In today’s technologically advanced work environments, telecommuting has been an increasingly convenient method of conducting business. Remote work shortens employee commute time and lowers on-site expenses. However, working from home can pose unexpected challenges when it comes to well being and physical health.

While it may be ideal for one employee to wake up, start the coffee, and sit down in their home office to get their day started, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. First and foremost, working from home tends to blur the line between personal and work life. 

It becomes more challenging to avoid distractions and restrain yourself from partaking in tasks at a time in which you usually wouldn’t if you had a commute. Additionally, health professionals, such as those at Arcara Psychiatry, are particularly sensitive to how this lifestyle has impacted the quantity and quality of sleep.

Stress and working from home

Although the freedom from specified work hours and undesirable office gossip may be refreshing, working remote presents its own set of stressors. The novelty of working from home will likely wear off, and the pressure of existing within both a working and living space may eventually set in. When this occurs, there are several factors at play:

Lack of boundaries

It can be easy to get pulled into household duties and familial needs when working from home. While it may seem convenient to run to the grocery store for more coffee creamer mid-day, it is disruptive to your routine and can add unnecessary stress. Additionally, if your team does not coordinate hours, you might find yourself taking calls or answering emails outside of your scheduled work time.

Establishing a stable working environment and setting designated hours is critical in managing boundaries when working from home. This means creating a dedicated space to answer emails, take calls, and complete all work-related tasks. For most, having set hours can also aid in holding yourself accountable for working while “at work” and not working when “at home.”

Social isolation

At first, you might find the absence of a few particular coworkers relieving, but after a while, the social isolation of a work-from-home environment can become increasingly difficult. Although social media and teleconferencing can help us feel closer to our peers, socialization over technology merely provides an alternative, not a solution. Remote work is particularly lonely for those who live alone or with a partner on an opposing schedule.

Making time for social hours with coworkers and friends is vital in maintaining your connection with others. The lack of break room conversations and happy hours can lead to feelings of loneliness and increased stress. Be sure to replenish moments of interaction by scheduling social phone calls, planning get-togethers outside of the house, and intentionally taking time to talk about non-work related topics.

Frequency of distractions

In an office, distractions may be limited to personal cell phones or coworker interactions. The distractions are far more frequent at home. Existing in a busy world often means multi-tasking to check everything off the to-do list by the end of the day. However, multi-tasking between laundry and preparing for a client meeting can be detrimental to an intentional work-life balance. Additionally, if there are kids or pets that are in close proximity to your in-home office, it is easy to become preoccupied with situations outside of your control.

Increased time spent on screens

One of the most significant culprits of stress when working remotely is the increase in time spent using technology. Screen fatigue is a reality for most employees who aren’t as familiar with working from home. In addition to fixing your eyes on one particular object for hours at a time, the blue backlight from devices like laptops and mobile phones can drastically impact your sleep. Studies have shown that the blue light from most devices affects your body’s melatonin production and can, therefore, make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

How stress and anxiety impact insomnia

Working from home can provide many unexpected stress sources, especially if your home is not compatible with a healthy remote work lifestyle. Distractions and the lack of structure can quickly make work tasks more stressful and add anxiety to your position. Implementing a healthier routine with a designated workspace and hours will help prevent fatigue. However, it can be challenging to eliminate sleep issues associated with working from home.

Due to the nature of living and working in the same location, it feels nearly impossible to force your brain to separate the two. Without a routine that requires a change in the environment, it can be difficult to train yourself not to work. This can be incredibly hard if you do not have a separate home office and are instead continuously surrounded by reminders of your work responsibilities. What may start as a few harmless late-night work sessions may quickly develop into a routine and negatively impact your body’s ability to rest properly.

Seeking help

There are many ways to approach stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders resulting from working remotely. Cognitive-behavioral techniques can help establish routines and prevent an unhealthy relationship with sleep. 

Speaking with a therapist may help fill the voice of social isolation and provide support for the additional stress and anxiety of working from home. Working with a health professional and exploring cognitive behavioral therapies to create a more stable sleep environment can help get you back on track with restorative rest.