Depression rates went through the roof in 2020, some of which may point back to a sudden rise in work-from-home arrangements. Working from home is becoming a more normal and acceptable part of work culture. It has many benefits and made it possible for many to keep working through the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. But you may pay an emotional price for enduring long-term remote work.
So how can working from home lead to depression, and are you at a higher risk? We’ll review those questions, how you might recognise depression, and how to cope with it.
Can working from home cause low mood or depression?
Working from home may put you at more risk for a low mood or depression, but it isn’t problematic for everyone. The impact on mental health depends on your needs, preferences, and what you perceive as stressful. Your history of mental health issues may also make you more vulnerable.
Stressors and your personal needs
The connection between your needs and your perceived stressors is the key to your risk of developing a low mood or depression. Remote work is often more isolated, with interactions that may feel less natural or fully present. If you perceive your in-person workplace to be more stressful, you may feel relieved to have a private workspace and fewer interruptions. But if you’ve thrived on your daily interactions with others and the physical setup of your workspace, working from home may leave you feeling overwhelmed and mentally exhausted.
Here are some of the stressors a person can face when working remotely:
- Distractions like home chores, family members, and pets being around
- Working without a dedicated or comfortable office space
- Challenges with workplace communication
- A less distinct separation between work and home
- More isolation and sense of disconnection from coworkers
- Lots of adjustment to complete work, sometimes without usual supplies, equipment, or systems
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Support from your employer matters
Employment outside the home has been the norm for a long time, and most workplace cultures are built around this arrangement. So when many made a sudden transition to working from home in 2020, most workplaces struggled to engage and support employees. Many people struggle with loneliness, a problem made worse as the pandemic spread. And the sudden shift to remote work didn’t help.
However, if your team is highly supportive and your work is less dependent on in-person interaction, the impact on your mental health may be minimal. The way your workplace handles the differences between in-person and remote workers can affect how you perceive stress and adjustment. Even if you identify with some of the stressors listed above, the support and connection from your employers and coworkers can help you balance everything out.
Signs that can help you recognise depression
Depression can develop for many reasons, including psychological stress, environment, physical health issues, and even your genetic makeup. These factors all play a part in your personal risk for depression.
Depression affects each person a little differently, but several symptoms define depression as a mental disorder. A sad or low mood is a temporary emotional state, while depression symptoms persist and interfere with school, work, or other daily activities.
A mental health counselor or a doctor can help you determine whether you have depression and what the causes may be. But you can learn more by observing and understanding your symptoms.
Common depression symptoms
If you’ve experienced five or more of the following symptoms for at least two weeks, you may have clinical depression.
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or insomnia)
- Changes in eating patterns, unintentional weight gain or loss
- Loss of energy and constant fatigue
- Moving more slowly or becoming more restless
- Sad mood and/or irritability most of the day for most days
- Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Feeling guilty, low self-worth
- Foggy thinking, difficulty making decisions
- Thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, making a plan or wishing to die
- Self-harm or suicide attempt
Even if your symptoms don’t quite fit the criteria for depression, you may still feel overwhelmed and miserable. You may be at risk for developing depression in the future, so your awareness can help you monitor your mental health.
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Tips to cope with depression while working from home
Depression is challenging to live with, especially when you feel trapped by your circumstances. If you believe working from home has led to a persistent low mood or depression, don’t wait it out. Take these steps to support your mental wellness.
Talk to a medical provider or mental health counselor
Medical and mental health professionals support many people with mental health needs. They can clarify what you’re experiencing, give you encouragement and support, and point you toward treatment or other coping methods.
It’s OK to be unsure about depression medication, but keep it in mind and ask your healthcare provider any questions you may have. There are many safe and effective medications available, and one of them may help you start feeling better again.
Set timers and take breaks
Think of depression as something affecting your whole body. If you’re feeling sick or have an injury, you reduce your activity level and take breaks to save your strength. The same idea can help you get through your workday when depression symptoms arise. Set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, focus the best you can, and step away for a few minutes when the timer goes off.
Isolation is one of the potential downsides of working from home, and it can play into feelings of depression. Reach out to your coworkers or your supervisor at least a few times a day. Keep in touch with friends and family members as well, even if it’s just chatting for a few minutes about your day. And when you’re having a rough time, you’ll have a social network to lean on emotionally.
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If you’re feeling stressed by your work-from-home arrangement, reach out to your employer and let them know about your challenges. Remote work isn’t easy for everyone and you don’t need to suffer on your own. Stay connected to people who care and find the coping methods that work best for you. Contact us for a free 15 min consultation.