Updated on August 27, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Entering into the second year of the COVID-19 health emergency, emotional fatigue is a familiar feeling for some. Americans are increasingly having symptoms of depression or anxiety. Particularly professionals working from home.
For some people who have been successfully telecommuting (working from home), the change may have been minimal. But for individuals who have never worked from home before, and people with children being homeschooled? The adaptation to ‘the new normal’ has been difficult and stressful.
Before the pandemic, few people would feel the need to ‘self-medicate’ and use cannabis during working hours. But with as many as 41% of the American workforce remotely employed and isolated, that may be changing.
Are Americans consuming medical or adult-use cannabis during the workday, to cope with growing pandemic-related stressors? And if they are, is it having a beneficial or detrimental impact on their work performance and mental health?
Are Introverts Coping Better with Social Distanced Work Stress?
We have seen examples in the media of how challenging it can be to work from home. Particularly if you have a young family with children in the house. Examples of kids photobombing a Zoom meeting? Or someone’s cat walking right across the screen during an important video call?
Dogs barking and other distractions have become understood with empathy. Everyone is doing the best they can to continue on with life and work ‘as normal’. Or as close to normal as possible, with limitations and precautions, and concerns about health and safety.
Neither introverted personalities nor extroverted types are immune to the impact of social isolation. In fact, the research study suggested that people who are introverted may be at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders like depression.
It matters less according to clinical studies what type of personality you are. What may protect some people from developing mental health problems is stress coping skills. The ability to process stressors in a calm and methodical way. But as the pandemic stretches on, it’s becoming harder too, for people who normally cope well with stress.
The Disconnect is Getting to American Employees Who Are Working from Home
The clinical studies that are being conducted and published in 2021, provide more accurate insights. Data from 2020 assumed that the pandemic would be resolved by now. As we head toward year two of the COVID-19 health emergency, there is more information about how Americans are really coping with the pandemic.
Dr. Robinson is a psychotherapist in North Carolina, and discusses some interesting findings of the mental state of people who are currently working from home:
People who worked in the office (not remotely) were three times more likely to report that company culture had become worse during the pandemic.
92% of workers in one survey said that company culture had remained the same or improved during the pandemic. They were workers who were already used to WFH before the coronavirus.
1 in 4 respondents said they felt less connected to co-workers and over 30% said they felt disconnected from their supervisors and managers.
56% of respondents felt that the pandemic had significantly strained relationships with their coworkers.
43% of people who were not remote workers before the pandemic, indicated that they are not interacting with coworkers as often.
Some companies offset the isolation for employees by hosting virtual socializing events. But less than 32% of employees surveyed said their company provided the ‘virtual coffee chat’ events.
Anxiety Levels Among American Adults Working from Home is Increasing
In December of 2020, the US Census Bureau released the results of a mental health survey. The report stated that more than 42% of people reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. That was an increase of 11% compared to December 2019.
One of the concerns is that symptoms of mental health strain are unlikely to go away soon. Even after the pandemic resolves, healthcare experts warn that it could be several years before people feel safe once more.
Why Some Employers Are Offering “Weed Breaks” at Work
If you work for a progressive company, and you live in a state that has legalized recreational cannabis, it could be a new job perk. As we move through the restrictive views about cannabis during the workday, some employers are offering it as part of their company culture.
Businesses are not providing cannabis to employees. Or encouraging cannabis use. But with the understanding that as many as 70% of your employees could regularly use marijuana, it is more like acceptance. Instead of fighting any cannabis in the workplace, some businesses are creating guidelines and safety policies instead. And allowing employees to use cannabis at break times.
Smoking cannabis isn’t what an employer would encourage either. For a variety of reasons including health and safety laws. Many strains of Sativa offer mood and energy boosts that could contribute to a more productive workday. And improve not only the employee’s mood but their productivity as well.
For example, if the employee was struggling with stress and anxiety? A cannabis beverage, tincture (drops), or edible might help them focus better. If the employee has chronic pain, some cannabis could help lower the pain level so that they can function better. Sativa strains can also provide an energy boost, to help people with fatigue.
Would employers see fewer “mental health days” if they changed their policy on cannabis during the workday? It would be interesting to see if cannabis-friendly work policies impact employee retention, higher productivity, and lower absenteeism.