The One Chilling Side Effect of Working From Home You Didn't Know About

Three months of virtual meetings and a cratered economy has had this effect on many of us, experts say.

If you've been working from home and feel insecure or worried that it seems people are out to get you, you are not alone. After months of virtual meetings and with many jobs under threat due to a cratered U.S. economy, workers appear to be more anxious than ever. In fact, according to numerous experts, the combination of working from home and the threat of being laid off are potent conditions for a very unsettling—and underreported—side effect of the coronavirus pandemic: paranoia.

"When you are not around your co-workers and your organization due to virtual working, it can give space for paranoia to grow," André Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at Cass Business School, told the Financial Times. "We don't have all the usual informal feedback to make sense of what is going on."

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Working in a shared office space brings mundane experiences that go a long way in developing camaraderie and trust, whether it's going for a coffee break with a co-worker or being able to read your boss's body language in a casual conversation. But these experiences are lost on Zoom calls and in written messages sent via email or Slack.

Daniel Freeman, professor of clinical psychology at Oxford University, shares the same perspective. In today's work-from-home landscape, Freeman told the Financial Times, "there's more ambiguity and more threat, there's less distraction from our routines, contact with other people and other things to talk about." He added that "when people are paranoid they often read too much into ambiguous information."

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The best advice for dealing with feelings of insecurity, anxiety, or paranoia? Talk through the specific scenario that is causing you to worry with a trusted individual. Even if you're just dealing with complicated work dynamics, talk therapy can go a very long way toward easing anxiety and paranoia. And if you're looking for resources, check out 7 Free Anxiety Apps to Help You During the Coronavirus Pandemic.


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