Is Working From Home Making Us Less Confident?
Being away from the office has made us feel a little less sure of ourselves, here's how to give yourself a career confidence boost.
In March of 2020, when we were told to pack up our desks to work from home, I’ll put my hands up and say I genuinely thought it’d be for three weeks, four maximum. I’d confidently bet that I wasn’t the only one. Yet here I am, still writing from my kitchen table. My dog is by my side, I don’t have a stitch of makeup on, my hair is in a messy bun at the top of my head and my bra certainly doesn’t have an underwire in it.
I won’t say that I’m not enjoying working from home, but I definitely miss having people around. The vast majority of my friends are also working from home, and they had the same impression. Although, while chatting, we discovered that a lot of us felt that our confidence in our work was slowly starting to diminish.
We’re all basically doing the exact same thing, except from a different location. So where’s the sense in this line of thinking? How does the change of location affect someone’s confidence in how they do their job day in and day out?
Feeling less sure of yourself while working from home may be an unexpected side effect, but according to Sarah Doyle, founder of thebetterlifeproject.ie (@sarah_thebetterlifeproject), the coronavirus pandemic is without a doubt causing a confidence crisis for many employees.
“I think what we’re seeing is a huge amount of challenges around mental health, a lot of issues around loneliness, a lot of people struggling trying to set boundaries, struggling trying to have a routine so starting and stopping work and switching off is tough,” Sarah tells STELLAR.
My laptop and I can certainly vouch for this, only twenty minutes into The Chase at lunchtime and the laptop could be back open again. Simply because I could be a bit bored, sitting there and doing nothing. Although, my version of events is setting the scene lightly, as a number of close friends (and many other people, I’m sure) have been working until 7 or 8 pm when they should really be clocking out at 5 pm.
Working from home means the only interaction with our colleagues is over email, phone, or Zoom – which now most of us have a love/hate relationship with. So while we’re used working as part of a team in an office, bouncing ideas off of each other and maybe even sharing daily rants, instead there’s now a dreaded feeling of second-guessing if what you’re doing day in and day out is right, and what’s exactly expected of us.
Self-confidence is a skill. Some of us are naturally confident, and some of us have to work at it. While you might feel like you’ve got the working world sussed, or were slowly but surely getting there, everything was upended since our daily commute changed dramatically from an hour sitting in traffic to ten steps to the kitchen table.
So, how can we give ourselves a confidence boost, while sitting in our little home office (which is basically just a section of the dining room table)?
“There are a number of strategies that we can use, both short and long term, to support or rebuild our confidence after we’ve experienced some sort of setback,” Sarah explains to STELLAR. For daily situations, Sarah shares, “I would always recommend that we pay close attention to our self-talk, using positive affirmations and that we pay attention to our body language, as well as the people that we surround ourselves with.”
Of course, none of us knows exactly how long we’ll be working from home, so Sarah recommends practices that you can do in the long term, which may also help when you return to the office. “I always suggest that we engage in some sort of mindfulness practice so that we can start to get a little bit familiar with what our brain or head is telling us. So what are the thoughts that are constantly on repeat in our minds?
“Just paying particular attention to what we’re thinking, getting clear on what our values are. The values that we thought were important to us when we were working in the office could shift quite dramatically when we’re working at home, so just trying to get a little bit more familiar with what that change might have been can genuinely give us a massive boost.”
Sarah also suggested that as a practical exercise, we pick up a pen and paper to give ourselves a little written pat on the back. “Keeping a success book is a really great way to focus on your thoughts in a really positive way. So if we are stuck in a cycle of negativity, feeling down or doubtful about our skills, we tend to get sidetracked and focus only on negative thoughts and aspects of ourselves. So a success book, where you jot down your previous accomplishments and successes, can really help us to sharpen our thoughts and focus on the positive. At the end of each day, you could jot down each positive and each accomplishment, as a way of recording the wins – no matter how big or small.”
There have often been days, pre-pandemic, where I wished I could work from home. About five days each month to be honest, where I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wanting to be at home, curled with my hot water bottle, a pretty large cup of tea and my laptop. But I never realised the impact that working from home could have on people, their productivity and their confidence. Particularly those who prefer to be surrounded by an office full of people, instead of being confined in their four walls.
From feelings of separation from colleagues, the stress of digital communication, and what feels like the constant dark cloud of a threat of redundancy, there’s plenty to worry about and to dwell over – and that’s just career-wise, never mind everything else. So while we don’t know exactly how long this is going to last for (unless any of us have a secret talent with a crystal ball), we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves.
Sarah explained to STELLAR that’s it’s more important now than ever to go easy on ourselves. “I think what we need to be able to remember, which can often feel really hard, is just to be kind and gentle with ourselves. Things have changed so much. And that we just need to give ourselves a moment to sometimes catch our breath.”
So whatever you need to do to boost your confidence while working from home, whether that’s taking note of your successes in a gorge notebook or blaring The Spice Girls of a Tuesday morning, go for it.
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