Is Working from Home Damaging My Mental Health?
Posted on Friday, November 13, 2020 by The Office Zen Master — No comments
One myth about working from home that the realities of Covid-19 has shattered is that it’s as relaxing as being at home normally. In reality, many office support and temporary workers who have been working from home this year are living a different story. There are no clearly defined boundaries; it’s difficult to know where work finishes and home starts, and your boss can now have a go at you in your living room. To make matters worse, the sudden onset of working from home has made working longer hours — potentially for less reward — socially acceptable because “we’re all in this together” and, frankly, people are afraid of being made redundant.
Why does working from home impact your mental health?
- Lack of privacy: If your home was your haven, your colleagues are now in it. Your Zoom or Google Meet calls have made your once-private space public. You may feel self-conscious or on-show.
- It’s uncomfortable: If you’re wedged in a corner of the lounge without a proper desk or chair, you’re not alone. Homeworking office support workers, who are used to ergonomically awesome equipment, may have suddenly aggravated an old back problem. You may also have started feeling a bit claustrophobic.
- It’s hard to switch off: We need balance in our lives. It can be incredibly stressful to feel that you can’t leave the office because the office is now in your home. You may find yourself feeling guilty that you aren’t working when, in reality, you’re working longer and harder than ever.
- It’s harder to feel part of something: Working together with others is a key benefit for many people. It can be invigorating. Yet a lack of face-to-face contact and a reliance on phones, emails, and video calls can mean you miss the nuances of normal interaction. It takes more effort to communicate and everything has to be more structured — there’s no chance for a spontaneous next-to-the-photocopier chat.
There are other reasons too. When working at home, you move less, and movement is a known antidote to negative feelings. You don’t have a commute in which to transition between different areas of your life. There may be a lack of structure or too many distractions and other things to manage. If you find working from home stressful, the UN points out that you’re not alone!
How to protect your mental health working from home
If you’ve found that doing your job from home has created or exacerbated mental health difficulties, then try some of these tricks:
- Create structure: Set apart a dedicated workspace in your home, asking your employer for help if necessary. Then, create a routine and stick to it. You can also create structure by having separate computer accounts and logins for you as a private individual and you as an employee. If you can have separate devices, that’s even better.
- Socialise: Without the impromptu office chats, it’s important to meet your socialisation needs elsewhere. Remember to arrange social times with your colleagues too.
- Tell your manager: Talk to your manager about your situation, as they may have strategies you can try. It’s hard for them to keep an eye on your wellbeing when they aren’t seeing you in-person, so be honest.
- Take time off: You’re still entitled to your time off. Use it! If you need more, then speak to your GP about sick leave. Take breaks during the day as you would in the office. Use these to go out for a walk or a run, and get a change of scenery.
- Be honest: If you’re stressed because you’re doing too much, then it’s time to be honest with your colleagues. Without being able to see you in the office, they may inadvertently be expecting more of you than is fair or realistic. Manage their expectations.
- Set boundaries: If you’re meant to finish work at 5 pm, finish close to then as often as possible. Switch off your computer and end the habit of quickly replying to emails afterwards. They can wait.
If you aren’t feeling better after trying all of the above, it may be that homeworking doesn’t suit you. But it may equally be that homeworking for your current employer doesn’t suit you. At our London recruitment agency, we know that you're not alone. If you believe that changing jobs will help, then get in touch on 020 7870 7177 and we’ll do what we can to help.
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