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

In our third post about how COVID-19 and remote work has affected the mental health of early career professionals, we are focusing on changes in a respondent’s personal life that affected their mental health. Positively, with 27% of answers, loved ones, extra free time, and additional learning helped. On the other side, 34% of respondents mentioned a lack of social interaction, quarantine, and family as negatively affecting them.

Positive Changes

48% of respondents stated that working from home allowed them to spend more time or talk with their loved ones, making their mental health better. This extra time has not only led to getting more support from friends and family members, but also creating closer friendships and family bonds than perhaps there was before.

The flexibility that working from home offers was helpful for 39% of respondents. One stated:

“Being able to take time for myself during the day to arrange for appointments, get deliveries, take naps, etc. has been very helpful.”

Tasks that would generally have to wait until the end of the workday can now be performed more efficiently, allowing people to feel more productive and give more time to relax after work.

Another benefit that working from home has given has been the ability to learn more from resources. Whether it is the extra time that would normally be used for commuting or the availability of online resources offered at discounted rates during this time, our respondents felt it helped their mental wellbeing.

Negative Changes

Being stuck at home working caused lots of personal issues to impact mental health negatively. 24% stated that they were negatively affected by the lack of social interaction when working from home. Respondents mentioned either they experienced increased loneliness or wishing that they could have more face-to-face interactions instead of screen-to-screen interactions. For humans, very social creatures, it is not surprising that this had such a significant impact on mental health.

Similarly, the act of quarantining caused others mental strife.

“It’s mostly being stuck alone in my apartment. I went stir crazy for the first few weeks, and it was seriously affecting my mood.”

Quarantining with or without family also caused some respondents to report negative changes to their mental health. Not being able to see family or be with them during hard times, along with family issues coming to the forefront or kids interrupting work hours all were mentioned by our respondents.

How COVID-19 is Specifically Affecting Early Career Computing Professionals

For those just entering the workforce, communication and making connections with colleagues is very important for both professional and personal growth. Working from home has made these interactions much harder, and thus has affected early career professionals. Those respondents who identified themselves as more outgoing especially felt the lack of interactions affecting their mental health more than others.

On the positive side, respondents have found much more time to focus on personal projects and learning. In a field where keeping up the current trends in computing and learning new languages or tools is very important, having this extra time is very beneficial. Working from home and the lack of commute has allowed more time for these activities, whether before or after their regular work day.

Effective strategies from respondents such as: new hobbies, routines, plans, acceptance, reach out to others, reduce media.
Personal life and mental health tips from survey respondents.

Conclusion

We are very grateful for everyone who completed our survey and helped us gather honest information about what they are experiencing while working from home. Understanding what helps and hurts mental health can be incredibly helpful to creating an environment where workers, colleagues, family members, and friends can work together to help each other. Using the effective strategies mentioned, we hope that those who are struggling can learn and hopefully find a successful strategy for themselves.

Stay tuned 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

Image Credit: “Quarantine, stay at home concept series” from Shutterstock by Marish


The Impact of COVID-19 on the Personal Lives 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.