If you have been feeling lost, out of sorts, not quite yourself, or like a lone survivor on an island in the middle of nowhere lately, you are not alone. We all have moments of despondency when things that should inspire us just feel boring or unstimulating. The tasks on our list don’t get a second look, and some days even getting out of bed is too much effort.
Researchers have found there appears to be an inflection point where the frustration and hardship of being cooped up inside suddenly gets harder to endure, and the further we continue in lockdown, the more we shift into that phase.
So how does this contribute to our sense of being lost or that our identity has been taken away from us?
- For those that were office-bound:
- The simple action of going to and from an office every day gave us a sense of identity, a place to go to, a place to be, and something we shared in common with others.
- Being at the workplace and connecting with our fellow team-mates whether it be over a casual coffee break or collaborating on a project gave us a sense of purpose, being accepted, being valuable, and belonging.
- Lockdown restrictions:
- For some, our regular daily activities such as group exercise or same interest social meetups (e.g., book club, toastmasters, etc) have been limited therefore increasing our sense of disconnect and isolation.
- People living on their own often relied on socialising with their workmates and friends to detract from the fact that they live alone.
- Different personality types:
- Those who may have thrived on being in a structured environment (i.e., office infrastructure, systems, processes, people) may struggle to focus, prioritise or ask for input and help.
- People that thrived on personal interaction and client visits may struggle without that interaction and feel lost or potentially even bored and not stimulated.
- Remote working:
- Our job role and function might not have changed but, where we work and how we work has, and this has also played a part in people feeling lost and in unfamiliar territory. The majority of us do not cope well with change and long for things to go back to the familiar, our normal routine and wanting things to go back to ‘normal’ as we know it.
- At home working environments may not be conducive for productivity (e.g., noise both on our screens and in our surroundings, ergonomic unfriendly home desk set-ups, and home network and connectivity frustrations)
- Comparison analysis:
- Now that the home has become the workplace, what was once our private, safe getaway from it all space is now being intruded upon so where do we go to ‘get away’ from a long day?
- Some employees are becoming more self-conscious of their home environment in comparison to what they see on their peers’ screens who perhaps have the luxury of a home office or more affluent surroundings resulting in resistance to turn their cameras on and connect with their colleagues.
- It can be time-consuming checking in with every line report as to how they are doing on a more personal level than before where you could grab a quick coffee or chat with them in the office.
- Trying to keep the engagement and corporate culture alive in a remote world whilst at the same time trying to accomplish their own deliverables.
So, if you are feeling despondent, lost, or in limbo at the moment, take solace in that you are not alone. Allow yourself what was seen as a luxury, but as we have now come to realise, an absolute necessity – some ‘me’ time. Find something to do that brings you joy, even if for a short period – preferably something creative like a DIY project, reading, writing, or a physical activity like walking, exercise, or even tidying up the space around you. Choose activities with movement, which reset and re-energise your energy levels and mood, which has a positive impact on your psyche.
In 2021, being intentional is going to be at the forefront of everything you do, especially when it comes to using ‘cues’ during each interaction with employees to reinforce a common purpose and increasing their sense of belonging in a digital world.
Social safety thrives off the sense of belonging to a group and feeling that you belong at work and your work has a meaningful contribution is an essential part of our brain performance.
Psychological safety is about creating an environment where people feel seen, heard, respected, and safe to openly share their opinions, observations, and contributions. Healthy relationships help to develop the “trust hormone” oxytocin and this goes for both the home and the workplace.
Remember….people crave connection and neuroscience backs this up – for the brain to survive, we need each other. Our sense of belonging, identity, and meaningfulness is impacted by our interactions with others.
Leaders need to be deliberate about creating an environment where social and psychological safety is noticeable, and we need to do the same on a personal level when it comes to our homes, partners, and family too.