With remote working being more popular than ever, people have begun to wonder about the effects working remotely has on an individual’s mental health. While the immediate health benefits of working from home are evident in times of crisis such as the 2020 pandemic, working remotely also influences mental health in multiple ways.
The Reality of Working Remotely
Working remotely is a big lifestyle change for those who previously worked in a traditional environment. Adapting to a reality where isolation and burnout are causes of concern requires a lot of willpower, but the good news is that the shift in perspective brings unexpected benefits with it.
Numerous studies have confirmed the link between mental health and work over the years. An article published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems in 2009 showed that a reform was long overdue when it came to improving mental health in workplaces in developing countries. The study pointed out that workplace stress is associated with reduced workplace productivity and is linked with an increased risk of common mental disorders.
Cutting Work-Related Stress
Working in a stressful environment is one of the principal causes of mental health issues, and working remotely solves the problem, at least partially. In a survey conducted by Reba in 2019, 39% of the respondents agreed that having a flexible job would had a positive impact on their mental health.
With the average commute in the U.S. being approximately 27 minutes each way, and similar in most developed countries, it’s no wonder simply getting to and from work five days a week is bound to take a toll on mental health.
Working remotely removes the stress of commuting, as well as everything associated with office chatter, gossip, and forced human interaction that decreases productivity and often impacts mental health negatively.
Isolation Is Real, But There Are Workarounds
Probably one of the most common complaints you hear about working remotely is the fact that it is an isolating lifestyle. Living and working by yourself is indeed hard, and the isolation is real even if you have a family, as you get disconnected from your peers.
Not everyone feels the impact of isolation the same way, though. Introverted individuals may think that this kind of lifestyle is the best thing that has happened to them, while others may fall into bad habits and have a hard time thriving.
If you’re in the second category, the good news is that you can take steps to feel less isolated. The first and most obvious is to continue to work remotely, but not from home. Renting a co-working space in the city is a good solution for those who need the discipline of having to dress up and go somewhere in the morning. That way, you can still embrace the flexibility of working remotely while also enjoying the social aspect of a traditional job.
Focusing More on Mental Health and Overall Wellness
Working remotely often gives individuals more time and energy to focus on their mental health. Because they don’t have to deal with commuting and numerous other factors that distract their attention during the day in a traditional workplace, remote workers can devote more time to their well-being. According to a study by PGi, 82% of the respondents said that flexible work options resulted in lower stress levels.
Many employees simply can’t find the time to meditate or exercise as much as they would like to because they have to juggle work commitments with family responsibilities. While it is of course possible to take care of your physical and mental health when you work in a traditional job, it is much easier to do so when you enjoy the flexibility of setting your own hours.
Remote Workers Are Happier
Companies that employ both traditional workers and remote ones often specify that their remote workers are overall happier. For example, Dell has been focusing on using remote workers in increasingly manner over the last decade, and the surveys the company has carried out consistently showed that the ability to work remotely increases the level of happiness of their staff.
Other Surprising Effects of Working Remotely on Your Wellbeing
There are other beneficial effects of working from home that have an indirect impact on a worker’s mental health and wellbeing. For example, working from home means that you have the possibility to eat healthier because your own kitchen is available to you throughout the day. This means that you can prepare healthy food that you would otherwise only be able to enjoy on weekends. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the endless train of birthday cakes that always seem to be forced upon you in a traditional office.
If you live right in the place where you work, you are bound to get more sleep as well. A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mental health, which means that if you don’t have to wake up two hours before work starts, you will enjoy more sleep and be happier as a result.
And finally, something that many remote workers not take into account but they really should is the fact that working from home means that you won’t get sick very often. Working in an office means that you get exposed to all kinds of germs, not to mention the ones that you could catch when commuting by train or bus. As such, remote working has a significant impact on your overall health and indirectly on your mental health.
Working remotely is the future of work and the events of 2020 are definitely cementing the benefits of working from home. Besides the obvious pros of working a flexible job, working remotely is a sure-fire way to improve your mental health and have more time for your family and the things that really matter for your happiness.