Erin Bionda has been managing her anxiety since her college years. Now the marketing manager for a network infrastructure company says the outbreak of COVID-19 and sudden social isolation that came with it threaten her progress.
“I’m worried about my brother’s small business, I’m worried about my parents who are over 60, and I’m worried about my friend who’s a nurse,” she says. “COVID-19 has been all-consuming. It’s all everyone is talking about, and that weighs on you.”
Bionda — who has never been clinically diagnosed with a mental health disorder — is one of millions of workers around the world who are struggling to overcome the same sense of worry and fear as they adjust to this new reality.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 73% of American adults have felt anxious or on edge, and nearly one in five has experienced a physical reaction when thinking about the pandemic. Online and app-based platforms for mental health and virtual sessions with therapists are also seeing an uptick in demand. The crisis is creating a perfect storm of health, family, economic, and social concerns for wide swaths of the population, and while social distancing and remote work are some of the most powerful tools we have to protect our physical well-being right now, they can also create new challenges for mental health.
“Fortunately for a lot of people, these are temporary situations, and if work can be more accommodating, they can get through it,” says Brie Reynolds, career development manager of FlexJobs, a remote work resource and job search site. With social distancing policies likely to remain in place for weeks or even months, it’s critical for employees and employers to pay attention to the psychological aspects of remote work now, taking steps to maintain mental well-being and foster a culture that supports those efforts.