Working From Home and Depression

Is there a link between working from home and depression? Find out how remote work can affect mental health and what you can do about it.

Written by Matthew Urwin
Published on Jun. 28, 2023
Working From Home and Depression
Image: Shutterstock / Built In

The shift to remote work has its benefits, but it’s also left some people wondering if there’s a link between working from home and depression. Many workers have experienced a decline in their mental health, even while enjoying flexible work options. According to a Journal of Public Health study, depressive symptoms like anxiety and sleep loss have become common among the remote work population. 

Working from home can leave a lot to be desired if companies don’t take measures to support remote employees. Keeping mental health in mind, employees and employers should work together to establish strategies that address working from home and depression, among other mental health issues.

 

Does Working From Home Cause Depression?

It’s impossible to say for sure if working from home causes depression. More research is needed on this topic since current studies have found both positive and negative effects related to working from home.

Does Working From Home Cause Depression?

More research is needed to determine if working from home causes depression. That said, remote work does remove typical coworker interactions and work-life boundaries, which may negatively affect mental health.

Despite no official causal relationship, it may be the case that working from home exacerbates factors that lead to depression. Remote work removes the chance interactions that occur between coworkers in an office setting, sometimes resulting in feelings of isolation and loneliness. Many employees may also struggle to separate their professional and personal lives and extend their work hours, leading to burnout and sleep deprivation.

Other challenges may also impact employees’ well-being. Many people worry about their job security or financial situations, whether they work remotely or not. It’s crucial then not to conflate these variables with the potential consequences of working from home.     

The link between working from home and depression isn’t certain, but there are often downsides to remote work if employees and companies fail to prioritize mental health.

 

Effects of Working From Home on Mental Health

Although remote employees often have more freedom to organize their workdays as they please, working from home has also brought about new mental health challenges.       

 

Weakened Work Relationships

Working from home can put a strain on the work relationships that make jobs satisfying. According to a workplace happiness survey, 22 percent of employees believe working next to a work friend makes them equally or more productive, and 21 percent claim it makes them more creative.

Being in the same room fosters collaboration between employees. It encourages people to share ideas and build stronger bonds. Remote work doesn’t mean the end of these relationships, but it can dampen them if companies don’t have a plan for keeping remote employees connected to one another.     

 

Lack of Work-Life Balance

In the absence of a regular work routine, it’s easy to blur the lines between work life and home life. Remote workers may end up going over their hours since they can’t get away from their computer or home office. Increased connectivity means more availability, compelling employees to answer calls and emails long after the work day has ended. 

Not being in the office may also fuel fears about job security, making workers feel like they need to compensate by extending their hours. All of that comes with its own negative consequences

 

Employee Burnout and Fatigue

If employees don’t know how to set work-life boundaries, working from home can become a major stressor. Depleted energy levels and long work days are not part of a normal routine and often serve as red flags for employee burnout.

But even if employees confine their work schedules to regular hours, remote work can still have a draining effect. Phenomena like Zoom fatigue occur when teams have to sit through too many virtual meetings without enough space to recover. Companies that don’t respect people’s limits risk alienating employees working from home and stoking feelings of discontent among their workforces.   

 

Benefits of Working From Home

Although working from home comes with its challenges, it also offers many benefits.

No Commute

Without the need to commute to and from work, employees get back more hours in their day to spend as they wish. Remote workers have extra time to complete chores, exercise and enjoy personal hobbies.

Schedule Flexibility (Especially for Parents and Caregivers)

This flexibility has been an even greater boon for employees who are parents or are responsible for taking care of family members. Now workers can spend more time helping their kids with homework or providing extra assistance to grandparents.

Geographic Diversity 

Since companies don’t require employees to go into the office, workers have more options for where they can live. Some employees may want to move closer to family and friends while others may choose to move to a dream destination.  

 

Mental Health Tips for Working From Home

Companies can establish employee wellness strategies, so morale and productivity remain steady during remote work. Individual employees can also implement a handful of mental health tips to help maintain wellbeing while working from home.

Mental Health Tips for Working From Home

  1. Structure your day around new routines.
  2. Dedicate a physical space to work.
  3. Take plenty of breaks.
  4. Connect with others.
  5. Hold your employer accountable.

 

1. Structure Your Day Around New Routines

With no more time spent arriving at a desk and packing up for the day, it’s critical for remote workers to find replacement activities that bookend their workdays. They can start their mornings by listening to relaxing music, drinking a cup of coffee or reading a few pages of a book. At the end of the day, they may want to close their laptops, go for a walk or stretch for a few minutes. Work-from-home rituals can transform actions into cues that tell your brain when to prepare for work and when to power down. 

 

2. Dedicate a Physical Space to Work 

Establishing a room or space solely for work purposes can be another way to reinforce work-life boundaries. Home offices make it easier to mimic the process of walking into an area where you have to leave personal matters behind and focus on work tasks. It’s also convenient when you need to join a call or team meeting without interruptions.
 

3. Take Plenty of Breaks 

Working from home can confine employees to the same area all day long, making work feel endless. Breaks are an easy way to disrupt a monotonous schedule and prevent workers from mentally tapping out. Walk away from your workspace and grab a snack, run a quick errand or solve a short crossword puzzle to take your mind off work problems. 

 

4. Connect With Others

Even if you’ve developed an individual work-from-home routine, it’s important to make space in your schedule for your coworkers and friends at work. Employees who live in the same city can organize a coworking session at a local cafe or an after-work dinner. Teams spread out across greater distances can also partake in virtual team-building activities. These methods might stray from traditional approaches, but they can still be effective in helping remote workers feel closer to their colleagues.        

 

5. Hold Your Employer Accountable

Employers are also responsible for their employees’ wellbeing, so workers should make sure their companies have mental health policies set in place. Paid sick days, free counseling services and fitness reimbursements are a few features organizations can include in their healthcare benefits to maintain employees’ mental wellness.

Employees should also make sure everyone is taking advantage of these perks, especially managers and C-level executives. Getting high-level workers to take time off and follow other healthy practices removes the stigma surrounding mental health and normalizes mental wellness in the workplace.

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