Could Working Remotely Negatively Affect Your Mental Health?

A later alarm time, no morning commute or hassle with what to wear, the convenience of working in your pajamas only minutes after rousing from your nighttime slumber. All the perks of a remote or work-from-home job sound delightful. While working remotely isn't at all a new idea, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many individuals to take their office jobs online as shutdowns and quarantines kept people at home. As the pandemic conditions have slowly returned to normal, many companies have found the cost effectiveness of remote workers to be too good to let go, leaving many individuals contemplating the possibility of a permanent remote career. In fact, Forbes states that approximately 25% of American professionals will be in work-from-home or remote positions by the end of 2022.

For many individuals, the option to work from home can seem like a dream come true. Without the hassle and distraction of a physical work environment outside of the home, many individuals believe that their work-time stress can be relieved by transitioning to a remote position. Business News Daily reports that individuals who work remotely show more productivity as a result of a better work-life balance. But is remote work ultimately more beneficial or more harmful to your mental health?

Benefits of remote work

Remote work can be a great option for many individuals. Parents of small children who would require child care, students studying full time, and individuals who are looking for a part-time job to bring in extra money are just a few groups of individuals who benefit from the option of having a remote position. World Health states that there are a number of positive and stress-relieving benefits to choosing a remote or work-from-home position. For many individuals, the elimination of office-related tasks like daily commutes, clothing requirements and restrictions, and small-talk interactions with co-workers can be key selling points for a remote job. Additionally, working from home may provide a boost in focus and productivity for some workers by eliminating office-related distractions.

Some professionals believe that working from home can improve mental well-being simply as a byproduct of not engaging with toxic coworkers or competitive work practices (via Association for Psychological Science). There's also a suggestion that remote work can help to provide benefits to mental and physical health due to not being confined in an office building and having more access to the outdoors (via World Health).

However, there can also be some downsides to working from home. Some research suggests that remote work may have negative impacts on your mental health.

How can working remotely affect your mental health?

For some individuals, remote work can be the best thing since sliced bread, offering the benefits of gainful, full-time employment without the hassle of physically needing to be present. However, Healthline explains that approximately 41% of remote workers report experiencing higher levels of stress. This number is a significant increase from the 25% of their in-office counterparts who report similar levels of stress.

Additionally, it turns out that the lack of physical interactions with coworkers could be leading to a higher rate of depression in people working from home. According to the BBC, up to 80% of workers in the UK report remote work having a negative impact on their mental health. For some individuals, the lack of a workplace exchange can create a social void, leaving the individual feeling alone and at greater risk for depression. 

Individuals who already experience depression or depressive episodes are at greater risk for negative impact, per Psych Central. They suggest maintaining social connections with your co-workers if working remotely. If your company doesn't already have one, try suggesting a general chat thread for non-work related content to help you connect and engage with your virtual peers. Also, be sure to take regular breaks and maintain good sleep and eating habits to minimize the effects of stress.