In November of 2019, I left a company I’d been working for for eight and a half years to join a startup.
I’d have two weeks training in Cardiff, be provided with my equipment and then work from home permanently. This was way before anyone knew what Covid 19 was, and remote working wasn’t practiced by everyone and their granny.
This was all so new and exciting but I’d gone from a really close team, to training with a bunch of amazing people, to potentially never see those people in person again.
I was lucky that someone I had become fast friends with during my onsite training was to be in my remote working team. I had a constant, and I’m still in touch with that person today. You know who you are dude!
When accepting the job I thought it would be great, better pay, saving money on fuel costs and being instantly home the second I finish. Far more low-tech than my day dreams of a desk-side teleporter.
There would be no commuting, no traffic, no freestyle rapping in the car five mornings out of seven (I’m amazing) and I wouldn’t have to be around people.
So… turns out I love being around people, hearing their moans, how their life is going, what they’re watching on Netflix and having a laugh with them.
Without that interaction and feedback, I started to struggle and develop more than a touch of impostor syndrome. Simply put, it’s that voice in your head that says you aren’t good enough, you don’t know what you’re doing and soon people are going to find out. Try as you might to shake this, it’s like quicksand, easy to get into and difficult to get out of.
What if I’m not that smart?
What if I don’t get this process right and lose my job?
What if we become homeless!
See. One negative thought triggers a landslide and you’re soon drowning. My stomach churned and I woke up anxious every morning. Whenever I thought about work, I’d have an ache in my gut.
I tried to push on, downplaying it as best I could but it wasn’t working. I was crying during my lunch breaks as all these fears took over and I didn’t want to trouble my family.
One day I reached out to our Mental Health First Aider group and got a reply from someone who was active in the group but wasn’t a first aider. That’s where I met Kris, another guy who was more than happy to help me get these feelings off my chest.
He started by asking me what was wrong.
I spilled my guts, telling him exactly how I felt. Even though his shift was finished, he took the time to chat and share his thoughts. He gave a very sensible reply, if the company didn’t think I could do the job, they wouldn’t have hired me. I impressed them enough for them to pay for a two week hotel stay and my meals, then furnish me with top of the range equipment to do my job.
He explained that he’d spoken to others who felt this way initially and that the feelings would pass. All I had to do was focus on things day by day to pass my probation period and he was right. We spoke throughout this journey but it stopped me worrying about the future as much.
I started to see my performance and confidence improve and I later got the opportunity to help him with a personal issue.
Now when I see others having trouble or expressing their difficulties, I reach out. We might be miles apart, but that doesn’t mean we can’t support each other.
As I think through my experiences, it makes me wonder about those who are suddenly thrust into working from home. I guarantee a fair number of people have often thought about home working and how great it would be to work away in a comfortable space in your PJs.
When this is suddenly your reality, there will be an abrupt social disconnect. Those familiar faces won’t be right there, you can’t just tap a shoulder for a second opinion or overhear a conversation that would benefit from your input. Similarly, the second hand absorption of information is gone. Sure, there are channels to reach out to others but it’s rarely as instant or as personable as you’re used to.
These thoughts and fears you have, they will pass. If you feel that they aren’t abating reach out to a colleague. Your work mates are often that, mates, friends, people you can speak to and they’re going through similar circumstances. You may even find that in reaching out, you end up helping others.
At this point in time, we run a very high risk of a mental health pandemic. Many people will experience mental ill health for the first time in their lives. We’ll suffer with isolation, worry about the future, the now, family, work and a million other things that didn’t seem as pressing in the old world.
Those of use with preexisting conditions may feel the pain of sudden isolation all the more, not being able to speak to people and keep your routine can make your symptoms worse.
The way to combat this is to speak to each other and make yourself available to those who might need you. The healing properties of a heart to heart can’t be understated. If it’s difficult for you, it’s certainly difficult tor others.
The world is on fire right now and we should be doing all we can to help each other breathe.