Good mental health is not only the absence of mental illness but also the possession of skills and resources to manage life’s difficulties and maintain a positive outlook, which enables individuals to build strong relationships, attain confidence and achieve their goals. With the advent of Covid-19, remote work has gained significant popularity due to its advantages for employees, such as flexibility, increased time off, and reduced commuting costs. However, it can also impact a person with mental health significantly. Working remotely poses complex and multi-layered challenges related to mental health benefits, which we will discuss in detail, along with strategies to overcome them.
Common Challenges of Working from Home
Working from home has become the new normal for many people due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it has its perks, such as avoiding the daily commute and being able to work in your pajamas, it also comes with its own set of unique challenges.
1. Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance
One of the most common challenges of working from home is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Separating your work needs from your personal needs can be challenging, as there is no physical boundary between the two. This can lead to long work hours, not taking enough breaks, more stress, burnout, and declining mental health.
2. Staying Motivated and Focused
Another challenge is staying motivated and focused. With so many distractions at home, such as household chores or rearing children, it can be tough to stay on task and complete work efficiently. It’s important to create a dedicated workspace free from distractions and establish a routine to keep you on track with your work schedule.
3. Social Isolation and Feelings of Loneliness
Isolation is also a common challenge for many workers and those who work from home. Without the social interaction of an office environment, it can be lonely and isolating, affecting mental health. They must stay connected with colleagues and friends through virtual meetings or chats to combat feelings of isolation.
4. Less Access to Resources
Working remotely from home can limit your access to technology compared to an office setup. This includes the unavailability of essential equipment such as printers, scanners, and fax machines, which can delay certain tasks. Furthermore, resolving technical issues could be more challenging without immediate IT support. Additionally, for many remote workers, the lack of physical presence in the office may limit your access to databases or files crucial for your work, making it harder to consult with colleagues or managers and reducing face-to-face interaction.
5. Greater Potential for Procrastination
When working from home, separating work and personal matters is challenging. Since your work environment is within your personal space, it’s easy to get derailed by personal tasks during work hours. This can delay work and lessen productivity. Furthermore, work-related stress at home can result in procrastination and longer breaks. Lastly, working from home can present various interruptions, such as family members or pets or the temptation of social media and other online distractions. Without supervision, there is a tendency to become complacent and sluggish.
People with pre-existing mental health conditions may find that working from home can exacerbate their symptoms. For example, individuals with anxiety disorders may struggle with the lack of routine and structure of remote work. At the same time, those with depression may find it difficult to prioritize self-care and motivate themselves without external pressure from colleagues or a physical workplace.
Strategies for Maintaining Good Mental Well-being Working from Home
A. Set Boundaries
Establishing limits is a crucial tactic for individuals who work remotely. Establishing a set work schedule, following a routine consistently, and communicating matters concerning work to others, can enhance productivity and efficiency, improve job performance, decrease anxiety, and maintain a balanced work and personal life.
B. Take Breaks
It is important to take quick breaks at work to stretch and do simple activities like a brisk walk around the house to keep yourself physically active or simply walking around your garden or terrace to breathe fresh air. Taking breaks allows your body to move and refresh, which can help prevent many health issues associated with prolonged sitting. Also, taking breaks can boost your mental health by recharging your brain and increasing productivity and creativity. It also allows you to step away from work and clear your mind, which can reduce stress and anxiety. So, take breaks throughout the day to keep a healthy mind and body.
C. Get Creative with Your Workspace
Being creative is both a talent and a skill. But this should not be an issue for anyone. Anybody can be creative in their way. There are many great ideas on the internet that one can consider when trying to make their workspace unique and attractive. The location of your desk also matters. Proper lighting and ventilation can help improve your mood and energy levels. You can also enhance your workspace by incorporating some plants, which add a natural and aesthetic element and provide various health advantages to employees, such as air purification, stress reduction, and improved productivity and mood. You can grow some low-maintenance plants in a pot even if you lack gardening skills. So, dress your workspace with greens to boost your employees’ mood and motivation!
It’s no secret that exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it help us stay physically fit, but it also plays a vital role in our mental well-being. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which are common mental health concerns. Exercise
releases endorphins, natural chemicals in the body that promote happiness and well-being.
E. Stay Connected with Others
Remote work can reduce travel and time spent alone; however, we should not neglect our social lives. Social interaction is key to using healthy boundaries. It relieves stress when we express ourselves and share joyous moments with companions. Utilize technology to maintain strong connections with loved ones (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Don’t forget to make time for social activities; they are crucial for our mental health and well-being. Conversation with friends, brisk walking, or fun activities can boost our mental health. Remote working does not have to interfere with our social lives. We can stay connected with our loved ones to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Allocating time for family and friends can help us maintain a positive mental state and increase productivity. Let us continue to stay connected and keep our social lives exciting.
F. Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for good mental health. Sleep helps your brain function properly, and a lack of sleep can lead to mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
G. Eat a balanced diet
A balanced diet is essential for good mental health. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your mood.
H. Seek professional help
Working remotely can have benefits and significantly impact mental health, making it crucial to seek professional mental health services if needed. In addition to traditional therapy, like face-to-face interaction with your doctor, additional mental health services are available online, including virtual counseling. Many companies offer an employee assistance program that provides employees with confidential counseling and support services.
