Tips for adjusting to long-term remote work
By Mina Movasseli
People dreamt of the day that their work would be remote.
But how it eventually came to be was unforeseeable.
Now we are in the reality of long-term remote work and it doesn’t seem to have brought the joy some may have expected.
Why? Partially due to the sudden switch of environments, as the mind doesn’t like change and holds on to places and people that are familiar.
This is how our brain is equipped to keep us alive for so long — it finds ways to keep us safe and secure, and any alterations to this will make it feel out of balance.
So as people try to create their own sense of safety and security, we have seen a common behaviour in major cities around the world — people moving to the suburbs or more remote areas.
Yes, some will get the instant benefit of the nature and calmness that the suburbs can bring.
But going from one extreme to the next will always make the mind feel uncomfortable.
It will try to find its old “security blanket,” hoping that things will go back to normal.
Loss of security, safety
It’s just like when you get a new manager who starts to change things and all you want is time to deal with the new person being added to your day. We need time to adjust to changes — and remote work is a major one.
So if we add a new home and a dog or pet, there is a lot of stimulation and excitement to deal with. But it will be like filling a hole with sugar, rather than concrete. The sugar will melt over time and the hole will still be there.
Instead, we need to come to terms with the fact that there was a major change in one’s life in an environment where a community was created to make one feel that they belong, can relate and be part of the same mission together.
A community of people who, in larger organizations, were interviewed numerous times to ensure culture-fit. Ensuring that people will be drawn to the organization and want to mold and conform and uphold the mission.
If that is completely broken down and made virtual, we again lose that sense of security and safety.
So, it is not surprising that depression and anxiety has increased, as there are things in that man-made community workers have lost that they didn’t know they were getting. Like a meal hidden with chemicals, it was made for you to want more.
Addressing change mindfully
Now we have emotions and cravings for a community that we didn’t know we had.
But if we actually start to address these areas of our lives mindfully, with intention, rather than allowing someone else to be the creator, then we can start to figure out what we like and who we actually want in our community — giving us a chance to go to the opposite side of the spectrum to find more joy.
How? Well, when we are given time to think and reflect, rather than escape through old behaviour patterns like clubbing and drinking and going out, we end up creating a space to question our life.
Yes, this can also lead to a darker place where you question your purpose and your actions throughout your life.
But it can also lead (especially with guidance from a professional) to a place where you can understand yourself better. This idea of self is key to be able to make better decisions in life.
Because as you understand yourself better and learn what you like and dislike without the world telling you — then you can make decisions with good intentions.
This really means making decisions that align with who you know you are or want to be without the pressure of caring what others think and expect of you.
Why is this important? As we make decisions from a place of what we think is best for ourselves, then we feel more calm and aligned.
This calmness is what many people talk about in regards to joy and meditation. It is a place where you can make decisions that you won’t regret, or find relationships and work environments closer to your values.
Then you can decide if you fit in with the culture, without having to mold to the group norms of a man-made community.
Mina Movasseli is a behavioral scientist and founder of The Mindful BluePrint in Toronto.
This commentary appears in the Winter 2021 issue of Talent Canada.
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