Despite being able to clock in whenever and from wherever you would like, research has shown that working from home is linked to an increased risk of poor mental health. The most commonly reported issue that remote workers face are loneliness and isolation, anxiety and stress, and depression. Even the most optimistic, normally productive worker can become sluggish and unmotivated. If you have noticed a change in your mental health now that you work from home, learn to spot the signs of decline before hitting rock bottom.
Psychological Effects of Working from Home
Days and weeks go by and many of us remain stuck at home, detached from our coworkers and the outside world. As one might expect, this can make us feel lonely and isolated, both of which are correlated with higher rates of depression and anxiety, and poor physiological health, like sleep disorders and decrease immune system strength.
In addition to feeling isolated, many are also stressed. Not only has the way we work been flipped on its head, our whole way of life has too. The boundary between work and personal life becomes less clear, leaving people struggling to know when to “turn-off.” Furthermore, the pandemic has placed an immense financial strain on millions of Americans, only adding to the pressure.
Together, these feelings can lead to depression and a feeling of stagnation or compound an existing feeling of melancholy. It is worth noting that depression does not always manifest itself as sadness, it can be irritability, loss of interest, changes in appetite, trouble thinking, restlessness, etc.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health?
- Have a Clear Schedule — Create and maintain a routine and schedule, including breaks and specific tasks. As mentioned earlier, it is challenging to actually stop working. Try to keep a consistent end of day and communicate this to colleagues. Working 24/7 is exhausting and negative for your emotional well-being.
- Create a Designated Workspace: Boundary management extends beyond time, carrying over into physical space. If possible, create a designated place to work that is separate from spaces like bedrooms. This not only minimizes distractions; it also reinforces the difference between work and home.
- Move!: Exercising for just twenty to thirty minutes a day can dramatically lower anxiety levels and boost endorphins. Go for a walk, do yoga, take an exercise class on YouTube, anything active that gets your blood pumping.
- Reach Out to Others: Spending time with your friends, family, and colleagues — whether that be through an informal zoom or a socially distanced date — can help to combat feelings of loneliness and social isolation within yourself and those you are interacting with. Supporting those around you can also help your own mental health: it’s a win-win situation.
It is important to acknowledge that working from home has its benefits: more time with family and pets, no more commute, increased flexibility, etc. As many Americans are out of a job, being able to simply work is a luxury. Use this time to reflect on the positives coming out of this experience, whether that is improved time management skills or a newfound sense of gratitude.