about the job, you had a clear role, you were part of a team. You belonged

Working with that same team over video conferencing, although fun at first, fails to provide the same connection. You can start to feel detached, and less important or relevant, even though you are doing the same job.

Research published in the journal Organisation Science [1] found that the more we are physically absent from an organisation, the less we feel respected, and the less we identify with the organisation.

And other research from Nottingham and Sheffield universities [2] found that we begin to identify with our new mode of work instead, of being a teleworker, and start seeing work as more of a transaction. 

2. Shifting communication.

Not everyone communicates well over video, phone, and emails. Personality can be lost. Some people come across as confusing, others as rigid and rude. You can be left second guessing and anxious.

Professionalism can be lost, too. Communicating at a distance can create a false sense of safety. You are being more friendly than usual, more intimate, or a colleague is, and you feel you must oblige. Lines can be overstepped. It can feel good at first, but lead to boundary issues and anxiety down the line.

3. More gossiping and backbiting.

Not having to see the subject of gossip on a daily basis gives some people more courage. There can also be a lot of talk against managers and bosses, with nothing coming to a head like it inevitably used to in the office. 

You might feel drawn in to gossip you don’t want to be a part of, or even be the perpetrator, only to feel guilty later, adding to any anxiety you already had. 

4. The new blending of work with your personal life. 

Suddenly your colleagues are seeing you in your own home. Or calling you for an unplanned emergency Zoom call and catching you without makeup or in your gym kit. It can be a mental adjustment. 

And it can work the other way around, too.  Your partner, also working from home, is now seeing how much your personal assistants do for you, when before she admired how hard you worked. Or your family who always saw you as calm and fun are hearing you take charge and be assertive or even aggressive. You can be left feeling oddly exposed. 

5. Social scarcity.

Yes, you are seeing your partner and kids more. But this is one type of social link. It doesn’t necessarily fulfil your need for connection. You might feel oddly lonely, and then, worse, guilty for feeling this way when you know you are blessed to have a family.

You also quite simply meet less people working from home. If you are single, you might really feel the difference, and start to despair you’ll be alone forever.

According to a survey by the UK’s Institute for Employment Studies, a third of UK worker’s feel isolated since working from home during Covid-19. 

6. Adjustment issues. 

The idea is that you are supposed to revel in your new ability to lounge around on a sofa  with a laptop, or to sit in your garden or a park getting things done, looking relaxed and happy.

If this simply isn’t the case? If teleworking makes you feel distracted and uncomfortable? You can feel like there is something wrong with you.

Who wants to admit to needing a boring office space with annoying people around them to get work done and feel competent? Instead you struggle on, fighting feelings of shame and dwindling self-esteem

7. No audience. 

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Okay, you are not a tree. And you are not falling over, you are sitting doing your work.

But if you work from home alone, and lately are having a strange, dissociated feeling, as if you might not really exist in moments? You are not going crazy. You are simply used to an audience. Not everyone thrives on their own.

Group synergy is nothing new, but perhaps forgotten in our modern ‘culture of the individual’. A century ago, way back in 1920, a study from Harvard university [3] showed that a group of people working independently around a table, not in competition or collaboration with one another, performed better on a wide range of tasks. Coming up with new ideas and using your imagination was better done in isolation, but getting things done benefitted from being with others. 

What if the truth is that I hate my job?

The structure of the workplace can, for some of us, lead to a numbing out. We get up, do the commute, navigate difficult colleagues, get the work done, and come home too exhausted to think about how life should be different. Or, when those thoughts do arise, we push them away by planning our next nice vacation the job affords.

But now there is new down time. Fancy vacations aren’t as possible as before, nor are nights out drinking your worries away with friends. There is more time to think, and less ways to hide from yourself.

If the glaring truth coming to light is that you’ve long hated your job, it’s worth talking to a coach or career counsellor. They can help you identify your personal values and clarify your life goals, or find the sense of purpose you realise you are sorely lacking.

Need to talk to someone confidentially about your workplace woes? We connect you with highly regarded London-based talk therapists. Or use our booking platform to find UK therapists and online counsellors. 


Still have a question about low moods and working from home? Post below. 

Andrea BlundellAndrea Blundell is the editor lead writer of this site. Ever an early developer, she has been working exclusively over the internet since 2007, and is well aware of the benefits and pitfalls. 

 

 

Footnotes 

[1] Bartel, Caroline & Wrzesniewski, Amy & Wiesenfeld, Batia. (2012). Knowing Where You Stand: Physical Isolation, Perceived Respect, and Organizational Identification Among Virtual Employees. Organization Science. 23. 743-757. 10.2307/23252086. 

[2] Tietze, S. and Nadin, S. (2011), The psychological contract and the transition from office‐based to home‐based work. Human Resource Management Journal, 21: 318-334. doi:10.1111/j.1748-8583.2010.00137.x.

[3] Floyd Henry Allport. “The Influence of the Group Upon Association and Thought.” Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1920: 159-182.

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