Over the course of my 20’s (and I’m still in them), I’ve experimented with various work environments. First there were the post-graduate internships in the city — the standard office scene (though one office exuded a slight ‘hipster’ vibe, where employees trailed in from Brooklyn on their bikes). And then I focused on freelance writing, which I did relish in for a while there; I liked the freedom to be able to take my laptop wherever I wished, or the flexible schedule where I could take short walking breaks outside if need be.
However, since steady income from writing was hard to come by, I searched for other settings. There were a couple of brief stints in food service that were not quite my forte (yikes with being on my feet for ten hours), but ultimately, I set my sights on a traditional office setting.
Now as much I reveled in sitting at a desk with a chair (instead of being in the physical throes of a restaurant), what I didn’t exactly prepare for was the environment of this particular office. Without giving too much personal information away, let’s just say this work environment featured an abundance of down time where I was left completely alone for hours on end. And many would surmise that being left alone without specific tasks on hand (for several hours) is ideal and wonderful and freeing. I’ve gotten the whole “Hey, Lauren, you’re getting paid to do nothing” wrap on multiple occasions. But honestly? I’d rather not be the only soul in sight without anything to do except think. (Not that I desire to be absorbed in overworked stress either; I’m more of a middle ground kind of gal.)
The utter quiet — complete solitude — is a platform; a platform to perpetuate overthinking or any form of discomfort I may have felt prior. In the silence, without consistent productivity, there’s ample time to dwell on anything that may have previously been bothering me. Being truly alone (without the ability to bring my computer to a coffee shop or take short walks outside, and without a general flow of work), only continues to fuel these mindsets. In essence, being alone tended to exacerbate X,Y, or Z, rather than quickly diminish its root.
Needless to say, this position was not going to carry on forever in the slightest; however, there are two ways to cope with this type of work environment (and it’s what I’ve had to hone in on before it was my time to officially leave).
Keep Busy with Personal Tasks
For the quiet down time, I did my best to bring in a hard-to-put-down novel (though, nothing too depressing), phone a friend who I’ve been meaning to catch up with, or brainstorm writing ideas (lately, I’ve been experimenting more with short poetry). It was important for me to stay occupied and feel a sense of productivity.
I try to remind myself that by keeping busy with personal tasks attention can be redirected, helping get me out of my head and foster additional clarity.
Utilize the Internet as a Tool
Whether it’s casually surfing the web, connecting with others on social media platforms, or even perusing useful sites (I need to step up my cooking game and have been starting to generate ideas from Pinterest, although there are tons of recipes on other sites), it’s sometimes beneficial to have an outlet to clear the mind and re-group. I was reminded that access to the Internet is significant, and there’s no shortage of possibilities when it comes to searching and learning online.
It’s safe to suffice that my scenario was truly not the best one for me, and it shined a light on the significance of work environments and how they can impact your mental health. Certain settings can create stress or propel it along, and while there are mechanisms to cope with such circumstances, I personally advocate for self-care and finding that quintessential fit.