The mental health risks of remote work
As many employees in the past year and a half almost have experienced unanticipated mental health consequences from mandated remote work, two causes for concern have been isolation and burnout. Remote work is a now common trend in many industries today, especially tech and business services; many are already familiar with how the solitude of working remotely can impact mental health. For those who are accustomed to and appreciative of conventional “office life” and a steady rate of social interactions at the office, the shift to remote work as a result of social distancing during the pandemic might have caused a surprising, even if relatively mild, deterioration of mental health.
Our daily interactions are shown to reinforce our sense of well-being and belonging in a community; and with prolonged lockdowns, millions have been forced to not only work from home, but stay at home, as bars, restaurants, and to not participate to live, in-person events. Even in “normal” times, the impact of loneliness and isolation should not be understated; research has shown that it can be “twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.” One study found that for those who normally work remotely, 19% report loneliness. Loneliness is most risky when it is chronic, which, for many who live alone, became a reality as more and more people were encouraged to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.
A top priority, especially for those who are energized by it, is the need to maintain relationships with co-workers and managers. This is critical not only to work performance, but to emotional and mental wellness. Technology can serve as a boost to aid in this communication and there are plenty of existing examples to prove it – since, as previously mentioned, many sectors already maintain a sizable remote workforce even when not enforcing social distancing. To alleviate feelings of isolation, some companies have encouraged setting ‘virtual coffee breaks' during work hours for their remote-only team to foster collaboration and create a more comfortable work environment. Revelry had also dedicated a specific “watercooler” channel to encourage break-time chatter. Many methods to encourage interaction are “low-lifts” on behalf of the employer but should be thoughtfully implemented until employees are able to safely return to the office.
A 2019 survey by cloud infrastructure company Digital Ocean found that 82% of remote tech workers in the U.S. felt burnt out, with 52% reporting that they work longer hours than those in the office, and 40% feeling as though they needed to contribute more than their in-office colleagues. Employees that are new to remote work should keep this in mind, as they may feel compelled to work longer hours and prove that they can be productive from home – especially with less “extracurricular” post-work options. Furthermore, during pandemic, lines between personal and work life completely blurred even for professionals that were used to working from home.
Adapting to the new normal
Remote work has been a rising trend for several years, and the pandemic revealed the opportunities and challenges of working from home for many companies that may not have considered it an option. One silver lining of the Covid-19 situation demonstrated the unexpected ability of many organizations to adapt quickly to the physical and mental health needs of their workforce. One thing for sure is that in this time of uncertainty an anxiety, workplace mental health, now at home or the office, must be a priority for employers.
@philippemora > I come from the future. I work and I workout. Always be kind and passionate. 🙏❤️💪🏋️♀️🔥🚀
I come from the future. I work and I workout. Always be kind and passionate.