Working Remotely and Mental Health
Remote working has been shown to provide tangible employee benefits including flexible scheduling, increasing employee morale, and reducing commuting stress. However, teleworking can present unique challenges to employees, most notably, feeling social and professional isolation.1-2
This resource was designed to provide practical tips for working remotely to both optimize performance and mental well-being.
What you can do to help stay productive and mentally healthy.
- Stick to a Schedule: One of the advantages of working at an office is the defined schedule that comes with it. Consistency provides a sense of stability, especially in times of uncertainty. Changes to the work schedule can disrupt productivity and cause feelings of stress. To increase productivity, set a schedule and consistently stick to it.
- Set up your workspace: Consistency in workspace can also help boost productivity. Make sure to set up your workspace in a quiet area with limited distractions. If you live in a loud area or have pets, it may help to invest in noise-canceling headphones.
- Stay connected: It can be difficult to maintain relationships with colleagues and feel engaged when working remotely. To help prevent these feelings, stay connected by using technology like facetime, skype, google hangout and other video-based options. Humans are social creatures that use vision as a primary sense, relying on both verbal and non-verbal cues to understand others and to be understood. This is particularly important for teams with high diversity since body language plays a key role in communication in many different ethnicities and cultures.
- Make time to refresh: Set aside times to step away from your desk and work area to take a walk, get some fresh air, meditate, or just take some deep breaths. MIT Lecturer Robert Pozen in his book Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, suggests taking a time-out every 75-90 minutes of work to refresh your cognitive energy for optimizing your ability to focus and learn.3-4
- Don’t be afraid to ask if you notice differences in behavior or work product: Be mindful of any significant changes in a co-worker’s personality or work product because it could be a sign that something more is wrong. If you are unsure, just ask, “I noticed that you haven’t been yourself lately. Is everything okay?” Ask twice as most people fall back onto automated social norms (“Yes” or “I’m fine). Asking the second time demonstrates sincere concern.
- Know your benefits: Contact your human resources department to find out what type of behavioral health support your organization offers (e.g. through employee assistance programs or other vendors) and how you can contact them.
- Center for Workplace Mental Health. Working Remotely During COVID-19. http://workplacementalhealth.org/Employer-Resources/Working-Remotely-During-COVID-19
- Allen TD, et al. (2015). How effective is telecommuting? Assessing the status of our scientific findings.
- Pozen RC, et al. (2012). Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. Harper Business.
- Pozen RC, et al. (2011). Managing Yourself: Extreme Productivity. Harvard Business Review.