Your mental health may be at risk working from home

Remote work is getting more common, and as we adjust to this new normal, we need to reexamine our mental health needs. Working from home has many benefits, but it can also take a serious toll on our well-being.

The risks of developing issues with mental health increase as we isolate ourselves in our home offices. If you’re making the transition to remote work or have been working from home for a while, it’s time to pay attention to what’s happening with your mental health.

Difficulty concentrating

Solution: Build a routine that works.

When you begin to work from home, it’s easy to get drawn into the appeal of having no set schedule. There’s no one making you get up early, no alarm clocks, and no one telling you when and how to eat. You can get dressed or not, take a shower or not, etc.

Before long, you may have difficulty focusing, taking longer and longer to get on task and missing important deadlines. You may forget to eat or lose track of what you’ve done that day. All these things build up to a self-esteem hit and confusion or brain fog.

woman working from home
Inside Weather/Unsplash

One way to climb out of this hole is by creating a routine. While you may not have to get up exactly when you did when you were going to the office, you should get up and go to bed at the same time every day to create some structure.

The structure of your day should include working at the same time and eating at set times as well. As your body learns this schedule, you could have an easier time getting into your work routine, and you may increase your overall focus.

And while you’re at it, schedule regular times to move your body, get fresh air, and drink plenty of water. This is all going to help you manage the lack of external structure.

Isolation

Solution: Schedule virtual meetups.

As you spend more of your time alone, critical social connections fade away, leaving many remote workers feeling lonely and depressed.

If you’re experiencing this, it’s important to acknowledge it. Social connections are a vital part of the human experience — humans are wired for these connections. Some companies are using the increase in remote work to schedule virtual coffee breaks for coworkers to meet online and exchange ideas.

Another way to increase your social life is to schedule your own meetups with friends and family. You could also find online groups that share the same interests as you — think book clubs, music groups, or even movie-watching gatherings. 

Whatever you do, it’s essential to understand that you aren’t weak or silly for missing connections in the office, even if you love to work remotely. Build these connections any way you can through your work and your personal life.

Burnout

Solution: Create better boundaries.

Burnout is a serious work issue even for those working in a traditional office, but with remote work, the effect can be compounded. Many remote workers report feeling the need to work longer hours than their office counterparts to prove their worth.

laptop working from home
Christian Bouvier/Unsplash

Remote workers also report feeling anxious about their work-life balance. Working remotely may make it difficult to turn off your work life, leading to burnout even sooner than office workers. 

Acknowledge these burnout symptoms so that you can take steps to reverse the effects:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger at or frustration with things you used to like
  • Disinterest in things that used to bring you pleasure
  • Overindulging in alcohol, food, or other recreational pursuits
  • Feeling the need to work around-the-clock to make up for feeling disinterested
  • Perfectionism
  • Inability to adapt or to be flexible with changes

Once you understand you have burnout, it’s more important than ever to establish a schedule that allows you to turn off your work brain. Give yourself a specific time to turn off from work and leave it be. Establish office hours so your employer knows when and how to contact you appropriately.

Prioritizing your mental health with remote work

You must take steps to protect your mental health when you work from home. Keeping a work-life balance is key to your creativity and satisfaction with work, and you’ll have to understand how to create proper boundaries.

The best way is to check in with yourself continually. Are you feeling anxious or angry? Are you eating healthy foods and getting enough rest? Do you allow yourself to turn work off? These vital questions can help you structure your days to benefit not just your employer, but your own health and well-being, too.

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