Working from home has a lot of benefits. Who doesn’t love dressing in sweatpants every day, avoiding the commute and enjoying quality time with their dog? But working from home also has plenty of drawbacks—and some of those are related to a significant negative impact on mental health.
In April, a large study found 75% of people were experiencing social isolation and this was correlated with working from home. The more people worked from home, the more they felt socially isolated. Now, another just-released study is highlighting the same challenges, but with even greater reports of mental health challenges.
The just-released study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence surveyed 12,000 people across 11 countries and found the following:
- 78% of the global workforce reported negative impacts to their mental health this year.
- 42% say their productivity has plummeted.
- 41% say they are challenged because there is less distinction between their work life and home life.
- 40% report an increase in poor decision making.
- 38% are experiencing more stress.
- 35% are experiencing a lack of work-life balance.
- 25% report burnout.
- 25% say they are depressed.
- 14% are feeling lonely.
- 88% say mental health issues at work affect their home life in terms of sleep deprivation (40%), poor physical health (35%), reduced happiness at home (33%), challenges with family relationships (30%) and isolation from friends (28%).
- In my own studies of work-life, I found 52% of people experience work spilling over into their family life, and 43% of people experience family spilling over into their work.
Working from home has benefits too, of course. According to this study, they include having more time to spend with family (51%), sleep (31%) and get work done (30%).
But if work is more stressful than ever, and if you’re forced to work from home to a greater extent, there are ways to cope and be successful. Consider these five recommendations:
Make A Clear Contribution
Add unique value. Many employees are saying they have found new ways to add value through the pandemic. Those who interacted with customers face-to-face before have become podcast hosts, and those who ran events and training are learning new technologies and becoming ace producers. One of the keys to success with remote work is to find ways to make unique contributions. The demands of your work may have shifted. As a result, you can get to be creative about how you can continue to add value. A sense of purpose and feeling valued are extraordinarily good for mental health. So be proactive and innovative about the ways you add to the business and make a difference in your work.
Stay on the radar screen. Don’t let the adage “out of sight, out of mind” apply to you. Stay on the radar screen by connecting with your colleagues both formally and informally. Even if you work autonomously, stay in touch with your boss through regular one-on-ones. Find ways to report on the work you’re doing and the outcomes you’re creating. You may need to do this in new ways— through technology platforms or even unsophisticated manual processes, but don’t underestimate the value of being explicit about the work you’re doing. It won’t be automatic for others to see you, so you can help them see your value. In turn, when you feel valued, your mental health will be positively affected.
Distinguish work and home. Because work has invaded homes, it can be tough to get away and ensure distinction between work and life. Work is part of a full life, so there is a lot to appreciate about the opportunity to contribute through your work, but it’s also important to find ways to separate. Turn off at the end of the day and put your laptop away if you can. Establish a routine for ending your work at a predictable time and announce you’re “home from work” when you leave your home office or the kitchen table at the end of your day.
Fill your time. One of the keys to getting away from work is packing your non-work time with fulfilling activities. Be intentional about planning to spend time with friends and family where work cannot impede. When you tuck yourself away with a good book, be sure notifications from work are turned off. Take your dog for a walk, listen to your audible selections and mind your sourdough starter. Find plenty of ways to put a healthy distinction between your work and home life.
Manage Your Mindset
Cultivate positivity. Your frame of mind also matters to your mental health. Give yourself permission to feel down, but also do your best to be optimistic about the future. Avoid marinating in too much bad news and choose to spend time with people who are more positive. Practice mindfulness approaches like meditation or take time to appreciate nature. These are tough times, but you have a lot of control over how you respond and how you foster your own sense of resilience.
The total upending of our work and our lives through the pandemic has been tough, and working remote is correlated with rising mental health issues, but there are positive ways to cope and shine through. Make a clear contribution by adjusting how you add unique value and stay on the radar screen. Set boundaries by distinguishing work and home and filling your non-work time with rewarding endeavors. Manage your mindset and cultivate positivity. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay the course, continue the journey and we will get through.