- Does working from home work well for you?
- Some people become more isolated and more stressed when they work from home
- Here are some tips to avoid the health hazards of remote working
It’s easier than ever to work from home and, given the choice, why wouldn’t you?
You don’t have to spend time in rush-hour traffic, you don’t have to dress to impress clients and you can knock out household tasks between stints at your computer.
But is there an emotional toll to working from home? There are some indications that might be the case.
A report last year by the United Nations International Labour Organization found those who work remotely experienced both positive and negative effects. On the upside, remote workers surveyed said they were more productive and felt a better balance between their private and professional lives.
But on the other hand, the study found, teleworkers tend to work longer hours, to allow work to interfere with their personal lives and experience what the study calls “work intensification,” or the raising of demands for productivity. These elements contribute to more, rather than less stress for some remote workers. “In theory, a work-from-home occupation is a great idea,” says Dr. Richard Saint Cyr, a primary care physician at Swedish Bainbridge Island Primary Care. “It definitely depends on your personality, though.”
How can you tell when someone is struggling because he or she is working from home? Dr. Saint Cyr says the signals may include difficulty sleeping, racing thoughts and seeing relationships suffer. Those are signs that working from home isn’t working as well as it could.
Avoiding telework pitfalls
Dr. Saint Cyr says people who work from home have to work harder to be social, because they are deprived of “the water cooler effect,” when coworkers chat in hallways or other common areas. Not only do such unplanned encounters break up the workday by providing needed person-to-person interaction, but they help workers stay visible to their peers and managers. When you’re not working with others, you have to compensate for your separation from your colleagues.
Dr. Saint Cyr offers some tips for making working from home work for you:
- Get out and meet people. Work from a shared workspace, or a coffee shop.
- Set limits. Separate work responsibilities from home responsibilities as much as possible. For example, don’t respond to work emails at all hours.
- Create a physical separation. Don’t make your office the kitchen table. “You really need to have a separate space,” he says.
- Make it a point to break up your day. Leave the house for a cup of coffee, then come back refreshed, he suggests.
Will working from home work for you?
Dr. Saint Cyr notes there isn’t a great deal of research about the psychological effects of working remotely. He says much depends on the worker’s personality, the nature of the job and the worker’s family life. Some people and some situations are better suited for working outside the office.
His own life has been quite rich, outside the office. His personal blog, MyHealthBeijing, offers advice on wellness strategies stemming from his 10 years as a physician in China. It includes the columns he wrote for the New York Times’ China edition. He also maintains online galleries of his personal photography, featuring high-quality photographs from exotic locales.
Of course, a lot of that extracurricular work occurred before he became a father to two boys, now 2 and 4.
“Now our travels involve going to Costco and Chuck E. Cheese,” he says.
If work-related stress is eroding your quality of life, you can discuss it with a Swedish provider. Find one close to you in our directory.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.