4 Signs Working From Home Is Impacting Your Mental Health — And How to Fix It

woman working remotely on couch

Mikhail Nilov, Pexels

Sara London for Hive
Sara London for Hive
June 23, 2024 at 5:23PM UTC
There are many conflicting viewpoints about whether or not working from home is detrimental or beneficial for mental health. While isolation, loneliness and lack of boundaries between work and personal life are considered the most prevalent issues, sometimes it can be hard to tell where those issues stem from and how to fix them. Here, we’ll set the record straight using the most updated data available on working from home mental health.
A March 2021 report from the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine collected data from participants about working from home and how it impacts their physical, mental and emotional health. Many view working from home as a mixed bag, and the data corroborates that. 
One’s quality of life seems to be dramatically impacted by three main factors: your workstation, who you’re living with and health-related lifestyle choices.
Other secondary factors include salary, as those with 50k to 100k salary range reported having the most mental wellbeing. The largest population with two or more physical and mental health issues were women who make under $100k per year. According to multiple other studies, this population is at the highest risk of depression when working from home.

Factors that impact your mental health while working from home

Your setup

The right workstation setup is the first and most important predictor for overall wellbeing in working from home mental health. Many might get a subsidy from their employer to purchase items for their home office, but it’s entirely possible that people are still stuck working from their bedrooms, kitchen tables or couches due to a lack of space. Only 33% of people have a dedicated room for working from home, and half of those people share that space with another person all day.
The study notes that less than one-third of people report having a less than an ideal workstation. A tiny portion (11%) knew that their workstation could affect their mental and physical health and productivity. Of those who knew that their workstation could negatively impact their work performance, a little over a third noted having a reportedly “good” setup.

Your roommates and/or family

Another factor that plays into working from home mental health is who you’re living with and who you’re responsible for. While 84% of respondents lived with another independent adult, such as a roommate, spouse, or parent, more people had pets (50%) than children or dependents (only 21%). Interestingly, those with an infant or toddler also reported higher mental wellbeing levels.
A considerable determinant of one’s mental wellbeing when working from home was how often they were interrupted or had to change their schedule around to fit the needs of others. Just over 73% of people adjusted their work hours, for better or for worse, and almost an additional 40% had to schedule their work around others in the house. Those who had to readjust their work hours around the schedules of others were more likely to be in the population that reported two or more physical or mental health conflicts.

Your health

Your working from home mental health is dramatically determined by how many physical or mental health considerations you had before the pandemic and how many you have now. Two-thirds of respondents in the study reported new physical health symptoms since beginning to work from home, and three-quarters reported new mental health issues. The majority of these individuals (55%) didn’t just get one mental health issue; they got two – namely, depression and anxiety.
The determiners for increased mental health problems are everything from work hours to distractions. Those who could focus uninterrupted with a thoughtfully assembled at-home workstation reported fewer psychological and physical impediments. However, increased time at a workstation that allows you to concentrate without stopping your workflow also indicated higher probabilities of new physical problems arising if the individual wasn’t aware of the importance of adjusting their workstation to their personal needs (perhaps to accommodate back pain or shoulder pain).

Your management

Another study from the American Psychiatric Association reports that though 54% of employees feel that their bosses are more considerate of their mental health needs, only one in five reports that their employer is offering any mental health services. This is a stark contrast from the pandemic’s beginning, where 35% of companies offered mental health services through the office.
Employees feel that they can talk to employers and coworkers less about mental health issues than they could last year. And whereas taking mental health days became trendy for some time, now four out of ten employees are nervous about the backlash if they take time off for mental health reasons.

What to do

If these working from home mental health issues sound familiar to you, luckily, there are simple things you can do to improve your wellbeing. The first and most important thing is to make yourself a nice workspace all your own, hand-crafted to include the things you prioritize, whether that’s neck and lumbar support or a picture of your childhood dog.
The next thing is that if you experience a lot of interruptions during your workday, that can cause aggravation, discontent, and even mental health concerns like anxiety. If you can, carve out time for yourself – block out a no meeting morning or a little personal time away from your partner – and meditate on your work.
Decreased junk food intake, increased exercise, and increased communication with coworkers were also predictors for improved mental health when working from home. So, like you’ve read a hundred times and will probably see another hundred times, take care of your body and mind by eating well, exercising when you can, and finding solace in the faces you see every day. By staying mindful, open, and approaching your circumstances with the intent to better yourself, you might find that your quality of life will improve.
This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

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