1. Did the COVID 19 social distancing measures, in your experience, worsen the mental health and is there an increase in social anxiety because of these measures?
Individuals faced with social anxiety in the pre-pandemic period certainly experienced stagnation during this pandemic period in their ability to practice techniques that help manage social anxiety and coping. The stagnation itself probably contributed to the return of the symptoms of social anxiety in these cases. Also, a drop in self-confidence and the inability to practice communication skills due to the quarantine period, especially among young people, could have contributed to the appearance of signs of social anxiety. However, important information is that these periods and symptoms can be reduced by returning to the routine and continuing to work on yourself. Observing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people's mental well-being, I believe that it is important to see and become aware of the impact of the pandemic from several perspectives, because in the coming period we will certainly reduce the consequences of the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were exposed to various traumatic events, whether they happened to them or they followed them through the media. Overall exposure to traumatic and stressful events has certainly left consequences on mental well-being. Calling this stress a catastrophic event for humanity is not really a hyperbole. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental well-being can be observed through several key phases that humanity has gone through during this period.
The first impact of COVID-19 on mental well-being is the unexpected arrival of a virus that has ravaged and closed cities, bringing fear and causing acute stress reactions.
Staying in quarantine is another of the effects that have left a mark on mental health. Although quarantine is necessary to fight a pandemic, a sudden change in routine and a sense of loss of freedom can lead to feelings of helplessness, boredom, anxiety, irritability, and anger. What is good and optimistic is that the described reactions can be a situational adaptation of an individual to a new reality, not necessarily a pathological phenomenon and a long-term consequence.
Another effect of the COVID-19 virus on mental health is related to the fear suffered by individuals who were infected by COVID-19 especially with the more severe clinical picture and were hospitalized and exposed to intense fear for their own lives. Finally, economic losses, unemployment, insecurity, and increased social inequality generate acute stress that is likely to translate into chronic stress for much of the population, which also increases the risk of declining mental well-being. At the same time, the impact of this decline in mental well-being on economic conditions in the country and the world at large should not be underestimated.
In this time of calming the pandemic, it is very important to monitor our mental well-being. The best indicator of emotional health is maintaining daily functionality, despite a routine that is new to many and still unstructured. If we notice that the emotional state is not good and that there are losses in everyday functionality that are reflected in the appearance of problems in various aspects of life, such as family or profession, it is time to seek professional help.
2. How much does community and socializing mean in these times?
Social support involves sharing psychological and material resources with others and it is crucial for mental health. According to models that talk about stress relief, social support can reduce the psychological effects of negative life events on the mental health of individuals. However, as in everything, recent research in this direction shows that one should be moderate in everything. Excessive social support can lead to an easier loss of an individual's ability to adapt, so it is important to maintain moderation by relying on social support. Social support in terms of socializing, sharing experiences, and creating comfort is certainly the most desirable part of the support we are talking about.
The importance of community and socializing during the COVID-19 pandemic can also be observed through different life contexts. At first, glance, working from home and staying in its silence sounded ideal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many were given the opportunity to test this belief in practice. For those who travel a long way to the business premises, working from home and staying at home is a great relief, allowing people to spend more hours with their family and friends, which makes them happier. In addition, many seem to like a sense of autonomy and confidence in doing work, and fewer social contacts, however, for many this part of the responsibility makes it difficult for them to separate from business activities and allow themselves to relax.
Working from home and long-term social isolation can be difficult for some, especially in jobs that require focus, concentration, meeting deadlines, and a lot of business contacts. In such cases, difficulties are visible in the slightest proportion through overtime and additional fatigue. Furthermore, other problems such as distractions during work by household members, the presence of light noise in the house, or even the lack of adequate furniture for work can contribute to difficult work from home. We have heard and seen these adversities many times and we know how much they can contribute to the deterioration of mental well-being.
3. How much could coworking in that context be helpful?
Coworking can play a big role in boosting mental well-being especially for those working in smaller companies or doing freelance jobs. Many of them experienced a drop in productivity working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic especially during the quarantine period even though we all seemed to be working longer and harder. Going to a coworking space in this sense could be a nice break from working from home precisely because of the possibility of networking and the experience of belonging to the community which will create a sense of security and comfort. A working atmosphere with good ergonomic conditions will help increase productivity and will contribute to the desired feeling of achievement and peace when the business day is over.
4. What are the advantages of coworking spaces when it comes to mental health vs. a traditional office or work from home?
There are a number of already researched and proven benefits of coworking spaces. Not only are these spaces great for networking and business growth, but they can also improve mental well-being in the workplace, resulting in increased productivity and reduced stress all of which can ultimately contribute to business success.
Working from home provides countless distractions, from tempting television programming to light household chores, resulting in low levels of productivity. However, working from a coworking space reduces the number of distractions and increases your productivity, resulting in more tasks being done and a reduction in stress and anxiety levels. In addition, many who work from home have a challenge in establishing working hours, which results in a poor work-life balance and a decline in mental well-being ultimately. However, working from a coworking space provides an opportunity to establish a work rhythm after which a handful of enjoyable activities can be planned to help lift your mood and reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Coworking gives you the autonomy to shape your workday without any additional hassles that come when everyone is in the same place at the same time. In addition, the ability to avoid certain associates or distractions can be helpful, because even if it’s someone we personally like, he or she may not be the most productive person around us. Coworking can also increase employee autonomy and independence, and in the aftermath of a reduction in the COVID-19 pandemic, return-to-work policies of companies with a traditional way of working and safety measures can cause stress to employees, which is certainly facilitated in coworking spaces, where occupational safety guidelines are part of a basic business policy tailored to the needs of the individual rather than the collective and very easy to follow.
A productive work atmosphere that is carefully nurtured in coworking spaces contributes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, which in the long run results in increased work productivity and in turn brings reduced levels of stress at work and improved mental well-being.
5. I read in one research that the relaxed atmosphere in coworking spaces is influenced by the fact that people who work there are from various companies, professions, so there is no need to develop a business persona, no need for competition, and so on. Are these some of the logical explanations why the atmosphere in coworking spaces is more pleasant or are there some other?
Yes, of course, they are. Freelancers, who are self-employed or are working in smaller companies that are geographically dislocated can also very often feel lonely because it can take weeks without a productive conversation about business activities with another person, which can ultimately result in increased feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. In addition, when an individual works alone, he/she will easily fall under stress due to the slightest problems, especially if there is no one to talk to about it.
However, coworking spaces can help reduce these feelings of loneliness, thus reducing the negative impact on their mental health. Coworking spaces are filled with individuals who share similar work values and challenges, meaning it is possible to make friendships with their coworking colleagues (someone is always ready to chat in the kitchen), making their workday much less lonely. A productive work atmosphere will help establish a healthy balance between business and private life, especially for individuals who are challenged in everyday life and provide a place for short five-minute breaks in a relaxing environment that coworking spaces have for those individuals who do not have self-care habits and for whom planning is not a strength. These measures will in the long run result in increased labor productivity and bring reduced levels of stress at work.