Have you recently found yourself working from home? Or maybe you’ve been working from home for years. Individuals who work from home often face increased anxiety, depression and loneliness due to their remote situation.
If you’ve just started working from home, do you find that you’re feeling more stressed, or perhaps fighting feelings of isolation? Working from home can challenge your mental health, often starting with feelings of fatigue, irritability, or being unmotivated to do your work.
Let’s talk about how you can detect signs that working from home is affecting your mental health so you can take steps to address it early. The three most commonly reported mental health issues from remote workers are loneliness and isolation, anxiety, and depression.
Loneliness & Isolation
Remote workers could potentially spend days without talking to anyone if they don’t have an office to go to, particularly if they are single and live alone. Even if you’re not a “chat around the water cooler” person, we often bond with our co-workers in a physical office setting, and many remote workers report missing the social aspect of chatting about work and life. It’s much more difficult to have conversations and build relationships with our co-workers over collaboration channels like Slack or Teams.
Freelance workers face even more challenges as they often don’t have co-workers. Being disconnected can make remote workers feel lonely, which is associated with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and even physical problems such as random aches and pains.
Anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways when you work from home. Some find that they feel pressured to hustle 24/7 leading to burnout. Others report the inability to unplug and disconnect the line between work and their personal life. Many also have felt that they wear too many hats, switching between too many tasks throughout the day.
If you feel stuck in your remote working environment, it can be easy for depression to creep in. The anxiety and feelings of loneliness from working from home can also exacerbate depression symptoms. Symptoms to look out for are loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, sleep disturbances, fatigue, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, unexplained aches and pains, and irritability.
There are steps you can take to safeguard your mental health if you are working from home for the short term, or if you’ve been a remote worker for awhile.
Have a Routine
While having a flexible schedule can be a perk of working remotely, it’s wise to organize the hours in your day. Create goals and organize your your daily tasks so you know what to expect from each day. Working towards your goals makes it easier to stay focused and be more productive with your time. Having a schedule also prevents you from straying from your work or wasting time on non-work-related tasks.
You should also be scheduling breaks into your day. Schedule time to take a break from screens and give your eyes a rest. Set a definite time to log off for the day and stick to it. It’s easier to disconnect when you have more regular “office hours”.
Create an Office Atmosphere
If you don’t have a dedicated work space, create one. Having a dedicated workspace will allow you to separate your work life from your personal life. If your workspace has a physical door, even better! The goal is to physically and mentally separate your work and home space.
Try to have a comfortable, ergonomic desk and chair if you have the ability to set one up, and treat your workspace like you would any other office space. Decorate it, have a good headset, keyboard, and mouse, and keep a water bottle nearby.
It’s easy to just sit and grind out your work day-to-day, but you should schedule time to get up and get your blood flowing. Go for a brisk walk, stretch, do yoga, or put on an exercise video. Exercising for 20-30 minutes each day can drop your anxiety levels and boost your mood.
Being in nature can help treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. Utilize your break or exercise time to get outside and enjoy nature if the weather allows. It’s possible some of youre best work-related ideas may pop up while you’re outside!
Create Time to Connect
Even though you are remote, make time to connect with others. It may be just a casual phone or video call, or it could be that you have lunch with one of your family members. Get creative on ways you can still have social interaction during this time.
Know the limits of the amount of work you can produce each day. Individuals working from home often work longer hours because it’s harder to shut off or say no when they cannot separate their work and home life. Be assertive but respectful and create the boundaries that you need.
If you are struggling, reach out to a friend, family member, or mental health professional. Remember that you are never alone. During this time, our office is providing telehealth services in order to best serve you. Learn more here.