Working from home has pushed me out of my comfort zone

The author Claire Norman

Claire Norman has never felt comfortable using the telephone at work, instead favouring face-to-face communication. Here she writes about coping with having to make more calls now she's working from home and how it's affecting her mental health.

I only really started making and answering phone calls to my friends when I was 25, which was 3 years ago. Before then, I avoided them like the plague; I’d text and email to my heart’s content.

However, in the workplace it was worse. I imagine that, due to my fears of being perceived as inadequate at work, I have never been comfortable making or answering phone calls in any job. No matter how much I liked the job and the people I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone. As well as my rational fears, it seemed that I also had a phobia of phone-shaped pieces of plastic.

If I had to communicate with someone I always preferred to do it face to face. The physical effects of having a stammer made it evident to the person with whom I was talking that I had one, as opposed to phone calls, where they might assume that there's a bad signal or that I've hung up.

The lack of human interaction and blatant physical signs of me stammering made me apprehensive about this new way of working.

So, when Covid-19 took over and forced us to work from home, among other perks such as the lack of commuting, I was thrilled at the thought of not having to be next to a telephone. However, the lack of human interaction and blatant physical signs of me stammering made me apprehensive about this new way of working.

I’m sure other people who stammer have the same experience, in that my stammer comes and goes in waves. Some days or weeks it’s prominent, in others it’s barely noticeable. I was interested to see how my stammer would manifest itself during social distancing and self-isolation.

Keeping my voice active

I’ve been working from home for over 6 weeks now. Despite the negative impact on my mental health from not being able to be around my friends and family in person, this new way of working has done wonders for my confidence and my speech. Whether it is using the phone or video conferencing tools, I do a minimum of two calls per day, and have done since I started working from home.

Yes, I stammer sometimes.
No, it doesn’t matter.

Whilst practice may not make perfect, the frequent nature of these calls is keeping my voice active. But the fact that at the start of this change I didn’t have a choice in the matter has pushed me out of my comfort zone so much more often than I would dare to do if I were still working in an office. Now I find myself occasionally volunteering to discuss things over video calls as opposed to emailing. I scare myself sometimes…

Now I find myself occasionally volunteering to discuss things over video calls as opposed to emailing. I scare myself sometimes…

As for my friends and family, I video call them weekly. It’s what keeps me sane. Although my mental health is deteriorating during this time, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t call them or see their faces on a screen. I’m over the moon, however, that for a change it isn’t my stammer that is the cause of my current low mood and high anxiety levels! I stammer on some calls to friends and family too, yet I don’t on others. Do I care? No. Would I have done as many calls voluntarily a few months ago? Absolutely not. Not even one.

My views on verbal communication have shifted over the last few weeks, especially as I know that it might be a long-term measure. I’ve very much been channelling the following mantra since I’ve been working from home, and it is helping me beyond belief:

"Paralyse resistance with persistence." (Woody Hayes)

If you are struggling with feelings of isolation and would like to chat with a friendly voice, our helpline is here for you. Or if you want to practise making telephone calls, give us a call. Phone  free on 0808 802 0002 weekdays 10am-12noon or 6pm-8pm.

We've also got some tips on using the telephone on our Everyday Tips page. Our Online page lists stammering groups and forums available on the net.

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