Working from home and the pros and cons to your mental health

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Working from home can seem like a dream. You don’t have to worry about traffic. You always have snacks on hand. And sometimes you don’t even have to wear pants. 

Remote work is becoming all the rage in the business world. Most people can work remotely—either full- or part-time—as long as they have access to a reliable internet connection. Yet, just as with any modern office trend, there are some downsides too. 

Working from home can affect your mental health and, in turn, overall morale and quality of work. So before taking the plunge, you should weigh the pros and cons of working from home and consider the toll it can take on your mental health. 

 

The mental health benefits of working from home

When asked about their work habits and what they enjoyed about working remotely, many remote employees responded positively to a 2018 survey. 

Remote work decreased interruptions for nearly 30% of respondents. Just over 34% said they felt less stressed when working remotely. They also said one of the biggest benefits was the lack of commute, which is a huge stress-reliever. Altogether, these factors can improve a person’s mental health and boost their productivity. 53% of respondents said their productivity improved. 38% said it stayed the same, and only 8% said it decreased. 

Another factor that can lower stress levels is having more control over your schedule. Many respondents said they felt freer when working from home. Although they still had deadlines to meet, their managers trusted them to get their work done on time. 

59% of managers believed their remote employees were turning in “above average” work, according to a survey focused on remote workers’ performance and productivity. Managers responded this way, despite acknowledging that remote workers occasionally completed personal tasks while on the clock. 

Altogether, these benefits can improve an employee’s overall mental wellbeing. Over 83% of respondents in the work habits survey said their mental health improved because of part- or full-time remote work. Only 16% said their mental health declined. That being said, remote work certainly isn’t the perk for everyone.

 

Problems with working from home

Arguably one of the most concerning adverse effects of working from home is loneliness. Those who work remotely full-time can experience different forms of isolation, such as resource isolation, development isolation, and opportunity isolation. 

Prolonged isolation of any sort can have negative effects on both mental and physical health. Social isolation can cause depression, sleep disturbance, poor heart health, and cognitive decline, according to the American Psychology Association (APA). Although remote workers aren’t struggling with complete isolation, there’s no doubt a lack of in-office connections can decrease creativity and productivity. They might even be more likely to struggle with sleep or experience episodes of depression.

Another challenge that remote workers face is overworking. 29% of respondents to the work habits survey said they often work longer hours when telecommuting. Although it may seem admirable to work more hours, overworking can contribute to feelings of burnout and mental fatigue. 

Other issues include self-motivation and assumptions from co-workers that remote workers aren’t working. These issues can also contribute to a negative self-image that affects a person’s mental health. 

Telecommuting might not be ideal for everyone. But there are ways to combat the adverse effects of working from home. Don’t be discouraged just yet!

 

3 ways to care for your mental health when working remotely

If you’re concerned about the possible adverse effects of working from home, try these tips. 

  • Combat isolation with communication apps. Communication apps are one of the most critical tools remote workers can use to stay in contact with their teams and employer. If your team doesn’t already have an instant messaging service, bring it up with your manager. Suggest options like Slack or Google Hangouts for messaging and Skype or FaceTime for video calls. Face time and frequent communication with your team can help reduce feelings of isolation. 
  • Limit your work-from-home days. If possible, choose to work from home on specific days and work out of the office part-time. 75% of remote workers said they still worked out of the office at least three days per week, while the rest did it full-time, according to the remote work habits survey. Granted, this decision may depend on your work situation and manager’s approval. But if you can, working from home part-time may help you avoid isolation, improve self-motivation, and avoid negative assumptions from co-workers. And if going into the office isn’t an option, try working from a coffee shop for the morning, or even look for local coworking spaces.
  • Use a time tracking app to prevent overworking. Even salaried employees can benefit from monitoring hours. Time tracking apps can help workers avoid overtime. And employees can better manage their time by seeing how long they spend doing specific tasks. Workers that track time can see when they clocked in for the day and will be able to avoid working longer than usual.

Hopefully, with the above tips in mind, you can fully enjoy the benefits of working from home without having to worry about the negatives, too. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so always take care of both.