3 tips to help you navigate the mental health impacts of a virtual workplace
The first step in managing influences is being aware of what they are and how they are impacting you.
Let’s start here… how are you feeling about your virtual communication these days?
While we will be unpacking the mental health impacts of the pandemic for years to come, one related area of research looks at the impacts of self-objectification – a process of being seen as an object or evaluating yourself based on appearance. This process might get triggered when walking by a mirror, taking a selfie or otherwise focusing on your appearance.
Self-objectification can create cognitive and emotional loads that impact performance, especially for women who are socialized to care more about their physical appearance. For example, studies show that when women self-objectify, such as when trying on swimsuits, they subsequently perform worse on a math test, are less dialed into their physiological state and speak less in mixed-gender groups. Women with high self-objectivity also report higher levels of anxiety, depression and disordered eating.
So while all of us can benefit from more mindful use of technology, it is especially important for women to pay attention to their virtual communication strategies and routines.
What’s the best way forward for you? Here are a few considerations:
1. Own your opinions.
A sense of agency is critical so start by exercising as much control over your tech usage as possible, such as opting for a phone call if that feels better than a video call. If you lack wiggle room for certain meetings, know that many platforms provide an option to hide your self-view (Zoom instructions here). You might choose this if you’re hitting a wall with virtual communication. Or you might find it helpful to hide your self-view as a helpful bridge while working on your self-concept (if looking for a place to start, check out this self-compassion tool by Dr. Kristin Neff). And the ultimate option you have available? You can always choose your attitude.
Tip: Be intentional in your virtual communication. Creating a habit of automatically hiding your self-view can literally become a type of hiding, resulting in a sense of disempowerment.
2. Mine the upsides.
If you choose to hide your self-view, be aware that it can decrease opportunities to make adaptations to how you are presenting yourself. As unfair as it is, a long line of studies show tangible social and economic benefits of being perceived as attractive or in a positive light. One of the upsides of a video self-view? It can be used as a quick mirror check to increase your sense of control about how you want to present yourself.
Tip: Before turning off your self-view, consider using it as a bestie who would tell you that you have spinach in your teeth!
3. Practice real-time check-ins.
Self-awareness practices can provide useful information about your next wisest step. What feels like too much one day might feel doable or even desirable on another day, depending on the situation and your current mental, physical and emotional capacity. Making it a habit to take a breath and check-in with yourself can provide useful information that you can use to guide what feels like the most empowering choice for you in the moment.
Tip: Create a pre-call routine that supports you in taking your “virtual communications temperature” and responding to your reading in real-time.
Navigating the pandemic landscape – and moving into a time when regular virtual communication is being normalized – is creating new demands in our lives. The key to prevent overwhelm is keeping your resources greater than what you think these new tasks are demanding of you. Importantly, your resources include agency, a sense of control and positive energy.
By practicing self-awareness and mindful energy recovery, you can use these new challenges for growth rather than getting worn down by them. There is no one right answer for all or for every situation.
Feeling a selfie reprieve would be helpful? You can exercise this option with a click of a button.
Choosing to keep your self-view on? What a great opportunity to acknowledge your fabulous self!