Working from home might sound like a novelty; the freedom, no one watching over you, homemade lunches, casual clobber… no commute, office small talk or constant distraction. Bliss for some, but for others feelings of isolation, increased anxiety and the newly coined ‘zoom fatigue’ could be an issue.

Working from home can challenge your mental health so it’s important to spot the signs of decline.

The Psychological Effects

You could spend hours if not days without talking to anyone when you aren’t surrounded by colleagues. Team camaraderie doesn’t translate the same way over Google Hangouts and the like.

Without the social aspect of chatting and venting about work and life, you may find yourself internalising, overthinking and worrying. Disconnectivity, isolation, loneliness and worry are all associated with depression, anxiety, and stress… so not a healthy combo!

Another homeworker’s habit is to ‘power on’ the minute you log on, get engrossed in a task and before you know it, it’s midnight! You don’t stop, take breaks or disconnect… this causes burnout and exhaustion, and eventually, you’ll be no use to anyone.

For people who work in the same place they sleep (not literally working from your bed… we hope!) the boundary between work and home life blurs and routine goes out of the window.

Work from home depression can happen when you feel stuck in a rut and can manifest in many ways;

– Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration
– Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
– Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and oversleeping
– Tiredness and lack of energy
– Increased cravings for food
– Anxiety, agitation, and restlessness
– Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
– Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
– Often wanting to stay at home rather than socialising or being active

Your mental health doesn’t have to suffer when you work from home. It’s okay not to feel at your best… just remember you have the power to change.

Routine

In a recent blog post Jamie Reynolds, Cordant CEO, discussed the importance of routine

When you’re organised, have goals and plan out your day, you mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. Then it’s easier to work towards achieving the goals you set out, rather than vaguely meandering towards them.

As part of this, it’s important to schedule breaks, set aside time to take a rest from technology and have fun… the ‘all work, no play’ saying couldn’t be more accurate!

Simple steps like turning off email notifications before and after working hours and maintaining a normal sleep schedule will help maintain a feeling of normalcy.

Workspace

If you don’t have a dedicated workspace… get one! Make it an inspiring space, with a door, where you can mentally and physically separate yourself from your home.

Make sure the equipment works for you…

Are your wrists, arms, and elbows supported? This will keep carpal tunnel and repetitive strain at bay.
Does your chair support your back, neck, and spine… particularly the curve of your lower back?
Is your desk the right height and facing the right way? Avoid glare from the outside world on your screen. HSE provides a free workstation self-assessment.

Exercise

Fight the urge to stay sedentary and schedule active time to get your heart pumping.

Working out is a great distraction from work problems so go for a walk or bike ride, stretch or do yoga. Exercising for 20-30 minutes a day can significantly lower anxiety levels, boost endorphins, and flood your brain with happiness.

Exercising outdoors helps lower blood pressure and stress hormones – this is because fresh air and nice scenery help distract your mind from negative thinking.

Be Social

Get out and venture into society or make time for the people in your life. Chatting to someone is so effective when you’re feeling down. So carve out time to meet a friend for coffee, family for a meal, or a coworker in a collaborative workspace.

Studies also show that ambient noise may boost creative thinking so just being in a supermarket, a busy park or packed highstreet can work wonders on the mood!

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If you are really struggling, reach out to someone you trust, speak to your doctor, call NHS 111, or find a mental health professional. You’re not alone.

Samaritans – Providing confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.
Call: 116 123 (free to call from within the UK and Ireland), 24 hours a day
www.samaritans.org

Mind – offering advice, support and information to people experiencing a mental health difficulty and their family and friends.
Call: 0300 123 3393 or text: 86463 (Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, except bank holidays)
www.mind.org.uk