"I'm not sure of this world I'm working in"

"I’m not sure of this world I’m working in" (edited version)

Suzy Syrett, Peer Researcher in the NRS Mental Health Network and based in Mental Health and Wellbeing shares the experience of transitioning to remote working, and its emotional impact

Suzanne Syrett Sat on my front room sofa, I closed my laptop after my first day of working from home and I felt an emotion I struggled to find a name for. Was it sadness? No, depression? Not really. Later in the evening as the feeling grew it became big enough for me to properly see and understand. What I was feeling was a sense of loss; loss for the million minutiae of interactions that working in a University team bring. I was in such a blinkered rush to be ready to be able to do my job from home that I’d forgotten just how much of being at work I couldn’t ever bring home with me. The hello-fancy-a-coffee as I walk in the door, the catch up conversations as the kettle bubbles to life, the smile to my neighbour as I spin my seat round to sit at my desk and the glance of approval from my boss that tells me more than any email can about the piece of work I finished last week. And as you read this I wonder, does this sound familiar to you too? Because so many of us now find ourselves in this strange new working environment. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked the odd day from home before but this? This is different. Because this time, as yet, we have absolutely no idea how long we’ll be working this way. As someone very used to working to a Gantt chart and rigid grant funded timelines this the continually unravelling uncertainty of all of this is utterly bewildering.

What have I learned in my first week of working from home? Do we live in unusual times? Yes, we absolutely do. Unusual times often demand unusual actions from all of us if we are to get through those times successfully and undamaged. Take social distancing as one example of this – that’s something we’ve all integrated into our lives as a practical safety measure over the last few weeks. I’d suggest taking some time to think through any worries, uncertainties and yes, vulnerabilities you might have that are being exacerbated right now. And then have a think about how you might be able to attend to those issues or what support would help you manage them? Over the years I’ve discovered three things that have been seismic in helping me deal with any emotional challenges that have come my way:

  1. Speak to people you trust about them. I know that can be hard, especially at first but if it helps at all I practice those conversations in the bathroom mirror before I speak to an actual person. Heck, it makes me feel more confident that I’ve rehearsed what I’m going to say and if you add in that no one else would have a clue you’ve done that? WIN.
  2. I would wager a large sum of money that you’re not alone in feeling those things! These are difficult times that will stretch and make demands of every aspect of us; and that includes our emotional selves too.
  3. Opening up about my own vulnerabilities often offers a platform for others to give voice to theirs.

We all need to think more creatively about how we manage in our new working environments, which are not quite work but not quite home either, and how we keep ourselves not only working but supported, reassured and as comfortable in our roles as we can be. So, think hard about what it is you need to keep feeling connected and supported at work. And if you’re up for it think about sharing some of those insights and ideas with your colleagues, students and supervisors. Because, come what may, this is one thing we are definitely all in together.

Suzy Syrett
Research Assistant (Mental Health and Wellbeing)

The full version of this article is available on the PsyECR (International Network of Early Career Researchers in Psychosis) website


First published: 14 March 2018