Working at Home = Urban Cabin Fever?

A few days ago, I was doing some channel surfing on TV when I came across an interesting episode of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel. This is already one of my favorite shows, but I must confess that I have yet to see every episode. Chances are that I was watching a rerun, but it wasn’t an edition that I had watched before.

Aside from being a highly entertaining (and educational) program, this particular episode caught my attention because it hit close to home in an ironic kind of way.

They put Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman in separate cabins for days on end, largely isolated from the rest of the world except for the cameras that were tracking their every move. The show was aiming to see the symptoms of cabin fever and whether they would manifest in the simulated environment. As it turns out, for the most part, they did.

Where it hit a little closer to home for me was the fact that the symptomatology of cabin fever seemed to mimic some of the possible effects of working from home. Let’s go through them one at a time.

Are You Sleeping a Lot?

Given the social isolation that someone would experience by living alone in a wood cabin in the middle of the forest, it’s easy to see that the person can get bored. With this situation, the person may start to feel tired and be drawn over to the bed for a nap or three. Working from home, I’m still connected to the outside world via the Internet, but it is still an isolating experience nonetheless.

Furthermore, not enough sleep can cause a headache, but it’s also true that sleeping too much can bring on the brain pain too. I can attest that I enjoy my sleep and I likely get more hours with my head on the pillow than the average nine-to-five office worker. On the flip side, I tend to be working for most of my waking hours, so I probably put in more work hours too than the average employee too.

Do You Suffer from Forgetfulness?

They say that one of the symptoms of cabin fever is forgetfulness. Jamie and Adam started to perform more poorly on memory tests as their little experiment wore on, possibly because the social isolation scattered their brains. Humans are naturally social animals; it seems like interacting with other people helps to improve many of our skills and abilities.

For the work-at-home entrepreneur, I’m not sure if a similar effect can be observed. I’ve always had a somewhat contradictory memory, being able to memorize credit card and library card numbers without too much trouble, but not being able to remember to complete a menial task upon occasion. That’s why I tend to use redundant to-do lists, writing everything down for future reference.

Are You More Irritable?

Going back to the fact that humans are naturally social animals, irritability may be another common symptom of cabin fever. It may be more difficult to put on a happy face, because you would have been alone with your thoughts for far too long. Working from home, irritability can rear its ugly head into your personal relationships. It’s important not to lash out on loved ones as a result; instead, channel your anger into something more productive.

Do You Have the Angry Eyes?

This is perhaps one of the strangest symptoms of cabin fever. A little difficult to explain in words, “angry eyes” are when the person seems to stare blankly into space but with a mild scowl. They’ll furrow their brow and express a mild anger toward nothing in particular. I don’t think I suffer from this condition, but I have been told that I tend to look “too serious” at times. Perhaps I have a milder version?

So, all you work-from-home people out there, do you find that you display these four symptoms of cabin fever? Is working at home the urban (or even surburban or rural as the case may be) version of cabin fever?