Working remotely and its effects on mental health

Our world turns more and more to technology and as much as it is a good help in many situations of life, it also creates a space for new challenges. Back in school everyone had to read novels from the late 19th and early 20th century. The most popular topics writers back then used in their novels were industrialization and its psychological impact on individuals. I remember reading those stories and I remember my German class teacher going on and on about how industrialization is the death of society while I was sending text messages from my sidekick phone. Back then I thought that all challenges to mankind dealing with technologies were under control and that there were no problems with new technologies. From today’s perspective I would no longer say so. In fact, I would rather say that we are in the middle of a new era that is strongly influenced by the internet. Some may say that society is well aware of the problems the internet confronts people with but in this case I do not want to talk about social media that floods people with unrealistic body type issues or wants us to believe that we are not good enough and thus should buy an overpriced teeth bleaching kit in a connected online shop. No, these well-known problems concerning mental issues caused by the internet will not be the topic of this entry.

This year has been hard on all of us and it seems like this decade wants to show us that we have to change things right from the start. The COVID19 virus shattered our well connected world and by that became a reason for rethinking. Suddenly, no one was supposed to go anywhere and still people had to work and students had to study. It was the perfect time to try what technology enthusiasts must have been dreaming of for years, the home office moved into almost every apartment and it could have been so much fun. Unfortunately, there was little time to plan and coordinate the change to working remotely and so it was a stressful change for most people. Starting off badly is annoying. Due to the special situation the world was in, mood killers like isolation or feeling trapped with others in a small apartment while working had a mental impact on people. After the first shock Germany is trying to go back to normal as far as possible but the model of working remotely will be kept in many offices and students will have to attend their classes online in the coming semester. Apart from the special situation that accompanied the introduction of working from home, the regular concept of working remotely is a danger for the human mental health. There are tips that were given to assure that working from home does not lead straight to depression or anxiety. The question is whether these tips at hand are possible to be used by everyone and how close to reality they really are. Only by learning to deal with this new form of working and studying we are able to integrate working from home as an alternative to offices and classrooms.

When working from home work is intruding private space. Many people find that attractive as they can work anywhere at any time but what comes in handy for some is a challenge for others. Weworkremotely.com (WWR) took a look at mental issues people experience when working remotely. WWR named three main signs of mental problems when working from home. The first issues described were loneliness and isolation. Sitting at home alone with a huge amount of work without being able to take a break and talk to coworkers can be pretty tough. However, it seems like these issues were very COVID19 specific as no one was allowed to have a lot of social contact. The question is if feeling isolated would also occur when there was the possibility to see friends and family after working from home during the day. So isolation can be an issue but it may be a problem that can be easily solved assuming the possibility to be social in other situations is given.

The second mentioned point by WWR is the higher pressure that people who work from home experience. This issue is better relatable to most as having your office in your home is an intrusion that allows working at any time which makes it hard to find boundaries between the two worlds combined in your home. It is difficult to find the time for relaxation when there are mails from work coming in constantly and not everyone is so bold to just turn off the PC when they think they have done enough. Those who struggle with it can easily be trapped in a circle of work that lasts for more than the usual office hours. The risk of burn-out is very high when there seems to be no neutral space that is not connected to work you can go to. The pressure is a problem that will stay if there is no good communication between employer and employees that show up borders that assure that everyone can make a good time management.

Finally, WWR mentions depression caused by working from home. Depression can show in many different ways and it can happen easily. In a situation that locks you in your apartment and keeps you from social interaction it can be tough to stay positive. However, the first two issues (loneliness/isolation & high pressure) in combination may lead to a depression which is why WWR introduced seven steps to prevent negative effects on the human psychology when working remotely.

To prevent that working from home has negative effects on the mental health WWR recommends to do physical workouts, social activities, have a good time management, and to create an organized work space to prevent mental problems. Furthermore, WWR announces that if following these steps, everyone will be capable to work remotely and no one will ever want to work in an office again. This statement implies that working from home is something that should be practiced and concerning the fact that our world becomes more technologized by every year; offices may be redundant in the future. The issues described in the article of WWR show that there are dangers to working from home and the steps they show to prevent these issues may take the edge off for some people but all together it takes more than to have coffee with a friend every once in a while to guarantee the mental wellbeing of people. This entry is neither supposed to criticize the work of WWR nor is its attempt to say that working remotely is ruining our mental health. There are good reasons for working from home and criticizing something because of the fear of change has never brought us anything good. The described steps against depression, anxiety and such can help but only to a certain amount. As long as employers and employees do not communicate and form a set of rules that structure the guidelines for working from home, a ten minute walk will not save anyone from depression. The COVID19 lockdown came out of the blue and therefore problems planning working from home occurred because everything happened so quickly. That does not mean that the organization that was lacking back then cannot be taken now.

In the case that you feel overwhelmed because there are emails popping in at any time of the day and you cannot relax and you feel pressure twenty-four hours a day these issues need to be discussed with a supervisor. There need to be rules and guidelines that give a structure and safety. Those steps had to be done with everything else that was invented. Right now working from home is a gray zone that leads to confusion and fuels stress and anxiety. With rules that both sides have to stick to and the steps mentioned by WWR working remotely can be a safe and efficient way of modern working with many benefits for society. Still the question is whether employers are willing to invest time and money to improve the working situation for their employees or if they see it as a cheap way to get more work done ignoring the effects it has on the mental health of humans. Universities are facing the same problems as it takes a lot of money and organization to create good online education that does not put teachers and students under pressure.

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