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We’re all pretty deep into this working-from-home experience, and no one knows how much longer it will last. There is one thing we do know. The isolation and changes in routine can have a great effect on your mental health.
Even though it’s more about freelancers choosing to work from home vs. working from home during a pandemic, we think this article from We Work Remotely (a platform for finding and listing remote jobs) sums up the problem nicely and provides some practical solutions. Click the link to read the entire article or enjoy this edited version.
Working from home can turn optimistically productive workers into tired, unmotivated, irritable toads. So before you hit rock bottom, learn how to spot the signs of declining mental health so you can address your next steps.
What are the Psychological Effects of Working from Home?
Here are the three most commonly reported issues remote workers face:
Loneliness and Isolation
You could spend days not talking to anyone when you don’t have to go anywhere to work. You miss the social aspect of chatting and venting about work and life, and this camaraderie doesn’t translate the same way over Zoom. Being disconnected from your coworkers and the rest of the world may make you feel lonely and isolated. And loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms like random pain.
Anxiety and Stress
When you work in the same place you sleep, the boundary between work and home life blurs. You may feel pressure to be on when you should be off, but you risk burning out without time to disconnect and unplug.
The anxiety, stress and loneliness of working from home can lead to depression or, if you’re already depressed, make it worse. Depression isn’t just feeling down; the Mayo Clinic says symptoms of depression include:
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration (even over small matters)
- Loss of interest or happiness in activities such as sex or hobbies
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Increased cravings for food
- Anxiety, agitation and restlessness
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
- Wanting to stay at home rather than going out to socialize or do new activities
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health When You Work From Home
The good news is your mental health doesn’t have to suffer when you work from home. First things first: it’s okay not to be okay. Honor exactly where you are, wherever that may be. Second, know it’s in your power to enjoy a happy brain. Third, try these five simple adjustments:
1. Create A Routine and Stick to the Schedule
Over 40% of people say their flexible schedule is the best part of working remotely. But how you organize those hours in your day makes all the difference. Do you have a daily schedule or set routine you follow? When you organize your tasks and outline goals, you mentally prepare yourself for what to expect during the day and it’s easier to work towards achieving the goals you set out, rather than vaguely meandering towards them.
It’s important to schedule analog breaks, too. Set aside time to escape all forms of digital screens; give your eyes, neck, shoulders and back a much-needed rest! And don’t forget to put a little time in that schedule for fun activities – hobbies, self-care and anything else that makes you happy. All work and no play stresses all remote workers out.
2. Upgrade Your Home Office
One survey shows that 84% of remote workers do their business from home. But do you actually like working in your home office? If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, make that priority number one. Bonus points if you have an office with a door you can close to mentally and physically separate work and home life.
Next, outfit your home office like you want to be the next Twitch star. Whether you buy new or from Craig’s list, get yourself a good, wide desk; a comfortable, ergonomic chair; and a good sound system – without workers to annoy, you’re free to blast some Spotify and get yourself into the zone.
3. Get Up and Move!
While you’re scheduling, don’t forget to schedule an active time to get your heart pumping. Go for a walk or bike ride, stretch or do yoga, practice a hip-hop dance video on YouTube – whatever floats your boat. Exercising 20 to 30 minutes daily can significantly lower anxiety levels. You’ll also boost endorphins and serotonin to flood your brain with happiness.
4. Leave Your House for the Wonder of Nature
A little time in nature can help with anxiety, stress and depression. Studies show outdoor walks may even help lower blood pressure and stress hormones. Dr. Jason Strauss from Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance says, “Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.” You’re not going to argue with Dr. Strauss, now, are you?
5. Make Time for Your Favorite People
Yes, we know; with social distancing, hanging out with friends, family and co-workers is tricky. But when you’re feeling down, support from those who lift you up may be as effective as some other forms of therapy. So carve out time each week to spend with your core favorite people – whether through Zoom, text or phone calls.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll protect your mental health from the loneliness, anxiety and depression many people have to deal with while working from home. If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, reach out to someone you trust, speak to your doctor or find a mental health professional.
Remember, although you might be alone at home, you’re not alone.
Espyr has been helping employees achieve and maintain good health – so they can perform their best – for 30 years. Clients in the most challenging occupations rely on Espyr’s industry leading coaching, counseling and mental health advocacy programs to maintain employee health and well-being. For more information contact Jeffrey Joo at 877-509-6016 or firstname.lastname@example.org.