From Corner Office To Working From Home
Approaching the 2-year mark of the pandemic’s beginning, the once uniform look of in-person work-life has transformed into a mushy hybrid of remote, at-home, and in-person work. Catching up with a co-worker at the water cooler has shifted into a flurry of Slack messages and never-ending Zoom meetings, which makes many feel overwhelmed and understimulated. Working in a changing environment can lead to worry, stress, uncertainty, and loneliness, which can harm our mental health. Additionally, studies have revealed mixed results between the positive benefits and adverse health consequences of working from home.
Needless to say, transitioning to working from home is a significant disruption of routine, which, to be honest, is never enjoyable. This disruption can lead to an increase of loneliness, anxiety, or depression. However, there are tangible things that you can do to regulate your day-to-day to avoid the doom and gloom of monotonous work.
The Psychological Impacts Of Working From Home
According to a 2021 survey run by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), most individuals who work from home reported negative impacts on their mental health. Due to the watered-down boundaries between work and home spaces, many found difficulty turning off their laptops and their minds at the end of the day. A couple more minutes wrapping up an assignment turns into countless hours that bleed into the night. According to recent studies, the feeling of “never being able to leave the office” led to 82% of remote workers reporting feelings of burnout, stress, and increased pressure.
Additionally, remote work eliminates day-to-day interactions with colleagues like discussing weekend plans, work frustrations, and swapping stories. This camaraderie doesn’t translate as well over web interfaces, and some find that they spend hours or days without speaking to others. This disconnectivity from your co-workers and the rest of the world may make you feel lonely and isolated. Loneliness is associated with higher depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms like random pain.
Multiple surveys concluded that the physical and mental health impacts of working from home vary considerably. This variability can be based on factors like childcare and the demands of home, level of support from employers, and extent of social connections outside of work.
Benefits Of WFH Life
While studies highlight some adverse consequences that have surfaced from remote work, there are some highlights for employees with a home base. These benefits include:
- Less commute stress
- Increased time flexibility
- Location independence
- Customizable office
- Less exposure to illness
- Greater productivity
Tips To Improve Your Mental Health While Working From Home
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health, but sometimes mental wellness is not viewed as such. Managing and checking up on your brain can be difficult, but there are some activities that you can do to help keep your brain a happy camper amidst all the changes and uncertainty of this time.
Establish A Routine
Keep to a routine with a clear start and finish time in a designated workspace. While it is tempting to work from the couch or bed, having a designated area to focus on work can help separate your work and home space. On the same note, getting dressed for the day the same way you would if you were going into the office can help boost productivity. Take some time to hop in the shower, put on your favorite outfit, and put your best foot forward for the day.
Moreso, give yourself regular breaks. It can be tempting to chug straight through hours of work, but your eyes and body will thank you if you get up and do a little wiggle.
Move That Body
Beyond giving your body the occasional wiggle, implementing stretching, walking, dancing, bike riding, whatever you fancy, into your day can help recenter your mental and physical health. Exercising daily for 20 to 30 minutes can significantly lower anxiety levels and boost endorphins and serotonin. As someone constantly staring at a computer screen, going on a daily walk allows me to calm my anxieties, rest my eyes, and appreciate the beauty of nature. Studies have also linked outdoor walks with lower blood pressure and stress hormones.
Work With Other People
This tip may sound strange in the context of remote work, but there are options for those who would like to work around others. For those who miss the white noise of collective pecking at keyboards and muffled conversation, venturing out to a local coffee shop, library, or co-working space can help mimic a similar environment. If you cannot venture out into society, countless videos on YouTube are available as background noise fillers. These videos can add some much-needed ambiance to the quietness that can exist from working at home.
Connect With Others
To help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, maintain communication with your friends, family, co-workers, and loved ones. When feelings begin to build up or anxieties arise, your chosen support group will know just the things to say to bring you back down to Earth. Or, they can offer a listening ear. At times, that is enough. Carving out time during your week to catch up with your loved ones can help melt away the isolation that remote work can often facilitate.
Ask For Help
While reaching out to loved ones can help immensely with mental health, that is not always an option for individuals, and that’s okay. Additionally, if an individual is experiencing a severe decline in mental health, like increased rates of depression or anxiety, they should consider professional help. Many organizations have free mental health services, and some workplaces have even increased their resources available to employees since the pandemic.
While it feels that the world is changing day by day, there is one thing that we can all count on: ourselves. This is not to imply that we have to be okay at any given moment or that we are always in control, it simply means that we have the ability to reach out to others when we need additional help. We have tools to help regulate our mental health, but that is not always enough. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, contact a treatment provider today.
Carmen McCrackin earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Auburn and has over 3 years of professional writing experience. Her passion for writing and educating others led her to a career in journalism with a focus on mental health and social justice topics. Her main mission is to be a platform for all voices and stories, and to provide tangible resources to those seeking recovery for themselves or loved ones.
- More from Carmen McCrackin
- American Psychiatric Association. (2021). As Americans Begin to Return to the Office, Views on Workplace Mental Health Are Mixed. Retrieved on January 18, 2022 from: https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/as-americans-begin-to-return-to-the-office-views-on-workplace-mental-health-are-mixed
- New York Times. (2016). Telecommuting Can Make the Office a Lonely Place, a Study Says. Retrieved on January 19, 2022 from: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/business/telecommuting-can-make-the-office-a-lonely-place-a-study-says.html
- New York Times. (2020). What if You Don’t Want to Go Back to the Office? Retrieved on January 18, 2022 from: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/05/business/pandemic-work-from-home-coronavirus.html
- Forbes. (2021). Remote Workers Report Negative Mental Health Impacts, New Study Finds. Retrieved on January 18, 2022 from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2021/10/15/remote-workers-report-negative-mental-health-impacts-new-study-finds/?sh=32bbb98274b8
- New York Times. (2021). The Worst of Both Worlds: Zooming From the Office. Retrieved on January 18, 2022 from: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/16/business/return-to-office-hybrid-work.html?action=click&pgtype=Article&state=default&module=styln-workplace-culture&variant=show®ion=BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT&block=storyline_flex_guide_recirc
- USA Today. (2021). Lonely and stressed: How working from home is affecting Americans' mental health. Retrieved on January 19, 2022 from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/03/03/working-home-pandemic-has-left-americans-lonely-and-stressed-column/6883765002/