Bubble Worker Syndrome: What It Is and How to Deal With It

Faced with the impossibility of disconnecting from the workplace, the bubble worker syndrome creates conditions conducive to stress, anxiety, and depression. Discover some strategies to cope with it here.
Bubble Worker Syndrome: What It Is and How to Deal With It
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 31 August, 2023

We’ve all heard it: “Home, office, bedroom, and work: Where does the day begin and end?” This phrase refers to (and denounces) the undifferentiated times we live in with their activities that merge in a space that was previously limited to certain functions. This is how the bubble worker syndrome arises. A bubble worker is a worker who can’t mark a boundary between his or her private and work life – it’s a person who is connected with his or her job at all times.

Of course, this situation may have its benefits, but it’s not without consequences, either, particularly in terms of health. Let’s take a look at what it is and what strategies we can implement to find a balance.

What is bubble worker syndrome?

Bubble worker syndrome refers to the difficulty employees have in disconnecting from their work obligations.

While it’s not a new phenomenon, it has been heightened by the pandemic. Telecommuting and the merging or blurring of boundaries between the offline and online worlds provide the conditions for this situation to be sustained. Some of the signs that evidence the bubble worker syndrome are as follows:

  • Loss of interest in everything that isn’t work.
  • Obsessive dependence or monitoring of one’s cell phone, email, and notifications.
  • Excessive use of technology and the internet. The person may experience intense discomfort when apps crash or wifi is disconnected.
  • Sleep and appetite disturbances.
  • Mood disturbances like stress, anxiety, nervousness.
  • Impoverishment in conversation topics since everything starts and ends at work.
phone addiction and Bubble worker syndrome
The person in the work bubble checks the cell phone continuously out of fear of missing work notifications.

How to deal with the bubble worker syndrome

From the symptoms outlined above, it’s to be expected that there are consequences in all spheres of life. We’re talking not only about lower performance and creativity at work, since we never rest, but also about interference in self-care and social relationships.

Of course, daily stress can also lead to problems of greater complexity, such as depression and anxiety disorders. Therefore, here are some recommendations to keep in mind to deal with the bubble worker syndrome.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: 10 Negative Effects of Stress on Your Health To Keep in Mind

Draw up a limited list of tasks

List the obligations to be performed during the day. In this way, it will help you to have a clear picture of what you really have to solve, prioritizing its importance and avoiding working more than you should.

Set aside some time for physical activity

If you find it hard to commit yourself or you usually abandon it, try to practice it with someone else. This way, it will be more difficult to cancel the plan or make excuses.

Get out of the house

You may not be very interested in going out, but this is a way to avoid the temptation of being in front of the computer. It’s also good to do activities without taking your mobile device with you. For example, go for a walk in the park and leave your cell phone at home.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Work Stress Associated with Risk of Heart Attack

Choose moments of pause during your workday

You can use them to stretch your body, to listen to a song, to close your eyes and breathe. Identify what makes you feel good and take a few minutes to do it.

Exercise the power of “no

“No” needs to happen both with yourself and with other people. Even if you’re passionate about your work, you must also be able to set boundaries with it.

It’s not necessary to solve everything today; neither is it wrong to leave an email unanswered until the morning. Also, it’s a good idea to indicate the hours you’re available and respect them.

Pay attention to your work environment

This promotes a more positive atmosphere if you are the leader. Taking care of your co-workers is also a way of taking care of yourself.

If everyone keeps an obsessive pace without breaks, stress will increase. That’s why, even if they work remotely, it’s important to provide spaces for informal socializing, to take time to make jokes, and to have some catharsis at work.

Bubble worker syndrome
The lack of a fixed schedule in this syndrome alters the person’s sleep and mood.

The challenge of finding balance

Life is like a juggling game: to keep it going and win it, we must try to keep all the colored balls in balance, without giving more attention to one than to another. This metaphor helps us to think about the different spaces in which our activities take place. Work and professional development, relationships, self-care and health, friendships, relationships…

Whenever we put too much emphasis on one of these balls, we neglect the others and run the risk of them falling. Sometimes they do fall and, although they don’t break, this leave marks.

That’s why we should try to set aside time and space for each of the things, activities and people that interest us. Take care of them, enjoy them, and connect with them. We must not confuse the part with the whole. We must understand that, although work is a significant part of our lives, it’s not our whole life.

Finally, as a society, we also have some major roles that need changing. We must stop rewarding 24/7 availability, 365 days a year.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Osorio, J. E., & Cárdenas Niño, L. (2017). Estrés laboral: estudio de revisión. Diversitas: perspectivas en psicología13(1), 81-90.
  • Silla, J. M. P. (2001). El estrés laboral: una perspectiva individual y colectiva. Prevención, trabajo y salud: Revista del Instituto Nacional de Seguridad e Higiene en el trabajo,(13)18, 38.
  • Jacobs, S., Johnson, C. & Hassell, K. (2018). Managing workplace stress in community pharmacy
    organisations: lessons from a review of the wider stress management and prevention literature. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice. 26, pp28-38

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.