Homeworking and Anxiety
Posted by Jayne Drake – Health and Safety Adviser
Many people now work from home either on a part time or a fulltime basis. Whilst working from home has many advantages for both the employer and the employee, there are also some significant disadvantages that it’s important we are aware of, so we can take action to ensure the negatives don’t take effect.
Although it’s great to be able to manage your own time and get that work-life balance in place, home workers can feel isolated and miss out on regular social interaction and connection with their co-workers. An office is a natural environment to impart knowledge, share information and up skill, and equally to connect with your colleagues. Working from home can make it difficult to set boundaries, meaning that boundaries between work time and personal time can blur, leading to a feeling of guilt and a unique pressure to appear busy, be online constantly, reply to emails straight away and prove you are spending your time in a productive way.
Home based employees can experience a feeling of guilt just for working from home, whilst colleagues are office based. Guilt can lead to anxiety born from the feeling of needing to prove yourself. Add to this, inactivity and no real need to leave the house, get dressed, or structure the day, and it can lead to depression. Dopamine and Serotonin, the two brain chemicals that keep our minds healthy, can drop off in a depressive state and this can lead to lethargy and a reduced desire to exercise. The same two chemicals are also known to reduce due to a lack of exercise and so the vicious circle begins.
Personal experience has taught me to manage my mental wellbeing before allowing depression and anxiety to take over, as, once this happens, I don’t have the motivation to move forward.
Easier said than done? Not really, I find it’s all about routine and organisation:
Get a defined work area and only carry out work-based activities from this place; it doesn’t have to be a separate office just a place where you can work without interruption from other activities in the house.
Get a routine, decide on a getting up time and stick to it. Have a shower, get dressed and have breakfast before starting work. It’s helpful to have a ‘flexible’ plan for each day; flexible so that things can change without causing too much stress. For example, I might decide to take a break at 11am to walk the dogs, but at 11am it’s raining hard, no problem, I can take a break later when the weather improves and won’t feel guilty about leaving my desk. Disconnection from work is important; the secret is to break the day up. Move away from the computer, take breaks and chat to people, ideally face to face, go for a coffee, pop to the shops, the list is endless.
It is also important to find ways to have a relationship with colleagues. I tend to use a team app which shows who is on-line, as this is a quick and easy way of asking questions and getting answers. It is also important to have regular updates with Managers; team meetings, one-to-ones and conference calls, which all help to keep us in the loop and provide a platform to ask questions, review training needs and air our views.
Working from home need not be lonely, routine and organisation can make the difference to living full, balanced, work and personal lives and reduce the risk of stress, anxiety and depression.
For more support on Homeworking take a look at our Homeworker Awareness eLearning course