Working from home is something to celebrate for most people. You are free to work whenever you want — night or day. But the novelty can wear off quickly when you do not put guidelines in place. You need structure. First to achieve productive outcomes and second, to balance personal and work time for good mental health.
Can working from home affect mental health? Yes, it can. You need to look after yourself. By looking after yourself, you look after your mental health. It helps you to shrug off any loneliness, anxiety or depression you face while working from home. But for some people working from home can be a real challenge. Workers that are normally productive and optimistic can become unmotivated and tired.
So before your mental health deteriorates, understand the signs so you can do something about it. Are you feeling isolated working from home?
How working from home affects mental health
Working from home affects everyone differently. Some people thrive in the environment and others struggle. Which one are you?
Common experiences faced when working from home include:
- Lack of motivation and procrastination becomes your new best friend.
- Guilty feelings about not being as productive as usual work wise or around the house.
- Not being able to switch off from work.
- Feeling isolated, lonely and disconnected from the rest of the world.
- Concerns about your work performance.
- Fewer boundaries between your personal and work life.
- Difficulties prioritising your workload.
- Problems sleeping.
Stress and anxiety
You may not think it but working from home can cause stress and anxiety. Here are a few reasons why:
- Squeezing in work whenever you can instead of working to a plan.
- Not taking time out to disconnect can put you at risk of burning out.
- You may feel pressure to work when at home even if you have already done a full day’s work.
- Stress from doing everything yourself.
Effects on depression
You can start to feel depressed if you feel stuck when working from home. When you do not look after yourself, any stress, anxiety or loneliness can cause depression. Just know that it is okay not to feel okay sometimes. But depression is not just feeling down some days. It is when it persists for two or more weeks that you may need assistance. Symptoms of depression include:
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Food cravings.
- Trouble focusing, making decisions and remembering things.
- Losing interest in the things you once enjoyed.
- Sudden bursts of anger or frustration especially over minor matters.
- Preferring to stay home than to go out socially.
- Physical aches and pains such as headaches and back pain.
- Feeling anxious, restless or agitated for no particular reason.
Feeling lonely and isolated
Working from home may make you feel isolated and lonely when you have no one else to talk to all day. You may miss the social interaction and sense of camaraderie with co-workers in the workplace. But this may not translate so well over Zoom. But know you are not alone. It is the disconnectivity from the world that makes you feel this way. And this can lead to higher rates of depression. But it does not have to be this way. You can have great mental health while working from home.
Looking after your mental health
No matter what, it is okay to feel whatever you do. Acknowledge it and move on. Know you have the power to keep your brain happy by making a few changes.
Structure your work day
One of the things people love about working from home is the flexibility. But you still need a schedule to be productive. It is how you organise your working hours that matters. Working at ad hoc times day or night can eventually cause stress and possible mental health challenges. You need to structure your work day no matter where you work from.
Have you set up a daily schedule for working from home?
Being organised and setting up daily goals prepares you for what you need to achieve every day. It helps you stay focused on your productivity instead of procrastinating or letting things become a distraction.
It does not matter what time you start work. Your time is flexible so it is your choice. But set up a routine. Nominate a time to start and finish working. Also schedule time for breaks and exercise. It is important to escape from the computer screen and its effects. Give your eyes, back and neck a rest. Clear your head. Do this and you will work with better focus for the rest of the day.
Make sure you schedule fun activities into your day as well. Make the effort to balance your day to prevent stress. Focus on self-care, your pets, hobbies and anything else you find enjoyment in for a short time each day.
This will help you maintain a boundary between personal and work time when working from home.
Dedicated work space
It is all well and good to say to set up a home office. But do you have the space? And, if you do, is it a place you feel comfortable working in? Regardless of your answer, you need a dedicated working space. It can be anywhere in the house, just avoid your bedroom. And it is even better if you can close a door to separate home from work.
