Mental Health and Working Remotely
Well over a year has elapsed since the COVID-19 pandemic became an agent of turmoil here in North America, closing offices and sending office workers home—a workplace from which many are still earning their daily bread. Given the normalization of working from home, and the prospect for some that it will continue indefinitely, an examination of mental health and working remotely is certainly warranted. Some of the impacts of working remotely are clearly beneficial, most notably the elimination of long, tiring and expensive commutes. Other impacts, however, are harmful stressors. Let’s examine what these stressors might be, and what can be done to alleviate them.
According to an October 2020 article in Forbes, over 75% of the remote workforce has struggled with work because of anxiety caused by COVID-19 and other recent world events. That’s a staggeringly high percentage, one that surely impacts productivity—and, ultimately, profitability. On top of that, four out of five remote workers are finding it difficult to “shut it off” at the end of the day—to achieve a healthy work/life balance. As a result, 45% of remote workers are beginning to feel less healthy mentally. Some may scoff at this and suggest that remote workers should simply “suck it up”, but mental health experts are not among them. The metal health issues of remote workers are all too real.
According to an October 2020 article on BusinessBecause these issues can be attributed to:
- The lack of a physical connection of remote workers to their colleagues, making them feel alienated and lonely—removed from networks and community that are often sources of fulfillment and happiness;
- The temptation to work longer hours because of the disconnect between home and office; and
- Burnout from the prolonged use of videoconferencing.
What can employers do to help?
Here are some ideas:
- Set up small-scale meetings with employees in order to:
- Offer a quality time and space for employer and employee engagement;
- Provide opportunities to personally acknowledge employee contributions;
- Break down, to some extent, the physical barrier that separates employers and employees.
- During large-scale meetings, encourage staff members who are not presenting to turn off their video camera to help them avoid the feeling that they are always “on”, a phenomenon that is exhausting.
- Introduce flexible scheduling that allows staffers to arrange their schedule around a core set of hours, an approach that goes a long way to helping employees deal with their at-home responsibilities.
- Mandate mental health breaks—an institutional shutdown for 30 minutes once a day to allow workers to genuinely relax guilt-free.
What can workers do to help?
- Let the sun shine in! Set yourself up to be closer to a natural light source to boost serotonin, which can enhance a person’s mood, cognition and ability to learn and remember. Hopefully, the space you set up is removed from the space you engage with your family.
- Ensure that your home office space is as ergonomically sound in order to enhance productivity and avoid injury. This may require the purchase of a good office chair (expensible), for example, or borrowing one from the office.
- Create a routine to replicate workflow in the office, make life seem more normal and help establish a line between work and leisure time.
- Go outside! Take regular breaks in the great outdoors when the weather is nice is life affirming. Spending a few moments outside is a simple and effective way to recharge the brain.
- Eat well and exercise regularly. Unless you are careful, working from home can make you alarmingly sedentary, contributing to both a physical and mental decline working from home.
We at Heartzap are hopeful that a return to normalcy isn’t too far off so we can, among other things, minimize the ramifications of mental health and working remotely. Contact us to further improve your workplace health and safety.