Our lives have undoubtedly changed since the start of the pandemic over a year ago. Many of us had to overcome the effects of contracting COVID-19 or cope emotionally because a loved one suffered from it. Additionally, many of us who retained employment had to turn our homes into offices because of shelter-in-place orders. For some, this was a welcome alternative to the commute and distractions of on-site work; for others, this removed vital social interactions or complicated family routines to the point they found it hard to endure—and still continue to struggle.
If you fall into the latter category, or know someone who does, read on to learn why it’s important to be aware of the stressors to avoid mental health ramifications and learn positive ways to self-manage the negative effects that can result from working at home. We’ll also give you information on the Western Washington Medical Group Department of Psychology for additional help.
Common Negative Effects from Working Remote
Aside from adjusting to everything else happening in the world, now you have to navigate a new schedule, be “camera-ready” for video meetings and either do everything in complete isolation or juggle a busy family life simultaneously. Some of the most common issues that arise involving remote work and mental health include:
Anxiety. If you’re in charge of preparing meals and monitoring children who are attending virtual school on other devices, while still being expected to attend all of your meetings (virtually) and carry on your regular job responsibilities as if nothing has changed, you’re bound to become more anxious. In a study done last fall, Forbes reported that 4 out of 5 people surveyed claimed that they found it hard to shut down at the end of the traditional workday.
Loneliness. If you have the reverse situation and you live alone, working from home has potentially severed all of your regular social ties. Perhaps your only interactions are Zoom meetings or phone calls with colleagues, and when those end for the day, your home is too quiet. Feeling isolated can lead to physical health problems including sleep disruption and even random pain.
Depression. Feelings of overwhelming sadness or indifference can be a natural response to remote work where there are no regular celebrations for career milestones and achievements. Depression can manifest into poor eating habits, a lower sex drive (or sexual dysfunction), irritability, trouble concentrating and changes in sleep routine.
Ways to Self-manage Negative Effects
If you suffer from any (or multiple) mental health issues as a result of working from home, follow these helpful tips to minimize the effects:
Establish a routine. Just as schools and workplaces function on regular schedules, you should too. Wake up every day at the same time. Plan out meal breaks (even if you are dining alone). Change into “work” clothes, even if video calls aren’t required. Coordinate your screen time for when you have to be available online to colleagues, but don’t forget to take breaks for the sake of your eyes and your mental health. Working within a routine helps you set natural boundaries and when the end of the workday arrives, be firm about switching gears to your personal life.
Maintain social connections. If your employer provides opportunities to connect through a workflow platform, utilize it to maintain a level of communication that prevents you from feeling isolated. If your workplace isn’t virtually social or you have a job that doesn’t require interaction, be sure to connect after hours with friends and family or join an online group to keep from feeling alone.
Go outside. Take a walk during your lunch hour or move your laptop to an outdoor space to work, if convenient. A good dose of nature can recharge your inner batteries and clear your mind.
Exercise and eat right. It’s no secret that the better we feel physically, the easier it is to manage our mental health. Preparing nutritious meals and getting regular exercise is especially important in these times, because both provide a good boost for your immune system.
Meditate and/or Practice Mindfulness. Taking care of our spirit is part of maintaining good mental health. Finding an activity that reminds us to breathe and relaxes us is a great way to reduce the stresses of working from home.
Speak to a Medical Professional
If you’re finding the psychological effects of working from home to be too much, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Our Western Washington Medical Group Department of Psychology offers counseling for individuals, couples and families, and Telehealth appointments are available if you’re unable to make it into the clinic. For more general/wellness inquiries, fill out the form on this page.