Remote work is when employees work from somewhere that is not the principal office of their employment. This type of work has become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, many businesses had to shut down or relocate their offices to employees’ homes because of lockdowns. Typically, a remote employee’s work location includes a private office or quite often, the employee’s home. Remote working, and particularly working from home, has many implications for employees, both positive and negative.
How working remotely can improve mental health
Some workers find that working from home boosts their productivity more than when working in the office, but without the inconveniences of commuting. Due to its unpredictable nature, as well as the boredom and isolation it can cause, commuting to work has been connected to stress. In order to drive to their main office, employees frequently have to get up quite early. Whether employees drive or use public transportation, the trips can be packed and stressful during rush hour. This might alter their sleep cycle, resulting in less sleep and, more physical health issues.
Not having to commute and saving time in the mornings and nights is a criterion for many people who chose remote employment. Employees can use this extra time throughout the day to do their non-work duties and activities; they have more time to work out, prepare meals, spend time with their families, and schedule after-work doctor’s appointments. The ability to focus on oneself and achieve a better work-life balance is made possible by the additional time provided by remote work, which is good for the overall welfare and reduces stress and anxiety. This has the potential to boost employee productivity, which is generally advantageous for companies. Therefore, because it offers employees more time to concentrate on themselves and other interests outside of work, remote employment may be considered a benefit for mental health.
Consequences of working remotely on mental health
However, it is possible that working remotely can cause feelings of isolation. Staying at home while working means that employees do not see their coworkers and do not socialize enough. This may be suffocating but also isolating. Employees may therefore feel lonely if they do not have colleagues to talk to during the workday.
Working remotely can also be difficult for the mental health of employees because it makes it more difficult to balance work and non-work activities. The latter occurs because when working from home, the tasks of an employee are accessible on their laptop, which mostly stays at home. As a result, they find it difficult to separate work from their home life. This may increase stress levels and make management of time and tasks more difficult, particularly if employees find themselves working longer hours at home.
Ways to improve mental health when working remotely
One way to improve mental health when working remotely is by sticking to a schedule. Although having a flexible schedule can be beneficial, as mentioned above, it can often lead to working outside of work hours and mixing resting time with working. Sticking to a planned and predictable schedule ensures that work gets completed at the designated times. This reduces overworking and can improve the mental health of employees and reduce the risk of burnout, which is a condition that is more common among employees working remotely.
Creating a physical separation between work and home devices may also be beneficial; sometimes coworkers may contact their coworkers during out-of-work hours. While this may be compelling to answer, it is not required to reply, so either unplugging work devices or simply ignoring them can improve the mental health of employees who work remotely.
Furthermore, to reduce the feelings of isolation that remote working may cause, employees may consider co-working as an option, particularly now that lockdowns are not required anymore. Co-working remotely may reduce the feelings of isolation that remote working alone can create, which can improve mental health as well as productivity.
Finally, when working remotely, to ensure that mental health does not deteriorate, it is important to keep in contact and communicate with people surrounding you, including colleagues and senior managers, but also including family and friends.
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