Working in Isolation: Effects on Mental Health & Getting Through It

While remote work lends a degree of freedom to employees in terms of a flexible work schedule, working in isolation can sometimes have a negative effect on mental health. Most people have been forced to telecommute full time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are isolated from co-workers, and even family and friends, probably for the first time in their career. Not many are able to handle the situation well. Stress, anxiety, and depression might set in.

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Causes of Poor Mental Health in Remote Working

Below are some of the issues you might face while working remotely:

1. Loneliness

Prolonged periods of isolation lead to loneliness and a desire to connect with other people, which may be left unfulfilled. Communication and interaction are easier when you are in the workplace with your team and other coworkers. You can share ideas, discuss issues, have scintillating conversations, and get support (whether work-related or personal) when you need it.

However, when you are working from home, it may be a long time before you have the opportunity to engage in any meaningful face-to-face conversation with another person, that is, apart from exchanging pleasantries or making polite conversation. At first, you might not notice, but the loneliness gradually begins to take its toll on your wellbeing.

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2. Stress

It becomes more obvious when you are facing a challenging work-related or personal issue. You might interact with neighbors or the clerk at the grocery store, but it’s not the same as discussing with someone you identify with, such as a colleague or friend. You might not have a full conversation for days or even months.

Stress can sometimes be useful in boosting focus and energy. However, in a majority of cases, it has a strong negative impact on both mental and physical health. It is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety. According to the Global Organization for Stress, 80% of employees feel stress on the job.

People who work in isolation often fail to manage their time and live a balanced life. They might neglect taking regular breaks during the course of the day. And each day seems to muddle into the next. Over time, they get fatigued and burnt out.

Some telecommuting employees might work for different companies.  They take on too much work with tight deadlines, become overwhelmed by expectations from supervisors, might receive inadequate support, and might not be clear on how to carry out certain tasks due to inefficient communication.

Most companies put policies in place to ensure favorable work conditions and see that employees take regular breaks. However, remote workers might not adhere to these policies since there is no one looking over their shoulder.

3. Feeling Left Out

It is easy for remote workers to feel distanced and disconnected from the organization they work for when coworkers and employees do not interact on a human level. The corporate culture of the company might not include activities that foster connection and a sense of belonging among remote workers, such as using video conferencing tools to celebrate birthdays and achievements, and so on.

Working outside the traditional in-office setting means that employees won’t enjoy some of the benefits of working in a team, including receiving guidance and encouragement, laughing together, sharing concerns, having Happy Hour, and many more.
  
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How to Keep Mental Health Good in Lockdown

It is now of the utmost importance that you take care of your mental health. The Corona Virus pandemic has caused a massive change in the way of life that most people are used to. Indeed, we live in uncertain times. Everyone is facing new and unique challenges.  The practical tips presented below will help ensure that you stay happy and active while working remotely during and after the pandemic.

Productivity Remote Working Tips for Employees:

1. Develop a Routine

Structuring your day can help remedy the drudgery of remote work. Here’s what you can do:

  • Set up a home office/ workspace. This will help keep you focused and condition your mind to get things done.
  • Keep a regular schedule. Go to bed early so that you can wake up early and get started with your day. Exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, and don’t forget to incorporate regular breaks during the course of the day. Know when to stop working and call it a day.
  • Even though you work from home, try to dress up for work. This doesn’t necessarily mean putting on a suit. Just avoid lounging in your pajamas all day.
  • Establish an achievable goal for the day and have a plan for getting things done. You can prioritize using the WEB list: W – What you ‘Want’ to achieve; E – What you ‘Expect’ to achieve; and B – What you had ‘Better’ achieve for the day.
  • Do not skip lunch. Move away from your workspace and get something to eat. Go for a walk to clear your head and refocus. Taking a nap is very helpful too in curbing stress.

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2. Stay Connected

Make use of technology to stay connected with family, friends, and coworkers. Face-to-face conversation, using video communication tools, such as Zoom, is advisable. Talk to people you trust and let them know about any issues you are dealing with. Maintain close contact with your employees and always inform them of any difficulty you might be facing.

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3. Maintain Physical Health and Personal Hygiene

You first have to be healthy before you can do your best work:

  • Keep your immune system strong: Eat right. Stay hydrated. Take food supplements. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Exercising is good for both your mental and physical health. It releases endorphins and alleviates stress. 
  • Staying at home might give you an excuse not to take a bath when you are supposed to. But it’s important to maintain healthy personal hygiene. Don’t wear the same clothes for days. At considerable intervals, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wipe down your mobile devices, PC, and work table as often as you can.
  • Go outside and get some fresh air.

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4. Have a Relaxation Balance

Always watching the news and visiting social media sites in your spare time can trigger or worsen anxiety, stress, and depression or even incite panic. Unplug once in a while. Watch TV shows and movies that make you happy. Engage in activities that help you stay mentally balanced. These may include meditation and yoga, journaling, reading, trying out new food recipes, learning a new skill or language, and more.

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5. Monitor Your Mental Health

Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of any pending mental health or overall health issues that you might have. This will enable you to combat them early. Try as much as possible to keep your stress levels to a minimum.

6. Make Use of Available Support

Find out whether your employer has any Employee Assistance Programmes in place. If you have an ongoing mental or physical health issues, inform your employer so that they can make adjustments to accommodate your situation. 

Productivity Remote Working Tips for Managers:

It is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that your team/employees are being as productive as possible. The following ideas can help you manage your remote workers better:

1. Recognize the Effects of Isolation and Loneliness

Loneliness can lead to various mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It is important to routinely check up on your team to know how they are faring. The only time you contact them should not be when you want to talk about their work assignments. Observe any performance changes. If you notice a difference in the quality of work or ability to deliver on schedule, it could be an indication that the person is dealing with some difficulty.

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2. Be Available

Always keep communication open. Make yourself available to answer questions or settle any confusion that your employees might have about performing a task.

3. Leverage on Technology

Use virtual meeting tools such as Zoom or Google Meet to facilitate face-to-face communication with your team. You can also use time tracking software to ensure adequate time management. See to it that everyone is working when they should and taking a break at the appropriate intervals. Time management tools such as Traqq, can help you monitor your team and identify any changes in their level of productivity. At the same time, you should also track whether some employees are overloaded. This way, you can properly delegate tasks.

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4. Facilitate Formal and Social Work Flow

It is very important to keep remote workers informed and foster a sense of inclusion:

  • Let your team know what is expected of them and how you intend to conduct supervision.
  • Be verbal in commending a job well done. It is a good way to boost morale.
  • Make use of video conferencing tools for all formal discussions and when checking in on your employees. Non-verbal cues are important in deciphering a person’s wellbeing.
  • Schedule virtual happy hours to encourage informal interaction rapport among remote workers.

5. Encourage Online Training

You can help your employees stay on top of their game by making room for online courses or training. Such learning opportunities encourage engagement and can help bring the team closer together.

Conclusion

Working in isolation poses a challenge to an individual’s mental and overall health. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression can prevent remote workers from doing their best. The productivity remote working tips presented in this article can help you to stay healthy and happy, allowing you to keep your stress levels at a minimum. If you are a manager, you are accountable for your team’s health and output. Check in on your people regularly and try to keep communication open.

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