Nowadays, many companies encourage employees to prioritize their mental health needs; companies can now offer flexible schedules, regular check-ins, and mental health days.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you manage your emotions and develop coping strategies.
Mental Health Benefits of Working from Home
1. More flexibility in your daily schedule
Working remotely can offer numerous mental health benefits, providing the freedom and flexibility to create a better work-life balance. Working remotely can offer numerous mental health benefits, providing the freedom and flexibility to create a better work-life balance. Working from home gives you the privilege of setting your schedule without sticking to a traditional 8-hour office schedule. Additionally, a flexible schedule allows you to balance work and personal life, giving you the freedom to spend your time efficiently; thus, personal commitments and responsibilities become easier. Finally, a work-from-home setup can boost productivity by eliminating the need to commute or dress up for work. You can roll out of bed and start working in your pajamas, saving time and energy and enabling you to focus on your work.
2. A more relaxed atmosphere
Working from home can be a dream come true for many people. It offers flexibility and control over your environment that you can’t get in a traditional office setting. One of the biggest advantages of working from home is minimizing distractions, focusing on your work, and the time saved from commuting to work. Many distractions can make it hard to get things done in a traditional office setting, whether it’s noisy co-workers or interruptions from phone calls and meetings. But when you work from home, you can control your environment and create a workspace conducive to productivity. Another mental health benefits of working remotely are the freedom to create a comfortable environment that suits your needs.
This can include adjusting your lighting and temperature to your liking or even playing calming music in the background. When you have control over your environment, you can create a space that helps you feel more relaxed and focused. This can be especially important for people who work long hours or are stressed. Creating a comfortable workspace can help reduce and manage stress and promote a more positive and productive work environment.
3. No commuting time or costs
Commuting can be one of the most stressful parts of office work. The daily grind of traffic, delays, and unpredictable weather can affect anyone’s mental and physical health. By working from home, you can say goodbye to the daily commute and all the stresses that come with it. This can be a huge relief, giving you more time to spend on other things, such as exercise, relaxation, or simply spending more time with your family. Aside from the obvious time-saving benefits, working from home can save you money. By cutting out the cost of commuting, you can put that saved money toward other important things. Plus, you’ll do your bit for the environment by reducing your carbon footprint.
4. Ability to work in comfortable clothing
Wearing comfortable clothes can help you feel more relaxed and at ease while working, contributing to a more productive workday. When you work in an office, there is usually a dress code or at least an expectation to dress in a certain way. However, when you work from home, you can dress in comfortable clothes that you may not be able to wear in an office setting. Not worrying about dressing up or adhering to a dress code can save you time and money.
Activities that you can do at home to help your mental health
Meditation is a powerful activity that can be done at home to support mental health, particularly for remote workers. It can help reduce stress, ease anxiety, and improve overall well-being by sitting quietly and focusing on the present moment. Regular meditation practice has been shown to positively impact mental health by increasing feelings of calm, reducing negative emotions, and improving attention and focus. It can be practiced in various ways, including guided meditations, mindfulness exercises, or simply taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and tune in to one’s thoughts and feelings. Integrating meditation into your everyday schedule, either by yourself or with family members, can be a beneficial approach to enhancing your mental health and overall wellness.
Journaling is an effective tool for maintaining good mental health, particularly for those working remotely or dealing with mental health issues. Writing down one’s thoughts and feelings can provide clarity and help process difficult emotions. Regular journaling has been shown to positively impact mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also improve mood and overall well-being by providing a sense of accomplishment and self-reflection. Journaling is a form of self-care that can be easily incorporated into a daily routine, and it can help mitigate the negative mental health impacts of stress and isolation. By writing down one’s thoughts and emotions, individuals can gain insight into their mental health and develop a deeper understanding of themselves. Journaling is a valuable tool for promoting mental health and should be considered part of a holistic self-care routine.
3. Creative activities
Engaging in creative activities can be a great way to relieve stress and boost your mood. Whether painting, drawing, knitting, or playing music, finding an activity you enjoy can help you relax and feel more positive.
As humans, we possess an incredible ability to adapt to any situation. The recent COVID-19 global pandemic and economic challenges have forced us to embrace new ways of working, and working from home have emerged as a popular alternative. By working from home, individuals can continue working while spending more time with their families. This has been a great help for people struggling to balance their work and personal life.
Though we cannot deny that it can also challenge some individuals, mental health issues have been identified as one of the biggest obstacles many faces when adapting to a new routine in this type of work environment. That is why taking steps to maintain mental well-being while working from home can ensure you can thrive in this new work environment and achieve a healthy work-life balance.
That said, it’s important to note that not everyone who works from home will experience mental health issues. As mentioned above, many strategies can be employed to mitigate the potential negative impacts of remote work.
While working remotely offers many benefits, employees must be aware of its potential impact on mental health. By proactively addressing these challenges and implementing strategies to promote well-being, individuals can successfully navigate remote work without sacrificing their mental health.
Rick Kaselj MS, is a leading kinesiologist and injury specialist as well as co-creator of the best-selling Unlock Your Hip Flexors program. Rick creates exercise programs that help people heal injuries and eliminate pain, so they can go back to living a full, active, healthy life.