Remote Work and Mental Health

Remote Work and Mental Health

The challenges and opportunities related to mental wellbeing for people who work remotely have become increasingly relevant. It is not just important, but crucial that organisations address mental wellbeing in this context as remote work has become a standard element of the workforce worldwide.

While remote work offers flexibility, reduced commute stress, and better work-life balance, which can all influence mental wellbeing in a positive way, it also has its drawbacks. Isolation, blurred work-life boundaries, and the absence of social interactions can all negatively impact mental health.

In this article we share some of our Skeiny insights into mental health and remote work from our unique perspective as a remote and hybrid working organisation.

Many organisations, like ours, strive to strike a balance and prioritise self-care while navigating the virtual work environment. It’s not just a goal, but a necessity for maintaining mental wellbeing in remote work environments.

Finding the right balance is crucial for maintaining mental health in the virtual work environment, especially if your workforce, like Skeiny’s, is largely remote. 

Isolation

Lack of in-person interaction when working from home can often lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation that will impact a worker’s wellbeing. Workplaces frequently provide an informal support network to workers.

In the case of working remotely, that support network may be significantly reduced.

Blurred Boundaries

Working from home often blurs the lines between a person’s personal and work life, making disconnecting from work very difficult. This lack of disconnection and boundaries can result in stress and burnout. If left unaddressed, the on-flowing effect of disrupted sleep patterns can lead to chronic stress and poor mental health.

Lack of Social Interaction

Casual watercooler or coffee kitchen conversations that used to be part of everyday life in an office are now remnants of the past for many workplaces that switched to remote working and the bonding opportunities it provided.

We all know that human connections are vital for emotional health. In a virtual environment, building these relationships becomes a challenge. The sense of isolation can significantly impact your mood and overall wellbeing. It’s crucial to find ways to foster these connections, even if it’s through virtual water cooler chats or coffee breaks.

Creativity and problem-solving also thrive through spontaneous interactions only possible in a face-to-face physical environment. Finding new ways to generate and share that creative energy and vibe virtually creates challenges.

These are all challenges that we as a remote workforce need to address sooner rather than later, as they are essential for creating and maintaining emotional and mental wellness within our remote workforce.

Remote Work and Mental Health 2

If we address the challenges of a remote workforce from a mental and emotional wellbeing perspective, we also must address its benefits, for there are many.

There is a good reason why many workers work remotely, like ducks to water. For many, it removed barriers to employment and challenges that limited their options.

There are positive aspects of remote work, such as flexibility, reduced commute stress, and better work-life balance.

Flexibility

Flexibility for a remote workforce means much more than working a few extra hours a week so you can get to your doctor’s appointment during business hours without your pay being affected.

We now see people being able to tailor their start and finish times to suit their needs. Not a morning person? Not a problem! Feeling at your most productive after your 6 am gym session? Channel that energy into creating an excellent presentation slide deck for your morning client meeting!

Riding those waves of productivity as they suit you means that when you show up, you do so with your best energy.

Flexibility means that you bend your work around you and your life instead of bending yourself around your work.

Reduced Commute Stress

One of the benefits of working from home is that it is good for you and the environment. Whether you take public transport to work or your private mode of transport, it has its own stressors.

Sitting in traffic while you stress about a meeting that started 20 minutes ago or travelling on a packed train like a sardine is not good for you. You will be stressed before you even walk through your office door.

According to the World Economic Forum article, Australians save 78 minutes each on average by working from home. If you have not pulled out your calculator yet to see how much that is over a year, I’ll save you the trouble. This time equates to 312 hours over 12 months for a full-time worker or 13 days.

Getting some time back when not commuting to work is not the only benefit here. Workers tend to start their day with less anxiety, and they do not have to battle overcrowded public transport situations or unexpected traffic jams and parking issues.

Improved Work-Life Balance

Stop here momentarily and think about what you would do with that time handed back to you.

Remote work makes establishing and maintaining a boundary between work and personal life challenging. That is a fact. However, paradoxically, it also allows for a better integration of both.

