The Impact of COVID-19 on the Health of Early Career Computing Professionals

In our second post about how COVID-19 and remote work has affected the mental health of early career professionals, we are focusing on health in general. 32% and 29% of respondents said they experienced positive and negative changes to their health, respectively. Both positive and negative changes include sleep, anxiety, exercise, and stress. While this may seem contradictory, different factors attribute to being positive or negative, and of course, no person reacts the same as another.

Positive Changes:

30% of respondents stated being able to sleep more helped much to their mental health. Whether this extra sleep came from no longer commuting or taking naps more easily, it was definitely beneficial.

Being at home also helped reduce anxiety for 20% of respondents.

“Having greater autonomy across the team has reduced my overall stress.”

Similarly, 16% said they could relax more, attributed to a lack of stressful commute, less pressure of being in the office, flexibility of time, and being at home that is better designed for an individual to relax than a workspace.

Being home has also allowed others to have more time to improve their health via cooking, mentioned by 20%, and exercise, mentioned by 14%. The flexibility of working from home has given others the ability to spend more time cooking healthier meals and fitting in exercise where they otherwise would not have.

Negative Changes:

The negative changes listed by respondents were very similar to the positive changes.

An increase in anxiety or depression was mentioned by 33%. Even for those who did not experience high anxiety or depression before working from home, being isolated from others has affected them. For those who did experience it before,

“Once you spiral into anxiety, there is nobody to get you out of it, sometimes for days.”

24% of respondents stated they have a higher amount of stress that is negatively impacting their mental health.

“I feel like I don’t get enough done, and when I go to my meetings, this stresses me out.”

Uncertainty was attributed to reducing the level of mental health for 14%. Unsure of job stability and the future, especially for contractors, caused these respondents to classify uncertainty as the most significant change affecting their mental health.

With this higher level of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty, it is not surprising that 19% stated they have not been sleeping well. On top of those mental issues, the lack of work-life balance and personal issues have created many sleeping issues.

Facilities closing from quarantine and social distancing caused 10% to say they have been exercising less. Whether a work benefit or a gym the respondent paid for, the inability to go and exercise in a place that had necessary equipment or guided classes was another negative change to mental and physical health.

How COVID-19 is Specifically Affecting Early Career Computing Professionals

Across both the negative and positive impacts on health mentioned by respondents, none are specific to early career computing professionals. The uncertainty of early career professionals for their jobs, especially contractors, and the increase of flexibility working from home could apply in any field, not just computing.

Before moving to more remote work, high levels of burnout were being reported across the computing industry. Stress and anxiety were already so high it was causing workers to feel overburdened. Seeing as our respondents mentioned that their stress and anxiety have been higher since working from home, it is also plausible more burnout has occurred for those in the industry.

Effective strategies from respondents such as: exercise, meditation, and seeking help when needed
Physical and mental health tips from survey respondents.

No Positive Changes or Effective Strategies

We would be remiss to mention that 11% of respondents said they did not have any positive changes to their mental health, and 12% stated they could not find any strategies to combat mental health problems. Some of these answers mentioned previous mental health issues, but a majority only stated they could not help but feel their mental health reclining. Given everything that is going on, it is not surprising this is true. We hope that those readers who feel this way reach out to others for help or review some of the things others mentioned that helped them control their mental health.

Stay tuned and check out our first post to learn more about the results of our survey and how working from home has affected young computing professionals!

Wellness Team, ACM Future of Computing Academy

Jessica Hair, Software Engineer, SmartFile, jessica@hairsquaredsoftware.com

Jaelle Scheuerman, ACM Future of Computing Academy, jaelle@gmail.com

Gürkan Solmaz, Senior Researcher, NEC Laboratories Europe gurkan.solmaz@neclab.eu

Pamela Wisniewski, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, pamwis@ucf.edu

References:

Mayo Clinic: Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Coping with Stress

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Mental Health and Coping during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services and Administration: National Helpline

CheckPoint: Local Websites and Emergency Contact Numbers

Image Credit: “Mental Health when Working From Home” from Shutterstock by Kraphix


The Impact of COVID-19 on the Health of Early Career Computing Professionals was originally published in ACM Future of Computing Academy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.