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Mental Health & Remote Work: Acknowledging the Dark Side of Remote Work

Overcoming Challenges

Remote work poses some unique mental challenges. To overcome them:

  • Acknowledge the mental health issues of remote workers.
  • Have an open conversation and workshops to address mental health issues.
  • Support a person having issues like depression, stress and anxiety.
  • Encourage time off from work to recharge, and utilizing sick days for mental health.
  • Daily mindfulness activities.
  • Go out in a community for some social time together among coworkers.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Mental Health & Remote Work: Acknowledging the Dark Side of Remote Work

Mental Health & Remote Work: Acknowledging the Dark Side of Remote Work

https://doist.com/blog/remote-work-mental-health/

doist.com

4

Key Ideas

Remote Working

Remote working is not all glamorous as portrayed in social media, and many remote workers, while being free to roam around, are lonely.

Human beings cannot belong anywhere instantly, and a strong community building does not have any shortcuts. People with strong social ties in a singular place live longer, healthier and happier lives.

Nomads

  • We assume living alone provides us with freedom and independence, but the ground reality is quite different. Nomads, while staying and working alone, meet new people, but don’t make any real friends. 
  • Many nomads have false assumptions about an office activity or event, and not being able to see your coworkers in person every day, leads to being ‘out of touch’.
  • Constant working in isolation leads to irregular sleep patterns, mood swings and eating disorders due to a lack of routine and structure in a day.

A Healthy Balance

Remote working may have tremendous advantages but research suggests that human beings aren’t meant to work in isolation. Working socially with co-workers who are good friends leads to higher engagement and satisfaction in one’s job.

For remote working to be successful, it needs to be tailored to suit one’s particular needs and personality, finding a good fit, while taking care of one’s mental well-being.

Overcoming Challenges

Remote work poses some unique mental challenges. To overcome them:

  • Acknowledge the mental health issues of remote workers.
  • Have an open conversation and workshops to address mental health issues.
  • Support a person having issues like depression, stress and anxiety.
  • Encourage time off from work to recharge, and utilizing sick days for mental health.
  • Daily mindfulness activities.
  • Go out in a community for some social time together among coworkers.

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Early times

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From factories to cubicles to WiFi

Just after WW2, there was a rise in corporate headquarters and larger office spaces and cubicles. During this time, the 8-hour workday was established.

Then came the advancements in computers and technology that lead to remote workers of today. The internet and public WiFi allowed employees to do everything they would in their cubicle, but outside the office. They can also work all hours of the day.

Remote work is common

4.3 million people currently work from home in the United States at least half of the time, and this figure has grown by 150% in the last 13 years.  

Remote workers tend to have higher engagement rates and higher productivity levels. Once they switch to remote work, they rarely want to become office bound again.

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Psychological Effects of Working from Home
  • Loneliness and isolation. And loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms like random pain.
  • Anxiety and pressure. The bounda...
Symptoms of Depression
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration, even with unimportant matters.
  • Loss of interest or happiness in activities such as sex or hobbies.
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleeping too much.
  • Tiredness and lack of energy for even the smallest activities.
  • 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
  • Avoiding people.
Take Care of Your Mental Health

...while working from home:

  • Create a schedule and stick to it. Scheduling your tasks (and breaks) will help you to mentally prepare for the day.
  • Have a dedicated comfortable workspace, with a door that closes, preferably.
  • Fight the urge to stay sedentary and schedule active time to get your heart pumping.
  • Foster social connections (on the phone or via the internet, if physical contact is not possible).
  • Learn to say no. Know your limitations, set boundaries based on your schedule and workload, and don’t extend yourself beyond them.
Asynchronous communication

There are mainly two ways to communicate within a company: synchronous and asynchronous communication. While the second type has always been widely practiced, as face-to-face meetings or any other ...

Real-time communication drawbacks

While real-time communication inside of a team might lead to solving faster some issues, it also has various disadvantages. 

For instance, having your colleagues come to ask you questions to which you feel pressured to answer on the spot leads to you being continuously interrupted, which results in being less productive and feeling stressed or even getting a burnout, as you try to do everything in proper time.

The asynchronous workplace

When the employees are provided with control as to when they are willing to communicate with their co-workers, there are many advantages that emerge. 

For instance, having the freedom to decide exactly how your working day should look like leads to more satisfied employees as well as to better communication within the team. Further benefits vary from feeling less stressed due to better planning to greater transparency and more efficient work.

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Digital Nomad
The idea of working from home, on your laptop, flexibly, without having to do the daily commute, is appealing to many office workers.
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The Other Side

Studies on long term work-from-home workers found that lack of interaction with colleagues and the lack of an office vibe can result in a disconnection from the outer world, leading to isolation.

