Why Working from Home Makes Us Paranoid

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If you're a remote worker, you probably think you should be used to it by now. After all, plenty of offices and workplaces have been off-limits to employees since March of 2020. You've got a handle on Zoom etiquette and home offices and all kinds of previously inconceivable norms.

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Except. Except you can't help wondering if your coworker really got it when you typed that joke into Slack, and what if the flat tone of text actually made it seem like you said something really inappropriate or demeaning instead? These kinds of thoughts can paralyze us, as a recent ​New York Times​ piece aptly illustrates. We worry about whether people are judging our surroundings, or if we've been left out of an email chain intentionally, or even if we're in trouble or about to be let go.

The reason we're starving for more context from our remote work interactions is down to organizational paranoia (yes, it's really called that). As humans, we rely on all kinds of social cues to inform our own behavior in groups, from tone of voice to the general atmosphere of a common space. Sometimes, that paranoia is prudent — something really is up or off or weird.

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While in general, remote workers don't want to go back to the office (at least not full-time), we can do more to assuage our isolation and hypervigilance. "The onus is on employers to bridge the communication gaps left by our new remote reality," as one expert told the ​Times.​ If you're missing serendipity and just plain office bonding, there are ways around that too.

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