When you do not spend time 13 days a year on average doing nothing other than trying to get from A to B, it creates space for things like hobbies, time and energy for family, relaxation and self-care.

A positive side effect of remote work is that it can also potentially create a healthier work environment. That may be by reducing the overall stress that comes with working in a busy office environment or even enhancing one’s focus by removing distractions. More time becomes available for rest and self-care, and, in many cases, a significant reduction in unplanned leave days is taken.

Remote work

There are clear productivity and logistical advantages to remote working; however, let us remember that mental wellbeing is an important aspect of our work life that will benefit from this arrangement.

Increased Autonomy

Remote work empowers you with more control over your work environment. Whether it’s your cozy home, a vibrant co-working space, or the trendy café down the street, you have a plethora of options beyond the confines of a static office desk. No more hot-desking fiascos or corporate aesthetics dictating your surroundings. You can create a space that truly reflects your style and preferences.

It is no wonder that people prefer spaces they create for themselves just the way they like them. A luxury often not afforded to workers in an office to keep aesthetics aligned with the corporate brand.

When working from home, for example, workers are completely in control of their working environment. There is no fighting over the air conditioner temperature, keeping the blinds open or closed, or trying to track down who had tuna for lunch.

Office Politics

When you work remotely, it almost seems like office politics become a thing of the past. That is almost true, though not completely. While you cannot avoid it altogether, setting healthy boundaries and not participating in gossip and political power play when working remotely is much easier.

This is not to say that you must work like a hermit and not occasionally get into the melee. Working remotely gives workers a choice about whether to engage in those activities.

Reduced Social Pressures

Not everyone is a social animal. If you find face-to-face interaction with co-workers draining, working from home might be your answer. You control much more of how and when you interact with others, and it is way easier to remove yourself from engagements that demand more of your time and energy than you are willing and able to give.

Disconnect

You might think that disconnecting might be a challenge when working remotely, and for some, it may be. However, if you have a healthy understanding of and attitude towards self-care, the ability to take a break whenever you need to and maybe even get outside for breaks during your workday will revitalise you physically and mentally as well.

Those five minutes you might spend in your garden, barefoot even if you are into that sort of thing, will improve your mood and reduce your stress levels.

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Self-care has been mentioned a few times in this article as a benefit of working remotely. We can replace the time we spend commuting with self-care activities, but what is self-care really, and how can we use it in the context of our work?

Practical tips for creating and maintaining wellbeing while working remotely

  • Create a dedicated working environment. Your office desk and surroundings do not have to look like a corporate office. If you need to get your cat a cat couch to sit on instead of your keyboard, so be it.
  • Set up a routine in your day, especially if a daily schedule works well for you. Consistency in your hours and the order of your activities can help you disconnect when the time comes at the end of your day.
  • Vary your communication methods. Use all communication tools at your disposal. Engage with your colleagues in different ways, and it does not all have to be serious. GIFs are a great way to lighten the mood while expressing your feelings.
  • Curate the content you consume during the day. It is easy to fall into the habit of checking the news regularly. Overconsumption can increase your anxiety and feelings of isolation, especially when the content is all doom and gloom.
  • Look after your physical wellbeing. It may take more conscious effort as you do not have your co-workers walking past your desk or your office inviting you to worship at the caffeine shrine mid-morning and afternoon. Take yourself out for a break and move your body regularly.
  • Engage with the support tools your employer offers. It is becoming more common to have an employee assistance program. Some places have mental health programs and regular seminars and workshops available online.

As remote work is now a standard part of the modern workforce, we must address its drawbacks and take advantage of its benefits. Whether it is mental health, physical health or productivity, remote work’s challenges and opportunities will set the tone for a dynamic and ever-flexible way of working.

Organisations do well to strive for a balance between work and life and provide workers with a choice to decide how and what works best for them. With challenges that can be mitigated through innovative strategies and solutions and the benefits of flexibility, a sense of control over work design and wellbeing, and using the right support mechanisms, working remotely is not only viable but advantageous for both employees and employers alike.



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