Have fun setting up your office. It does not have to cost a lot of money. Buy second-hand furniture to cut down the costs. You will need a:
- Desk that is comfortable to work at. It needs to support your wrists while using the keyboard and mouse.
- Good, ergonomic chair to support your back while you work. You will spend a lot of time sitting in it so look for lumbar support for your lower back.
- Wireless mouse and keyboard to give you more freedom.
Get some fresh air
Fresh air is a fantastic way to chase the blues away. Go outside into your garden or on to the balcony at least once a day to enjoy the sunshine and breathe in the fresh air. It clears your head and is good for the soul. Go back to work feeling refreshed and with more focus which will boost your productivity.
Whether you are in lockdown or not, working from home is sedentary. Schedule in 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day to get your heart pumping. Where you can, get out into nature and go for a walk or a bike ride. Otherwise there are plenty of things you can do to get your heart started at home. Exercise or dance to a YouTube video are just a couple that come to mind.
Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can lower anxiety levels. It boosts the serotonin and endorphins. It floods your brain with happiness and distracts your thoughts from your problems.
Spend time with your favourite people
Make time to spend with your favourite people each week. Look to your family and core social group for support. They will lift you up and make you feel better about things. Try to avoid people who bring you down.
Stay connected with colleagues by scheduling regular virtual catch ups. These can replace the spontaneous chats at work while getting coffee. But you need to plan them in to each day. When you stay connected it reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation. And your stress and anxiety reduces. This will help you to stay productive. Staying connected also gives everyone the opportunity to discuss what they are working on.
Digitally detox daily
Technology makes it super easy to stay connected and work from home. The problem is that it becomes difficult to switch off. It can be hard to separate your work and home life when your home is your office. The solution is to digitally detox daily. Turn off all devices including your mobile phone when you finish work for the day. Spend quality time doing the things you want to do and with your family.
Focus on the benefits
Focus on the benefits of working from home. There are fewer distractions, reduces stress, and increases productivity and work satisfaction. No longer do you have the costs of commuting or do you lose the time travelling between home and your workplace. Working from home gives you flexibility and control over the structure of your working day.
Other things to boost your mental health
Other things you can do to boost your mental health include:
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Sleeping well.
- Setting boundaries for working at home.
- Turning off work e-notifications at night.
- Adjusting your perception and expectation of success.
- Practice mindfulness to help manage stress and anxiety.
- Manage stress with meditation and problem solving.
- Positive thinking.
We are here to help
Working from home can become stressful when you are not used to it or are not organised. It is a big life change. And you may have to look after the children as well as trying to focus on being productive. This can increase you stress and anxiety levels. Sometimes it can be a struggle and even become overwhelming. So it is important to look after your mental health. But if you feel down or anxious for more than a couple of weeks, you may be experiencing depression or another mental health challenge. Ask for help. You do not have to go through it alone. The sooner you get help, the sooner things will improve.
If you are struggling, consider reaching out to our professionals. When you are not coping, contact us to discover how we aim to help get your life back on track. But if you reach a crisis point, call us immediately. We are here to help support you. We may help you deal with things quickly.
We can work with you over the phone, via Skype or in our Spas. Book in today for my Emotional Empowerment Program. I have an introductory offer for just $79 so you may start taking back control of your life. We aim to help you cope with any mental health challenges. Our facilitators may alleviate the effects of depression and anxiety so you feel happy again.
Let me help alleviate the effects of mental health issues
My Emotional Empowerment Program has helped many people like you for more than a decade. My aim is to help you replace anxiety, stress and depression with a new hope for the future. A future filled with happiness, peace and contentment in weeks not years. Listen to what Jasmine has to say about my program after only a few sessions.
Give the Brain Wellness Spa a try by booking a free 25-minute telehealth consultation. Or discover a seamless way to rejuvenate your emotional and mental health by becoming a member. It will give you access to more than 75 audio programs that can help your child and you to live inspired and improve mental wellbeing.