Working from home has become the norm in the last couple of years. During the early days of Covid restrictions, many people began working remotely. Although some have returned to the office, many have not. And while remote work can have a lot of benefits, plenty of people struggle with working from home stress.
If you have anxiety about working from home, especially during Covid, you are not alone. So many of my clients are experiencing similar stresses. So here’s why you might be feeling shitty about remote work – and what you can do about it.
Working from home has a lot of benefits and drawbacks. There are certainly some great parts, such as more time for things like sleep, leisure, and exercise.
But working from home can also lead to a reduction in overall mental health. Negative psychological effects of working from home during Covid include loneliness, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Many people find remote work to be isolating. Nearly 66% of people who work from home feel lonely frequently, and 17% feel lonely all the time. I would argue this is one of the biggest challenges my clients face. It’s easy to feel “stuck” in your house, especially if you don’t leave home much. You no longer have the social aspect of being in an environment with coworkers. Depending on your situation, you may not interact with anybody else all day. This social disconnect can lead to a big reduction in overall mental health.
Working remotely can also blur the boundaries between home and work. Some people struggle to get work done because of all the distractions around the house. This can result in falling behind in your tasks, which can feel stressful and frustrating. If you have ADHD and work from home, you may find distracting work environments to be particularly challenging.
You also might find yourself working past your scheduled hours because there’s nothing to signal the end of the workday. Or you might hyperfocus on one task until you exhaust yourself. If you don’t take enough time to unwind during the day, you might find yourself trying to compensate through behaviors like revenge bedtime procrastination. Although this can feel good in the moment, it often leads to even more stress. Working too much without proper breaks and good sleeping habits can produce fatigue and burnout.
Working from home can also lead to increased social anxiety. I see this a lot in my clients. When social isolation was in full swing, a lot of people stopped connecting with their friends and acquaintances. Many people have gotten accustomed to social isolation. They’re out of practice when it comes to mingling with others. Furthermore, you may feel a lot of pressure to be happy and what society has deemed “normal” in social settings. If you’re already struggling with your mental health, this can feel difficult and overwhelming.
Stigmas that mental health challenges are akin to weakness are still common. While some supervisors do go above and beyond to check in with their employees and support them, many don’t. If you have a high-stakes job or an unsupportive boss, you may feel like you have to hide your anxiety or depression. Fewer check-ins and candid conversations about mental health can lead to increased hardships for everyone.
Clearly, there are a lot of reasons for increased working from home stress. If working from home is making you anxious, consider what’s going on for you. Is the job itself stressful? Does your boss micromanage your time or track your productivity? Do you spend too much time by yourself?
Depending on your answers, think of small steps you can take to work on the most pressing issue. Try journaling or speaking with a therapist to get your thoughts out. The root of your working from home stress might not be easy to “fix”, and that’s okay. The goal isn’t perfection. Instead, try prioritizing self-awareness, self-compassion, and small behavioral changes that add up over time.
You and your situation are unique, and there’s no “one size fits all” answer here. But it’s likely that some of your stressors are common among remote workers. To get you started, here are three problems that may be causing undue stress and anxiety – and what you can do about them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – finding and sticking to a basic routine that works for you can help reduce stress and improve mental health. Disruptions to your routine can impact everything from sleep to social life to productivity. And don’t worry about having a “perfect” routine that you never stray from. Just come up with a basic structure that works for you, and follow it as regularly as you can. You can include things like waking up around the same time during workdays, exercising, leaving the house, and scheduling fun social activities around your work schedule.
An increase in technology and a reduction in personal contact can make remote work feel like a lonely slog. If this is the case, ask yourself how you might be able to feel more connected throughout the day. Here are some things you might try:
If you’re lonely but the thought of socializing makes your skin crawl, aim for small doses of social interaction here and there. Try going to a social event for just 30 minutes, and then come back home. Putting a time limit on events can help them feel more manageable and fun.
If your work itself causes you anxiety, consider ways to reduce your stress. You might need to advocate for yourself more by having candid conversations with your boss about your needs. Or if you’re feeling overworked and exhausted, consider taking on a lighter workload to prevent burnout. And if you’re miserable at work all the time no matter what you do, it might be worth asking yourself whether you really want to stay at this job. There’s no shame in needing a change and switching to something less stressful, especially if you aren’t being supported at your job the way you deserve.
Job stress can be part of a larger problem that you may want to untangle with the help of a therapist or coach. If you’d like support, I can help you work through your challenges and navigate the unwanted psychological effects of working from home during Covid.
During our work together, you’ll learn how to implement strategies to make working from home less stressful. We’ll come up with coping skills to deal with work-related anxiety and help you step confidently into the world knowing what you’re dealing with and how you can manage it.
I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Danielle is an anxiety therapist. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.