Jogging pants or suit: what the home office does to us

Stefan Junker, psychologist and psychotherapist from Heidelberg, talks to heise online about crises and working in the home office.

What is a crisis anyway?

A crisis can be explained particularly well by distinguishing it from a problem. When there is a problem, what works before or with other people works. I can look around for recipes. This is not the case with crises – crisis means that exactly what I have done in the past does not work.

In a crisis, nobody knows exactly what is right and what to do. You have to constantly learn new things. You can even find out what doesn't work.

Do you have an example?

We know, for example, that hugging is wrong, not washing your hands is wrong, having too much contact is wrong. However, we still do not know how to get out of the whole number, which would be correct.

Jogging pants or suit: what the home office does to us

Is there a difference between a crisis that has an individual and one that affects the whole world?

There is no difference in formal logic. But of course it makes a difference that we all swim and no one is on the mainland, so nobody has the solution. And that is probably the first crisis of this kind. We are all in the same boat for the first time.

Is that more comforting or even worrying for the individual?

The medal has two sides. The crisis has the advantages and disadvantages of living through it together. It is a great opportunity to develop a sense of community, support each other and understand it as a globalized community. At the same time, as an individual, I cannot send out an impulse "Please save me, please".

Many are certainly afraid and worried.

First of all, I think it's important to tell them it's okay. If you are worried, it is perfectly appropriate to react with a certain fear. Of course, it shouldn't go so far as to paralyze you. That would be an exaggerated reaction. Anxiety is a feeling that Mother Nature has given us so that we can adapt and react well to the changed circumstances.

What can be symptoms?

Disorientation is certainly a symptom, but you shouldn't get into it right now. It is normal to lie awake for an hour and think about it at times, but it should not become permanent. We should be aware that a lot still works, even in this exceptional situation: the fridge is full, family, friends, relationships remain, the sun is still rising. What really makes life safe is there.

Can worries affect society as much as wars certainly did?

I am optimistic because we have a completely different culture than 70 years ago. For example, people talk about mental health issues today. There is a public discourse on psychological stress.

However, we should be tolerant and forgiving of the whole situation. When questions of guilt are asked, it becomes unforgiving. Crisis also means that mistakes happen and that we only gradually learn and become smarter.


What can someone do who can no longer get out of their thoughts and worries?

It helps to sort things out mentally if you do a tripartite division. It looks like this: First, I think about what the facts are that I am dealing with. I cannot change facts, you have to accept that. Next up is the question of what my problems are. Problems have solutions – otherwise they would be facts. What can I solve with my strength? The last is the question about the crisis: So exactly which of my usual strategies no longer work. It's worth thinking crazy and new. Can my neighbor, whom I didn't know or didn't like before, bring me groceries now? What can I do differently than before.

Another difference for many is that they sit more at home. Can video calls really replace direct social contacts?

We humans are creatures of habit, we have to get used to it now and we can do it very well. We know from other situations that we can change, for example from people who work in isolation for a while in research stations, people who have been in captivity. Relationships are not gone, they are just different. In the past, this was even possible without a telephone or the Internet and only by letter.

What does the home office do to you? What should you consider?

One problem is that there is no longer any structure: when you are what and in what role. I am a worker, father, mother, partner, skat player with friends. I would advise you to create clear times when what is due. Certain locations can help – not getting your laptop out in bed for work. If everything happens at the same time, it can cause stress and make your head mushy.

At the end of 2019, a new disease began to develop in China, the lung disease COVID-19 triggered by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Quarantine measures to contain the virus lead to production downtimes and increasingly serious consequences for the economy and everyday life.

In the home office it can also be difficult for several people to work in one household at the same time. Proximity and distance have to be renegotiated. Who is in which room, when do you have peace from each other. If in doubt, talk about it and see what went well and what didn't.

Typical rituals are initially missing. The way to work by bike, the bun that I get in the canteen every day. This is eliminated and usually helps to structure the head. The task now is to develop new rituals.

Jogging suit or suit?

Sure, it can go so far as to get a little involved. One should counteract this. Day and night should not blur. It is better to get up at the usual times, brush your teeth, drink coffee and so on and then go to work, even if it is just for the laptop. Getting to work is a time buffer that helps you switch from one role to another. You can replace it with a small sports program, help buffer.

What else can help us?

We can accept changes and restrictions particularly well if we see a meaning in them. When I know it makes sense, it's okay when it's stupid. It doesn't help to worry if everything is right. It is the time of trust and experts. It is not even crucial to think that everything is done right immediately, but that decision-makers act to the best of their knowledge and belief and are capable of learning.

How can I help other people who have difficulty sitting at home now?

Having an open ear is always right. Don't have too many tips at hand, accept that someone is not well and accept that. Of course, you should also accept yourself if you feel like it. It is completely normal that we currently have a lot of emotions at the same time and in a row. Concern and dismay when we see pictures of convoys that transport corpses, euphoria because we use the time to start something new that we have been planning for a long time, stress because the work is different than usual.

A tip for readers?

A little exercise – that's good for the immune system and to beat the virus with it, but exercise is also demonstrably good for the mind.

Stefan Junker has parts of his book "Crisis – Brain on" free to download Download put online.


. (tagsToTranslate) Coronavirus (t) home office