Mental Health and Remote Work: Are We Still Taking Care Of Ourselves?

For seasoned remote workers, the COVID 19 pandemic might have felt like another day at the virtual office. Nothing changed for people who are used to working from the comfort of our home offices (or living room sofas…) in the professional sense, at the very least.

But working remotely has brought a serious question to the forefront for a lot of people — are you taking care of your mental health while you are working from home?

Source: Unsplash

Remote working is great for many, but do we take care of our mental health?

For employees, freelancers, and C-level executives, there has been one great leveler — mental health issues. Regardless of your position, mental health problems have taken a toll on our society — it’s time to recognize our needs and do something about them!

Mental Health and Working Remotely: The Cold, Hard Stats

General wellness

  • Despite 45% of employees saying that they felt better due to remote working, 46% were exercising less, 39% developed musculoskeletal problems, and 37% had poor sleep patterns. (RSPH)
  • 82% of tech professionals working in the US felt burnout because of remote work (Verdict)
  • 34% of people felt that their relationships had suffered due to working from home (Nuffield Health)

Mental health across the organization

  • 44% of non-managers/non-C-level employees had a drop in their mental health. (Qualtrics)
  • 40.5% of C-level employees reported decreased mental health. (Qualtrics)
  • 40.1% of managers report decreased mental health. (Qualtrics)
  • 80% of Britons felt that working from home had a negative impact on their mental health (Nuffield Health)

Anxiety and remote working

  • 24% of remote workers reported higher levels of anxiety (Qualtrics)

Depression throughout COVID-19

  • During the pandemic, 53% of people felt more emotionally exhausted, 50% felt more irritable, and 24.4% felt guilt about their work or home life — all of which are linked with depression (Qualtrics)

Remote employees and stress

  • 66.9% of people report higher stress levels since the start of the pandemic (Qualtrics) 5 Every Day Remote Work Challenges.

Learning To Unplug

We all know that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important. We want to work to live, not the other way around. But the new wave of remote workers has found that learning when to clock out isn’t easy.

The temptation to stay “on-call” all the time has been one of the bigger problems for the expanding remote workforce. 56% of people struggle to switch off when it comes to the usual end of the day time, meaning they work more overall. This in turn leads to more stress, less personal time, and a greater strain on their mental health.

How can I learn to unplug?

Learn to sign off and stay signed off. Easy to implement habits include:

  • Use separate devices for your work and personal lives.
  • Don’t let software like email clients or messaging apps cross the work-home life divide.
  • Set an alarm for the end of the day to give you a clear sign to log off.

Managing Your Time Properly

This isn’t about productivity. The simple fact is that human brains don’t work well when they have to be 100% efficient for 8 hours a day; we need breaks in our schedule and time to relax.

Although there is constant pressure on workers to be productive, you shouldn’t work yourself to the bone. Managing your time effectively stops work creeping into your personal time — better for you and your remote work experience.

How can I manage my time better?

Managing your time is essential for protecting your mental health. Work from home initiatives doesn’t change that.

  • Use work from home tools to manage your time, communicate with co-workers, and improve your physical health.
  • You are a person, not an extension of a company! Do stuff that you enjoy and catch up on work during your work hours.

Finding The Support Network For You

Offices are more than workplaces — many people make friends and mental health support groups out of co-workers.

Going remote pulled the rug from under a lot of people — without an office culture, they had no one to turn to. Without their usual support networks, this leads to mental health issues for a lot of people.

How do I build a better support network?

Working from home does not mean living in solitude! Turning to your co-workers, friends, and family is even more necessary than ever.

  • For freelancers, Upstack uses Slack integrations to support our developers and create a space for them to chat with fellow professionals.
  • Learn who your team is and make sure you get to know them — just like you would in an office!

Job Security and The Future of Flexible Working

Some things are out of our control. Although the freelancing community might not fear (one door closes and another one opens!), many people were forced into the freelancing world due to a lack of work.

The unemployed were the worst affected by the pandemic in terms of mental health, but new remote workers fared only slightly better. 48.5% of unemployed people suffered from mental health issues, but 44.4% of distributed workers did as well. Leaving the conventional workplace might be a dream for some, but not everyone.

How do I deal with job security issues?

Managing anxiety around your job security is always an issue as long as you stay reliant on big organizations for work.

  • Look into freelancing with organizations like Upstack — take the power back and be your own boss!
  • Constantly look into leveling up your skills to make you more attractive to people who need your skill set.
  • Practice self-help techniques such as meditation and mindfulness to fight off stress.

Feeling Lost When You Are Getting Started

As job security seems to diminish, many people want to be more productive. “Keep working and show my worth to the company” is a pretty solid line of thinking, but it hasn’t been possible for everyone.

Sadly, many people feel they don’t have enough to do during their day to show they are providing value. Whether it’s a lack of work, poor management, or communication issues, it’s a difficult position to be in.

How do I stop getting lost?

This is a hard one because it depends on the company you are working with. Here are some helpful tips to get things rolling in the right direction.

  • Be honest with those around you if you don’t know what you are supposed to do — this happens naturally in a normal office environment, so make it work remotely too.
  • Managers should be able to support you and give you guidance about your projects — if not, that’s something you need to discuss!

Making Working From Home Work For You

Working from home is what you make of it — despite the challenges that come with remote work, enjoying a stress-free life is easier for some when they implement proper self-care. Think about yourself and how you can implement the suggestions above.

Avoiding burnout, protecting your free time, and finding ways around loneliness are the best ways to create a healthy and positive home environment. Healthy habits breed better mental and physical health, which is better for you and the companies you work with.

Remember, working from home can be excellent for your mental health. But you need to manage yourself and your workflow properly in order to get the most out of it. Keep in touch with people, manage your time, and learn when to say “no”!

Tell us about your project and we’ll connect you with top tech talent around the world, or near you!

Originally published at Upstack.co on Nov 5, 2021, by Austin Miller.

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