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Dear Heidi: I think remote work is making me paranoid. Am I crazy?

We're going through a lot of changes right now. Be gentle with yourself but also aware.

The global pandemic has changed our lives, workplace, and emotions. Overnight we found ourselves groping our way through a tangled web of remote work.

Some of us adjusted well to WFH and liked it—flexible hours, no commute, saved money on lunches and new clothes, even had more family time.

But others did not adjust. They found the lack of water cooler talk and social interactions equalled a vast void. Connecting and communicating fully through a tiny square on a computer screen is hard for most, and nearly impossible for others. It can lead to some real soul-searching.

For example, in your latest Zoom meeting, you planned to share your brilliant idea for the next big thing, but last-minute scheduling reduced your time in "the speaker box" to a minute—not nearly enough. Your vision blurred over a long string of colleagues competing to be brilliant, witty, and memorable. The reaction to your idea is neutral at best, but probably it fell flat.

You leave the meeting deflated, anxious, with a full-on case of over-analysis. "Why was the scheduling changed?" "Why did I only get a minute to share my idea?" "Are they trying to tell me something?" "Am I in trouble?"

Many of us have more time on our hands' thanks to a commute from your bedroom to your home office. That time can lead us down blackholes of self-doubt and even paranoia that otherwise we'd blow-off. We miss the water cooler talk, the spontaneous moments when we run into a colleague and serendipitously chat about what's on your mind.

In our virtual world, we have to make an extra effort to reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee with a colleague. It can be a bit awkward, but use the tools you have, and try to differentiate between real rouble and paranoia. Hopefully, your imagination is on overload, and things are fine at work—everyone's time was cut on the Zoom meeting because the boss's schedule changed—it was nothing to do with you.

On the other hand, if you seriously suspect something is wrong at work, reach out to your supervisor, and share your concerns. They may be able to put your mind at rest, or you may come face-to-face with a scary reality. If this is the case, be strong, better days are coming for us all.


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