Work from home has many advantages. It probably has a few disadvantages, but amongst them, the psychological effects of working from home is the biggest.
The COVID19 pandemic has affected the entire world. Most of the officers have shifted towards the work-from-home culture. Currently, 40% of the employees all over the globe are still working from home. The scare of the next wave is keeping the companies from calling their employees back to the offices. There were a few months when almost all countries went on lockdown. This duration provided insights to the companies towards the benefits of working from home. If employees are home, this reduces the company’s infrastructure costs, retains productivity, reduces the HR headaches while keeping their workers safe.
During the initial months, employees reported that they felt safer when they were working from home. They were also cutting down on their commute time that in turn increased their productivity time. However, once the initial few months had passed, the real effect of working from home on mental health started to surface.
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Negative psychological effects of working from home
Humans are social animals. Most of us cannot live in solitude. However, work from home is completely solitude-based. This can be a little disconcerting experience for the employees. It is very difficult for the millennial generation who are used to having their colleagues for company at the workplace. Their time gets divided between doing their work and engaging with other people at work. This keeps their stress at bay. However, there is no company or camaraderie when the employees are working from home. This leads to extreme isolation and loneliness.
Increases in stress levels
The sudden absence of physical connection makes people feel that they have nowhere to go if they are feeling anxious or stressed. This becomes increasingly challenging as time passes due to the lack of support from co-workers and colleagues. The office environment can be seen as a river where there are employees clustered in small boats. Every boat has employees who are working on one specific project. They share similar stress and concerns. However, when people are working from home, each of them is on a single boat, alone with their own thoughts, stress, and concerns. Here there is no sharing, camaraderie or distribution of stress. This leads to a compounding of the stress.
Furthermore, when people work from home, their social life gets reduced to practically nothing. Earlier, there used to be set working hours. After a person left the office, there was a very small chance that a call from the office would come at home. However, nowadays in the work from home culture, the employees do not get any time off and are accessible at all times of the day. This has further increased, not only the workload but also the stress levels of employees.
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Increased levels of breakdowns and violence
The absence of entertainment and social life and the increase in long work hours have escalated issues like depression, frustration, anxiety, and stress in the domestic environment of the workers. There has also been an increase in the cases of emotional breakdowns of employees. There has also been a major increase in the number of domestic violence cases since the employees do not have a time off and cannot blow off steam.
Absence of the feeling of belongingness
Workplaces are a very diverse community where every employee identifies as a part of a big group of people. There are meeting places in the workplace like a coffee machine or the cafeteria where people exchange ideas and share general camaraderie. This enhances the feeling of well-being and improves self-confidence amongst employees. This sudden reduction in daily interaction amongst peers has led to the degradation of the mental health of employees. Most often, the official community acts as a support system for the employees and they feel the loss when they have to work from home.
Even when there are virtual meetings organized by the office, the only talk that takes place in the meeting are the ones related to the work with an absolute absence of any kind of social interaction. There are no jokes, no hello, no asking each other what they plan to do for the weekend. The absence of these simple pleasantries increases the feeling of desolation in the worker and makes him or her feel caged while working from home.
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|Effects of work from home on mental health|
Decrease in productivity
Some people are not good at working from home. Even on Sundays, if such people have to work they would prefer to go to the office and do their work. When such people have to stay at home and work, they cannot get into that mental frame that is required to boost their productivity. Some people may not have an office-like arrangement at their home. When a person dresses up, wears shoes, travels to a location for the purpose of work, they feel energized and productive. However, when you are in your pajamas, in fuzzy socks, sitting on your bed, and trying to get work done, that mental productivity zone is never reached by the worker.
Increase in cultural isolation due to lack of geographical boundaries
Technology has made the world a very small place. The work-from-home culture has allowed employees from any part of the world to work together and be productive. However, the utilization of the different time zones is good on the part of a growing business but it can negatively affect the individual employees. The employees who are remotely working from home may come from a different culture, may speak a different language, and may have different communication styles. This can lead to major communication problems between peers and colleagues who are stationed in another location. In certain countries, managers are treated like bosses, they are referred to as sirs and the relationship is very formal. While in case of other countries, managers may be seen as peers and a more informal relationship may be encouraged. If there are very few employees from remote locations, they may feel left out and alienated.
Communicated and cultural isolation has been observed to increase the levels of depression and lead to low productivity. Every employee needs a boost and a pep talk every now and then. One of the primary psychological effects of work from home on mental health is a reduction in engagement, reduction in job satisfaction, reduction in productivity, and increase in isolation and depression amongst the employees.
Since in the case of work from home, there are no specific office hours, the workloads have become unimaginable, the pressure to meet the performance standards and keep up with all of the assigned tasks has become very difficult for the employees. This has led to employees feeling constantly stressed and anxious. Those who have kids engaging in online schooling have to also play the role of educators for their kids. This has led to increased burnout amongst employees because they are unable to switch themselves off from their work mentally. There is no quality time left to be spent with their family members or unwind.
Another of the psychological effects of working from home has been depression as well as other mental illnesses. People are not receiving social support and are experiencing increased levels of loneliness. Spending long hours in a sedentary lifestyle has also caused an increase in joint and back pain in people. Pain is known to further deteriorate the mental well-being of a person. Those who are suffering from depression have observed an increase in the intensity of their physical pain. This in turn leads to the beginning of a negative loop of pain and depression which feeds one another.
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Positive psychological effects of working from home
For those who prefer to stay at home, the work-from-home culture has been very beneficial. This way, they are able to spend more time with their family members as well as learn new skills which enhances their self-confidence and emotional well-being.
Improvement in lifestyle and emotional well-being
Those employees and students who had to travel a lot were able to save up on their finances, energy, and time. The work-from-home culture has enabled such individuals to get simple but important benefits like better sleep, more time with kids and spouses, time to engage in hobbies, preparing healthy meals instead of dining out, exercising more, etc. There are a lot of people who have found benefits in staying at home and working instead of commuting to the office and wasting one to two hours of their daily life in traveling.
Flexibility and agility
Employees are allowed to work during their own hours. This has been especially beneficial for those who have to juggle their work and take care of kids. In this matter, even if the employee is sick, the employee can take half a day to relax and then work the rest of the half of the day without having to take leave from the office. For students, they can view pre-recorded classes at their convenience.
Usually, the work from home was viewed as having a huge negative impact on employee’s and students mental health and physical well-being. However, off late, it has been observed that there are positives to working from home as well. The different organizations and workplaces are also taking mental health seriously and striving towards making difference. As the world is starting to move towards a more virtual and digital platform, companies are also working from their side to help their employees access mental health services via digitized platforms. The employees are encouraged to meet up with counselors and psychologists in online sessions. Regular counselling can help employees and students battle the effects of working from home and reap the positive benefits.
There are a few things that you can do for yourself to keep your mental health stable
- Keep a set routine for yourself to follow
- Engage in informal conversations with team members and co-workers
- Take breaks to exercise and chat with your family members
- Engage in a hobby
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Work from home culture comes with its own pros and cons. The psychological impact of work from home can be viewed as either being negative or positive depending on one’s personal experiences. However, these negative experiences can be turned into positive experiences by undertaking certain measures by the employees and students.
In my next blog post, I will be discussing how you can maintain your mental health while engaging in a work-from-home schedule. So, stay tuned and subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already done so. If you subscribe, I can send you regular updates pertaining to all the new blog posts directly to your inbox. You will never miss out on a notification. If you have any queries pertaining to this blog post or any other coffee free to reach out to me on any of my social media channels. Alternatively, you can also reach out to me by writing in the comment section below. I will be happy to help.
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