Can working from home affect your wellbeing? How is working from home different from living at home?
If your general home wellbeing habits are poor, working from home won’t improve things. It will likely make things worse.
If your wellbeing habits are good, working from home can still make things worse. This sounds like a lose-lose situation.
Bringing additional stress home (as work usually does) adds to any stress that already exists.
On the other hand, if your job is so satisfying that you enjoy good wellbeing no matter where you are, the following may not apply.
For most people, the most common challenges are:
Mental distress: Any mental distress caused by working from home.
Physical health decline: Any decline in physical health caused by working from home.
Let’s unpack these a bit further.
Mental distress caused by working from home
There is endless talk online about mental distress caused by working from home. wofome’s objective is not to amplify this, but instead, validate it with your input. How real is it, and how real are the claimed causes? Here’s what we are seeing:
Lack of social interaction
This can cause stress or depression due to a heightened sense of isolation. Those in need of constant social interaction with work colleagues are most vulnerable. This character trait, however, is often incorrectly applied to anyone that works from home.
Is this you? Wofomers* who fall into this category can take heart. We are energetically working on this challenge. We are asking other Wofomers for tips to help you improve your own social situation.
Maybe you already have some ideas yourself? See the section below on Social Adventurers for some initial thoughts.
(* a Wofomer is a work-from-home-er)
By contrast, Wofomers not troubled by a lack of social interaction are:
Introverts, who often experience more stress while at their workplace than they otherwise would.
Before you discount these ‘weird aliens’ as a small and unfortunate group, keep in mind that introverts make up about 50% of humankind, according to most personality metrics.
Introverts often find work-related social interaction a distraction, if not outright uncomfortable. They often report that work-related social interaction disrupts their ability to focus and be productive.
They also say that pressure to socialise at work creates a culture of us-and-them where they are labelled outliers by their socially needy extrovert work colleagues.
People who always work from home. Yes, they do exist. In droves! Think of sole traders, small home businesses, online workers and so on.
These Wofomers have their social groups already well established. They do not depend on work-related social interactions (if they have any work colleagues at all).
These Wofomers can teach us a thing or two. Is this you?
Loss of control and staying in the loop
If you work for an organisation, there is a social-hierarchy dynamic in play. Think; career building, corporate climbing and corporate politicking.
Organisations are naturally full of gossip and positioning. It’s no different from other human interactions more broadly.
When you work for an organisation from home, your interactions are reduced to online exchanges (via digital communication channels like voice, video, email etc.).
Online engagement deprives you of social enablers like;
- an ability to read non-verbal social queues, especially body language.
- the capacity to pick up on group-vibe.
- the means to overhear what others might be saying.
- the possibility of engaging with someone (physically) face-to-face, on a whim.
The absence of these enablers diminishes your sense of control and being in the loop. This often results in added stress or depression.
wofome is all for reducing mental stress caused by working-from-home. Look out for more mental health posts located in our Wellbeing blog topic.
A decline in physical wellbeing caused by working from home
Working from home need not affect your physical well-being. It can be affected if you change how you normally keep yourself healthy.
The most common causes are:
- An increase in your sedentary lifestyle, like sitting for too long.
- An increase in your eye strain due to staring at a screen for too long.
- Musculoskeletal strains, caused by poor posture or repetitive actions.
- A change in your eating habits.
- A change in your sleeping patterns due to demanding or odd work hours.
- Reducing your usual fitness routines due to an increased workload.
Small changes in any one of these may not negatively impact your wellbeing. A combination of these together is where damage can occur. It pays to be informed and vigilant.
Of the thousands of wellbeing, fitness and ergonomic products on the market today, some can help, and many are a total waste of time and money. Buyer beware.
The same applies to online fitness schemes. Be wary of their claimed benefits.
wofome is constantly on the lookout for wellbeing products and remedies that use a work-from-home label unscrupulously.
There is nothing inherently unique about working from home that should require a purpose-designed fitness regime – unless the type of work you do from home places significant demands on your body.
Beyond the known benefits of standing desks and ergonomic chairs and good posture, there are few products or fitness practices that we can (at this juncture) suggest as ground-breaking.
We are not always right. We are learning as we go. Can you vouch for any products or practices? We’d love to hear about these.
Are you a social adventurer confined to working from home? Is this affecting your sense of wellbeing? Is your work-from-home situation temporary and caused by pandemic lock-downs?
Will things revert to a pre-pandemic status once the pandemic is brought under control? How confident are you this will happen, and when? (This is a hard question to answer, and maybe you have no idea currently).
If you work for an employer, are you staying in touch with their thinking and strategies about return-to-work options?
For example, have you looked at other ways of boosting your social engagements, despite your home-bound situation? Many people create totally separate social outlets not reliant on their work situation.
Have you thought about this?
At wofome, we are always looking for feedback, experiences and ideas. We’d love to hear from you about your current situation. Please think about leaving a comment – or – if you have a whole lot to say, how about writing a Guest Post on this subject?
WELLBEING DISCLAIMER: the writers at wofome do not have any medical qualifications. Please seek professional help if you think your own wellbeing situation requires it.