How Working From Home Is Impacting Our Mental Health

It has been more than a year since the new normal put our lives into a grinding halt. And, while the lengthy pandemic-related restrictions have brought the office to our home, it has also additionally brought several mental health concerns and poor lifestyle choices.

Work-life stress isn’t a new thing for most of us. We are all aware of the obvious ways in which work overwhelms us, stresses us out, or even leads to a burnout situation. Initially, when the work from the home programme was launched, it was looked upon favourably by employees. If you think about it, it does sound like a lucrative deal. You can access an entire office from the comfort of your four walls, besides, there is no travelling involved. So, at first, what seemed like an inviting proposition, has soon turned into a horrifying nightmare. 

A study conducted by Qualtrics reported that the effects of COVID-required Work From Home, in the long run, can have an increasingly pervasive impact on your mental health and emotional well-being. About 41.6 per cent of respondents reported a decline in their psychological well-being since the COVID-19 restrictions and work from home guidelines were announced. 

Acknowledging these concerns, organizations and industry leaders are grappling with the question of how to review their policies to create guidelines to pursue a fluid work dynamic for the anticipated future. Since the work from home guidelines was implemented, employees have been in a flux state which is not only affecting their mental health but also their work efficiency and productivity. Finding a balance between organizing work, virtual schooling, childcare, struggling with finances after salary reductions, etc. while staying at home with little to no social interaction has taken a toll on the professional class’s mental health. 

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According to the United Nations, the COVID-19 pandemic has elucidated the priority of organizations making investments for providing mental health guidance and services to their employees. As Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation highlighted “The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely concerning. Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment.” 

Therefore, according to these statistics, it is clear that work from home has an adverse psychological impact on the well-being of employees. Here are some experiences of individuals who have found it difficult to manage work from home during these trying pandemic times:

  1. Depression

Depression and several other mental health concerns are among the top complaints of individuals. These negative feelings are aggravated by feelings of loneliness, isolation, and lack of social interaction. Furthermore, spending hours in a sedentary lifestyle (sitting for hours on a chair) has led to the lack of an active lifestyle, coupled with back pain and joint issues, which has further deteriorated the mental health of individuals. 

According to a UN study conducted in Ethiopia in April 2020, a three-fold increase in the incidence of symptoms of depression and mental health concerns were noted. 

  1. Loneliness and Isolation

Employees that had to transition from an office environment to the work from home routine had to adapt very quickly. This transition wasn’t as smooth as it seemed it had a significant impact on their mental health. The transition to work from home was accompanied by an inability to interact with colleagues and having limited social interactions in general. While work from home does have its pros, virtual interactions can never replace a physical or proximal social connection with peers The physical disconnect took a toll as employees were drowning in feelings of isolation, loneliness. In other words, quarantine blues can be linked with high rates of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. 

2. Anxiety 

The expectations from work to meet performance standards coupled with a monotonous work from home routine has left employees feeling highly anxious. Having to work for more than 6 hours a day from the same position in one corner of your room has led to these individuals feeling drained. According to a Forbes Report, 75 per cent of employees in the United States communicated that they struggled with work due to the anxiety caused by the pandemic. 

If you find it difficult to manage work from home, here are 5 actionable tips that can be adapted to make the most out of your work without feeling depleted:

3. Physical Exercise: The role played by physical exercise in mental wellness cannot be neglected. Experts say that even a 10-minute session of light exercise is enough to make a difference. 

4. Zoning your space: It is necessary to distinctly outline your home and workspaces. Even if you are working from home, try not to do so from your bed. Instead, use another space to do your work. 

5. Block off work for a set time per day: Give yourself 30 minutes to 1-hour window without any work distractions. Keep your phone away, shut your laptop and allow yourself those minutes to breathe and do things you find relaxing. 

6. Schedule fun time with your co-workers: Even if you can’t physically meet your co-workers, set aside an evening where you get together and do something non-work related. You could play a game together even through screens or organize a virtual movie night. 

7. Meal Prepping: Workdays are stressful, and there are often when you don’t have time to eat. Instead of doing so, meal prep and make sure your lunch is ready. According to studies, diet plays a significant role in mental health. 

8. Use To-do lists: To-do lists are super effective when it comes to organizing your work and maximizing productivity. Each morning, take your notepad and write down the work targets you need to achieve that day. To avoid unnecessary pressure, make sure you stick to your list. 

9. Schedule regular breaks: To not get overwhelmed, take regular breaks at intervals. For every hour you work, give yourself a 10-minute breather. Your break time should also be no-tech time. Thus, utilize those 10 minutes to meditate or take a quick walk in your backyard. 

10. Take sick days: If you are feeling unwell, take a sick day. Don’t feel obliged to not take sick days just because you are working from home. Sick days are included in every company’s package. So, if you need a sick day, don’t hesitate in calling in

11. Keep a separate phone number: Whether you are working from home or not, it is important to separate your work life from your personal life. Therefore, keep a phone number for your colleagues and clients and the other for your family and friends. 

12. Set boundaries: To manage your mental health, set boundaries with family members during your work time. Have a discussion about your needs with your family members, share your schedule with them if necessary and try to minimize any distractions during your office time.