Remote work can impact employees' mental health in good and bad ways. At first, remote working seemed like a dream, but the reality was different. Employees feel this work style is a double-edged sword. It can act as a support mechanism but, in some way, also exacerbate mental health issues.
A survey shows that 47% of leaders plan not to give the option of working from home because it affects their employees' well-being. Executives are trying to persuade them to return to the office, arguing that remote work leads to social isolation and a lack of boundaries between life and work. An article in Fast Company also mentions that remote work exacerbates mental health problems, such as depression.
As mentioned earlier, remote work has a good effect too. Flexible work options and employees don't have to drive. For many people, remote work provides space for hobbies outside of work. FlexJobs surveyed over 3,000 professionals, and 97% said that flexible work positively impacts the quality of life.
Remote Work is World’s response to the Global Pandemic
COVID-19 changed the workplace dynamics, and companies swiftly adopted remote work. In the pre-pandemic, Pulse of Remote Work showed that 14% worked part-time remotely and 20% full-time remotely, from 410 respondents.
- Businesses realise that working from home or anywhere is just as effective as working in an office.
- Companies can reduce the budget for running a business by cutting office costs.
- People can cope with the obstacles as they get used to working remotely.
While remote work has many benefits, companies need to realise that the mental health of their employees is a top priority.
Unforeseen Consequences of Remote Work
When remote work hit its peak, people happily embraced it. They imagine how easy it is to schedule time between work and personal time. What's more, they are not ready for the psychological effects.
It's certainly not news to remote workers and freelancers. But they're unaware of the effect. They must concern about the following:
- Blurred work-life boundaries.
- Working alone (without a co-worker at the next desk) can be challenging.
- Isolated because there is no real interaction other than through virtual meetings or chatting from a laptop.
- Stress due to lack of time management skills when working from home.
- Depression and burnout.
Remote workers must underline depression and burnout in the last point. Symptoms can include angry outbursts, anxiety, fluctuating appetite, or even physical problems.
How Burnout affects employee's mental Health and Well-being
Buffer found that 22% of employees find it difficult to disengage after work hours. 19% suffer from loneliness, and 8% find it difficult to be motivated. Another study by The Royal Society of Public Health found that 67% of part-timers were less connected to co-workers, and 56% found it difficult to leave work.
Humans are social creatures. They need interaction and have friends. When the pandemic hits, they should work from home and do the physical distance. It means this goes against their habit, and if done for a long time, it will affect their mental and physical health.
Physical Health Problem
Burnout and depression cause issues with physical health. The most common disease is musculoskeletal pain. The main culprits are poor desk setup, unsupportive chairs and lack of exercise.
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported that 41.2% of remote workers suffer lower back pain, while 23.5% suffer neck pain.
Unsurprisingly, those who suffer physical effects report lower job satisfaction. They were also found to have mental health risks and burnout.
Likewise, eye strain is also a common complaint of remote workers. This effect is called Computer Vision Syndrome, which results in symptoms of headaches, blurred vision and neck pain.
Good sides of Remote Work
For some, working from anywhere is already a game changer that is positive for the downside—a fair trade-off.
For workers with caring responsibilities, remote work using VirtualSpace can be helpful. They manage their tasks and collaboration with the team in one place, besides they can play with children and make lunch for the family in separate ways.
Then, is remote work just about a balance of well-being? No. Many good things from the existence of this work system. The main advantages of remote work are flexibility and freedom. Employees are free to plan their day without interruption wisely. A well-planned day will promote a better life balance and increase well-being.
Plus, it also gives a good side for business. Companies can cut costs for office expansions or buy building utilities. Dell saves $12 million per year when implementing remote work systems.
Signs of Burnout and How to Deal with It
After seeing the facts about burnout from remote workers, employees need a strategy. They must protect their mental health from continuing to be remote workers. So the first preventive step that needs to be done is to recognize the signs of burnout.
Adapted to Queensland Government, there are three symptoms if someone is burnout; physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms.
- Physical symptoms: Headaches, fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep, digestive problems, and tiredness.
- Emotional symptoms: Self-doubt, complacency, loss of motivation, feeling alone, cynicism and helplessness.
- Signs of behaviour: Decreased performance, social withdrawal, delays and emotional outbursts.
So, how to deal with it?
- Mental health is a top priority. Be proactive towards your mental well-being; you will be happier and more productive.
- Try to reframe how you view work. Determine the right perspective for your work to find balance's value and meaning.
- Switch to another communication channel. You can turn to the community when the work environment doesn't facilitate offline friendships.
- Try a new physical activity like swimming or an afternoon workout. Modify these activities as a way to boost your mood and energy.
- Support the body with healthy food and sleep. Take the edge off when you burn out by trying a new recipe or sleeping.
Does remote work affect worker well-being? Of course. There is a good side, including flexibility and freedom, and a bad side, mental health. These effects have been around since the dawn of remote work. Sadly, many remote workers are aware of the effects too late. Stress, depression and burnout are definitely inevitable problems in remote work, but there are ways to overcome them. With the right approaches, we can still maintain our productivity while staying healthy both physically and mentally.