Insights for Executives

How Remote Work Can Affect Your Mental Health

Cedric Jackson

April 16, 2021

Remote work makes life easier in many ways. You don’t have to worry about the commute. This eliminates the need for transportation and the time spent on work-related activities. You also get more flexibility. 

But despite these benefits, remote work can have a negative toll on your mental health.

Discover how remote work can affect your mental health. Then, look at how you can care for your mental well-being while working remotely. 

Effects of Remote Work on Mental Health

Feeling Isolated

One of the biggest impacts that remote work has on your mental health is isolation. You can easily go days or even weeks without seeing anyone.

This lack of connection can be problematic. You may also feel as if you don’t have anyone to turn to if you feel stressed.

Simply put, remote work takes away most of the office support network. 

Mental Fatigue From Virtual Meetings 

Virtual meetings and communications can overcome the feelings of isolation somewhat. But they come with their own problems.

Specifically, if there is an increase in these virtual meetings, many workers agree that these meetings waste time and lead to fatigue. They can even make you feel more disconnected. The problem worsens with larger meetings.

The mental fatigue and feelings of disconnect increase if you can’t see individual faces or participate. Speakers have an increased workload as they can’t easily read body language.

Attendees don’t feel as connected to the speaker virtually. This brings in increased anxiety and stress for all parties involved. 

Working More 

Theoretically, working from home should take less time out of your day than working in the office. After all, you don’t need to waste time on the commute. 

However, many people find that working from home results in more time spent working. The biggest challenge is separating home and work.

Since you relax and work in the same place, it’s tempting to be “always on.” This can lead to longer working hours. 

Increased Stress and Anxiety

The previous factors can also make you feel more stressed and anxious when working from home. There are other factors at play as well.

You may feel pressured to work longer hours or be on-call, leading to stress.

You may have to complete more tasks at once, increasing stress. 

Also, remote work doesn’t typically involve as much feedback as in-person work. But people thrive on praise. It makes us feel good about ourselves and know we are on track with work. 

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health When Working Remotely

The above information shouldn’t discourage you from working remotely. If you know what to do, you can maintain your mental health. But what actions can you take? 

Make a Separate Office Area – If Possible

If you have enough space to do so, make a designated office space in your home. This will help you separate your work and home life.

Do your best to only use the office area for work and to only complete work in the office area. 

Consider Upgrading Your Home Office

If you already have a separate office area, see if you can upgrade it. Having the right equipment go a long way to help your mental health.

Consider how you can go as ergonomic as possible: Get an ergonomic chair, a split keyboard and a standing desk.

Make the space you want to be in. Decorate it with the art you love. If you're a plant person, add plants.

You want to make your physical environment as comfortable as possible.

Keep a Schedule

Keeping a schedule can also help your mental health. This will help prevent you from working excessively.

Your schedule should also include breaks, just like it would in the office. 

Batching activities is a great way to achieve this. For example, take all meetings on just 2 days of the week. Use the other days for your own work.

Another consideration is to block off large chunks of time on your calendar so your teams know when you're around and when you're unavailable.

Avoid Back-to-back Meetings

Although you can’t always control it, avoid back-to-back meetings as much as possible.

Companies with remote workers can make this a scheduling priority.

The idea is that it gives employees the chance to recover between meetings. 

Move Around

Sitting in one spot all day is not good for your mental health. That is especially true when you work at home.

Overcome this by taking breaks to move around. This can be a walk during your lunch break or before or after work. Or take a few minutes to stretch every hour or so. 

If you're able to, invest in a standing desk.

Have One-on-ones With Leadership

If you can, try to have regular one-on-one meetings between employees and leadership.

This will help reduce isolation and give employees a chance to express concerns.

It will also let management deliver feedback to employees. 

Be Realistic and Say No

A lot of the challenges with remote work come down to working too much. This can be too many hours of work or having too many tasks to complete.

Avoid this by being realistic when accepting responsibilities. Think about whether you can feasibly add it to your schedule. If you can’t, say no.

Taking on more than you can handle will only increase your stress and worsen your mental health.

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