I work from home in a job I hate. I cry every morning – The Guardian - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

I work from home in a job I hate. I cry every morning – The Guardian

The dilemma My husband was furloughed in April. Since then he’s been enjoying his freedom, doing DIY, etc. I hear him tell people what a great time he’s having – which I should be pleased about as he used to work long hours – but it’s very different for me. I work from home in a job I hate. I have no office, so I work at the kitchen table or in the living room. I am constantly disturbed by him or our children. What doesn’t help is that I started my role last year and have slowly come to the realisation that it’s not right for me. However, now is not the time to start looking for other work. I find it really hard not to be resentful of my husband, while I struggle like this. I get up each morning and cry. I feel utterly miserable.

I am talking to my HR department about reducing my hours, but with my husband on furloughed pay we have seen a reduction in our income. I’m not sure what else I can do. Weekends are ruined because I obsess about Monday, and taking days off seems wasted as it delays the inevitable start back at work.

Mariella replies That’s all very stressful. Feeling like the walls are closing in on you still seems to be a nationwide condition, even as lockdown eases. This is no time to ignore your mental health: if it all feels too much, you need to speak to someone who can help. You could contact your GP or the charity Mind. Many people, like your husband, have found themselves in the position of being paid, albeit at a reduced rate, not to work, and this has offered some degree of respite from larger worries. But there’s still the terrific strain of not knowing what the future holds and, as is becoming increasingly apparent, furloughing employees has in many cases become a delayed route to redundancy. I’m sure that, despite your husband’s cheery demeanour, he will also be hiding a huge degree of underlying worry.

Good for him that he’s putting his best foot forward and trying to enjoy this interlude, but that’s not to minimise your own strife. Plenty are enjoying the break from the daily commute, but I’m not convinced there’s been similar respite for those whose job already takes place at the kitchen table.

As I write to you, I’m typing to the tune of my son’s cries of, “Oh my God, die!” as he pulverises some other player via his Xbox. I know only too well the struggle to make space for yourself and your work when the house is full.

While we can commiserate with each other about what a difficult time this is, I think you’re being hard on yourself in terms of what you should expect to be feeling. It’s a huge challenge to be stuck at home with your family, instead of breathing a sigh of relief when they walk out the door at the start of the day. Whether you like or loathe your job, the opportunity to escape the distractions of domestic life is one of the bonuses of the workplace. Flexibility is vaunted as the great benefit of working from home, but if your space is shared or confined, the “opportunity” to work from where you live isn’t necessarily a treat. It’s also no coincidence that the majority trying to do so are women, juggling two jobs like the circus performers we are now required to be.

You’re right, though, that these are not good times to treat paid employment with disdain. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look to make changes. When the going gets tough, sometimes it’s easier to take risks and respond to challenges, simply because there is less to lose. Whatever the issues with your current career, it needs a reboot, if not a total transformation. The best way of achieving that is to first address your present siege mentality. When you’re feeling low is not the time to make big decisions. It’s hard to make rational choices when the pressure is piled on, so take stock patiently, mindful of the onerous circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Small steps might be the most helpful way of blowing oxygen into your existence. First would be to ringfence your working space and your weekends. Designate a room in the house for a period of time, interruption-free, every day. Treating what you have to do as a priority is sometimes all it takes to get others to see it as such. As for your weekends, you know as well as I that spending them worrying about returning to work on Monday is simply not rational. Why not join your cheerful spouse in some of his displacement activities, or find your own? I never thought I’d be pulling weeds from my flowerbed with gay abandon, but welcome to the world of lockdown! The weekend is there for we workers to restore our equilibrium and get some rest.

The world, the job and all the challenges this period has created can be tolerated so long as you keep calm, care for yourself and carry on. Maybe, in time, you’ll decide a total career change is in order – and there is going to be a whole different range of possibilities in this shape-shifting world. For now, some gentle fine-tuning and the knowledge that you are far from alone will hopefully serve to improve your state of mind.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to mariella.frostrup@observer.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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