Working at Home

Pitfalls of working from home: 

  • Mental health disorders like anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Feeling isolated
  • Less self-discipline
  • Lack of exercise
  • Unable to keep the boundaries between work and life.

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Suddenly Working From Home

There is a sudden shift towards remote working in workspaces all across the world, with many people abruptly thrust towards it without warning.

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Mimic Your Office Culture

For many of us, the office becomes a fun place due to a sense of community, purpose and fun interactions that make up an office day. To try and mimic your office culture virtually:

  1. Set up Slack channels for water cooler conversation
  2. Schedule virtual movie days, when the same movie is streamed with the chat option on.
  3. Try to recreate virtual versions of what employees miss the most in office, like a coffee break, for instance.
Being Social While Remotely Working

Being social at office lubricates official conversations and the work itself. The more we spend time with colleagues having non-essential chatter, the easier our work becomes with them.

It helps to be creative and infuse fun into a virtual interaction. Any official conversation, like a manager meeting his subordinates in a one-on-one meeting, can start by asking about the person’s life (something unrelated to work), so that a connection is built.

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Getting an early start
Getting an early start

Plan your morning the night before and stick to your plan. 
If a new task comes in that isn’t 100% urgent, designate a time that you’ll work on it uninterrupted or try to delegate the probl...

Deciding where to work
  • If you know you’re more likely to work from home, invest in comfortable furniture; you feel good it will inspire you to get work done.
  • If you want to join a local co-working space but are intimidated by the price point, ask about smaller memberships to start.
Prioritizing tasks

Don’t let your skepticism about productivity hacks get in the way of finding a technique that suits you and helps you get things done.
If you’re still having a hard time identifying priorities, try working backward by identifying work that’s definitely not a priority. Eliminate those items and assess what’s left.

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Social media

The rise of social media has meant that we as a global population are more connected than we have ever been in the history of time. 

...
Self-esteem

A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen found that many people suffer from “Facebook envy”, with those who abstained from using the popular site reporting that they felt more satisfied with their lives. 

Becoming more conscious of the amount of time you spend scrolling through other people’s online profiles could help you focus more on yourself and boost your self-confidence.

Human connection

It’s so important for us to be able to communicate and forge personal connections with one another. However, it can be hard to do so when we’re glued to rectangular screens, becoming more acquainted with our friends’ digital facades than their real-life personas.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that assessed 5,208 subjects found that overall, regular use of Facebook had a negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing. 

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Personal Connection

A sense of connection and belonging are sentiments that are helpful for building “affective trust” – a form of trust based on emotional bond and interpersonal relatedness.

It vari...

Statistics On Remote Workers
  • Loneliness was reported as the biggest downside for 21% of remote employees, and one of the reasons that makes them more likely to quit.
  • Most remote managers say they’d be more inclined to stay if they had more friends at work.
  • Individuals who have 15 minutes to socialize with colleagues have a 20% increase in performance over their peers who don't.
  • Positive social relationships are correlated with better life expectancy.
Dynamic Icebreakers

If your icebreaker questions are intriguing, cheeky, humorous – the answers you receive will be, too.

Many remote teams will kick off their weekly meeting with an icebreaker question or insert it during their morning stand-up meeting. Even more popular is asking a series of icebreaker questions during the onboarding process when hiring someone.

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Longing For The Office Culture
Longing For The Office Culture
  • Earlier a privilege for a few, work from home became a norm for most office-goers due to the ongoing pandemic and is likely to remain for the rest of the year.
  • The shift towards wo...
Work-Life Balance When Working From Home
  • Though employees are happy to see the demise of daily commutes and parking hassles, they are finding out that there is no work-life balance at home.
  • Most workers live in apartments that aren’t suitable for 8 to 10 hours of work every day, as it was never designed to be a full-fledged office.
  • Many employees would want to get back to offices as soon as possible due to social and mental issues, like the feeling of loneliness at home.
Digital Monitoring

Monitoring software that checks time spent on different applications, chat response time, and keystroke recording is now in great demand.

HR departments worldwide are fueling the use of technology to have a way to control the employees that are now no longer in the office.

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The shared context

For the whole idea of remote work to actually work, you have to develop a remote culture for your team.
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Working from home misconceptions

Working from home does not mean you are a remote worker. For a lot of people “working from home” is synonymous with not really working, but instead sitting at home in comfy clothes and doing anything but working. Because no one is really watching you.

Rules for remote work
  • Assume remote, even if you have only 1 person that is not coming to the office. So make sure to share all the information from meetings in a written format.
  • Have a private, quiet, dedicated space for working in your home. Preferably with a door that closes.
  • Have the right digital equipment.
  • Over-communicate.
  • Make sure you get to actual meet your colleagues face to face.
  • Have a time overlap with your team.

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