Tag: anxiety

Working from home has increased digital anxiety

Working from home has spiked since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020. This effort to reduce health risks may have limited the spread of the virus, but according to a new analysis by cyber security provider F-Secure, it may also have helped increase digital anxiety for those working remotely.

In a recent survey, 67% of internet users who work from home reported they increasingly worry about their online security and privacy even if nothing is wrong, compared to 58% of other users.

Senior Lecturer in Cyberpsychology at Nottingham Trent University, Dr. Lee Hadlington, who’s research interests include employees’ adherence to workplace cyber security practices, said it makes sense that people’s sudden shift to telecommuting increased their anxieties about online threats.

“It is not surprising that individuals have started to worry more about cyber security, particularly when working from home. Many individuals were thrust into the ‘new normal’ of home working with very little preparation, training, or equipment. Let’s not forget, for most individuals in a workplace environment, cyber security is generally a second thought, and is usually something that is seen as the responsibility of someone else in the company. This, coupled with the fact that many home workers have less than perfect home working environments (e.g. desks in busy parts of the house, limited/poor internet connection, limited working knowledge of internet-based technology), means that these cyber security fears could be symptomatic of a combination of factors,” he said.

While worries about online security and privacy were prevalent among all survey respondents, remote workers reported elevated concerns about a myriad of issues, including:

· 65% of those who work from home said the internet is becoming a more dangerous place, compared to 54% of other respondents.

· 63% of remote workers said concerns about data privacy have changed how they use the internet, compared to 48% of other respondents.

· 71% of remote workers said they worry that new internet connected devices—such as wearables and connected home appliances—could lead to a violation of their privacy, compared to 64% of non-remote workers.

· 70% of remote workers felt increasingly uncomfortable connecting to public WiFi due to security risks compared to 63% of other respondents.

“Working from home could also have meant that individuals may have had more time to focus on other aspects of their working life and spent more time engaging in self-reflection and aspects of self-improvement; this could have included a re-assessment of cyber risks in their daily lives. The pandemic also meant people were isolated, with many turned to the one thing they did have access to – the Internet. Of course, spending more time engaged in one activity could lead to an increase in perceptions of risk, particularly when people are being subjected to negative news stories about cyber security related issues,” Dr. Hadlington explained.

According to F-Secure Security Consultant Tom Gaffney, managing security while working remotely takes technical security measures that protect data and devices, but also steps to keep people’s personal and professional lives separate.

“Steps everyone can take to secure themselves and their privacy when they work from home include updating their devices and software, ensuring their personal devices have security software installed, and some other basic infosec measures,” said Gaffney. “But keeping your personal and professional online activities separate from one another may be as important as any of these tips. Restricting what sort of things you do on each device and during which times can be an essential way to ease digital anxiety.”

 

 

Beating back-to-work anxiety

By Dr. Olivia Remes for The Conversation 

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people’s anxiety levels shot up. Daily reports were coming in about the number of new deaths, there was global chaos and people had to be persuaded to stay inside. And even though this was difficult, we somehow managed to pull through. We slowly became used to our new lives in lockdown, and our anxiety began to subside.

But just as we were settling in to a new reality and routine, governments announced new measures for lifting the lockdown. Naturally, this has been causing some panic and reports are beginning to surface about how people’s mental health is again being affected. Many people are worrying about whether it is safe to go back to work or send their children to school.

This anxiety is mainly related to uncertainty. We don’t know what the future will hold and this can keep us up at night. It can trigger excessive and uncontrollable worrying, and it can even lead to physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

For people with a pre-existing anxiety disorder or depression, the coronavirus pandemic is a recipe for disaster. Going back out into society might trigger or revive past conditions – such as health anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). We’re advised to wash our hands frequently and keep our distance from others at all times – but there is a point when safety behaviours begin to morph into mental disorders.

Sometimes we think that worrying serves a useful purpose, making us vigilant and prepared. We believe that it can help us arrive at a better solution by being proactive about a situation. But worrying for even a short amount of time predisposes us to even more worrying. And before we know it, we’re stuck in a vicious cycle which we can’t escape.

It is a myth that worrying helps us arrive at a better solution. It only makes us feel anxious and stressed – especially if the worrying becomes chronic. Just knowing this can help us take useful steps forward, because we can let go of those anxious thoughts. And most of our worries won’t come true anyway. When researchers at Penn State University asked people to track their anxieties and revisit them at a later point, they saw that 91% of the participants’ worries didn’t come true.

Giving up control
Sometimes, however, this is easier said than done. Sometimes it is very difficult to stop worrying. Sometimes we can’t stop cleaning, and begin to perform repetitive behaviours that can turn into OCD. The way that OCD oftentimes starts is with repetitive, fixed ideas. People read news stories about coronavirus and start worrying that they might get infected if they go back out.

To alleviate this anxiety, they begin to engage in behaviours – such as repetitive, excessive hand-washing – to avert the dreaded outcome. When they do this, they are trying to take control of the situation. But the more they indulge their obsessions, the more – ironically – they begin to lose control. They become unable to rein in their thoughts and lose power over their actions. At this point, OCD has a stronghold over the person and they can’t get out.

One way to prevent this from happening is to do what you can to protect yourself – wash your hands for only the recommended amount and wear a mask – and then let the chips fall where they may. And realise that no matter what you do, it is sometimes impossible to completely protect yourself. Letting go of control is, paradoxically, a way of gaining it back.

This can help us see things more clearly and with a calmer mindset. It also helps us make better decisions. And if you’re worried about restrictions lifting and having to take a crowded tube again – remember, that any anxiety you will be feeling as you’re on that tube will subside. It’s temporary and you will bounce back from it. This is the nature of anxiety, and research has shown this time and again.

Master your life
Another good way to maintain your mental health during this time of constant change and uncertainty is to introduce a positive agenda into your daily routine. How do you do that? By scheduling positive activities into your life and monitoring them. This may include short walks in parks, trying a new recipe or anything else you might enjoy. It’s also important to track yourself to make sure you’re doing such activities on a consistent basis.

When we take the time to engage in pleasant activities, research shows that we not only begin to feel pleasure, but we gain “mastery”. When you have mastery, you start to feel satisfied, having a sense of achievement and control. If you suffer from depression, this technique is particularly useful – it’s like a crane that can help lift you out of a low state. And we know that low mood is something many people have been feeling during this pandemic.

But the road to mastery can be scary to some people. Scheduling things into your life that make you feel happy can be frightening, especially if depression has been a part of your life for a long time.

The rollercoaster of emotions we’ve been experiencing throughout this pandemic might also make us cautious of being too happy too quickly. You might have superstitious thoughts that, if you feel good, something bad will happen. You may worry that it won’t last, or that you’ll get hurt. Isn’t it better to have low expectations – not get too excited and maintain a position of “defensive pessimism”?

Research tells us that the answer is no. Because when we don’t hope and aim for happiness, our lives become a flat line. And isn’t it better to experience a life with ups and down, like a wave with crests and troughs? Embracing life can have a significant impact on our mental health and places us on a path to wellbeing – even during a pandemic.

Many children experience some degree of “back-to-school anxiety” as the school year begins. Typical stressors may include worries about making new friends, managing new or difficult teachers, increased academic workload, or being away from parents, or transitional issues, such as starting at a new school or moving into middle or high school. Whereas some school-related anxiety is normal, excessive anxiety and worry can negatively affect a child’s functioning at school, as well as with peers and at home.

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