The impact of working from home on employee mental health

In recent years, the push for more flexible working practices has seen a dramatic increase in the number of employees who spend most of their time working from home. Data from the Trade Union Council (TUC) puts the number of people in the UK working remotely at around 1.5 million, representing a 20 percent increase over the last 10 years.

The benefits for employers of the ongoing shift in the way we work are often cited. For example, a survey by CanadaLife found that remote workers rate their productivity at 7.7 out of 10, compared to an average of 6.5 out of 10 for those in open plan offices. Research by Cardiff University has revealed that 39 percent of employees that primarily work from home do additional hours to complete their tasks, compared with 24 percent in fixed workplaces.

But what impact is working from home having on employee mental health? A reduction in stress, an improved work-life balance, healthier eating and an overall boost to wellness are all associated with home working, but there are also a number of potential negative effects that are often overlooked.

Feelings of isolation and disconnection

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for some employees, but it’s certainly not for everyone. In some cases, the loss of regular social interaction and the connection with co-workers can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection. Without the constant feedback and encouragement loop that’s available in the office, employees can be left feeling alone and disconnected both from their work and their workplace.

The loss of boundaries

Some employees can find the loss of the physical boundary between work and home tough to deal with. While the opportunity to do a few household chores during the day might be very welcome, the line between work and home can all too easily become blurred. Some workers struggle to turn off at the end of the day and find themselves working longer hours. That can eat into the time they would usually spend socialising or relaxing with their families and shift the work-life balance for the worse.

The pressure to appear busy

Despite statistics showing that remote employees often work harder than those in an office, there’s a common misconception that they might not be using their time in the most productive way. That can create pressure on home workers to make themselves constantly available and be online at all hours of the day. There may also be a sense of guilt that comes from the home working arrangement. Over time, this guilt, coupled with the anxiety to prove themselves, can have a negative impact on mental health. Employers are also understandably more concerned about monitoring at-home workers, which can bring further burnout and stress.

An increase in family conflict

Working from home can act to intensify the conflicts employees have with their families. Those who work in an office can remove themselves from the stresses and strains of family life. As employees don’t see their family members during the day, they are able to calm down and reflect on the conflict and often resolve it in a more amicable way. Those who work from home are constantly faced with the demands of work and family life, which can lead to mental and physical fatigue.

Working from home is not for everyone

While many employees that are chained to their desks might dream of the morning runs or leisurely breakfasts they associate with working from home, the reality can be much different. For individuals who are highly organised, manage their time and prioritise their tasks effectively, working from home can lead to mental health benefits. However, employee mental health for those who prefer a clear demarcation between their work and family life can suffer.

Would you like a new role that provides the opportunity to work from home? Perhaps you’re looking to add remote workers to your team? Please get in touch to discuss your requirements.