How Too Much Time At Home is Affecting Our Relationships and Productivity
While many have embraced the ease of rolling out of bed and into a workspace in the mornings and the less-structured schedule that comes with remote work, it hasn’t all been sunshine and daisies. While some people feel less pressure and more creativity working from home, even those people can start to feel the effects of not leaving home for days at a time. As comfort and motivation decrease, so does productivity, and we can all relate to the experience of no-ambition work from home days.
Not only does too much time at home affect productivity, mental health, and physical health, it also disrupts the relationships with people we once had outside of the home. These relationships and even the smaller-scale interactions with people in the world are crucial to social and emotional intelligence and overall health.
The global health crisis that descended on most of the work world in 2020 has extended its influence into most modern business as we begin nearing the end of 2021. While our new work-from-home lifestyles might last longer than we expected, there are ways to mitigate the challenges of too much time at home, beginning with a healthy work-life balance.
The Physical Health Effects of Working From Home
While the corporate work world offered us space to move about the office, a dedicated workspace, a desk, a chair, a generally clean environment, and the ability to step away for a coffee or lunch break, our home offices may not. Much of the corporate workforce enjoyed the clear delineation of home life and work-life pre-covid. As a result, our home offices weren’t really designed for long hours and daily use. Sub-par work environments can mean health complications after prolonged use, especially if you don’t often get outside or leave your house during non-working hours.
Poorly designed workspaces can cause postural issues and biomechanical issues in the hands and wrists. This is especially true if your desk height is off or unstable or if you’re sitting too high or too low at your desk. If you’re working from another space, like a couch, a window seat, your bed, or a dining table and chair, you’re at even greater risk for complications.
Being confined to smaller workspaces and spending less time moving creates a gradual weakening in the hip flexors and gluteal muscles. Any position that you remain in for an extended period of time can create stiffness and limit mobility over time due to myofascial tissue buildup. In short, your body works to become efficient at maintaining homeostasis, doing whatever you commonly do. If you spend hours per day seated in a cramped workspace or hunched over your laptop, your body will begin making adaptations to try to compensate for your posture and lack of activity.
Being sedentary also affects your cardiovascular, pulmonary, and immune health, and you’re much less likely to get up and move about your workspace if it’s small to begin with. The layout and social structure of in-office work environments encourage people to get up and move their bodies throughout the day, and today’s workforce has fewer incentives to do so.
Detecting Mental Health Complications of Too Much Time At Home
The mental health effects are even more prominent than the physical health effects of too much work-from-home, primarily because we are social creatures. Most people, even the introverted among us, need some form of person-to-person interaction on a regular basis for good mental health. While working from home has given many of us opportunities to spend time with those closest to us, it has come at the expense of all of our other workday relationships. These relationships are important too, and losing time to interact can affect your mental health.
Mental health challenges can present a variety of symptoms, and some common chronic mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, manifest themselves in different ways among different people. It’s important to understand that what a mental health issue looks like in you may be different than what it looks like in someone else. Here are some common signs of depression, according to The Mayo Clinic:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
If you’ve been spending too much time working from home without a clear work/life boundary and have experienced these symptoms, take them seriously.
Other symptoms of mental health complications might include increased anxiety, or restlessness, or decreases in productivity, fulfillment with your job, or creativity in your work. These should also be evaluated so you can understand why you’re feeling this way and how to change it. Very often, these feelings can come from a dull, lifeless, uninspiring, or inconvenient workspace. They can also be caused by a reduction in the amount of positive person-to-person interactions you have each day.
Why Work Relationships Are Important
Relationships are important for good mental health, but did you know that includes your work relationships too? While we function in systems of democracy, capitalism, and culture, the day-to-day interactions we have with colleagues, clients, managers, and even the food vendor on your lunch break or barista on your commute influence the ways we see the world. These interactions also shape the way we see ourselves, our community, and humanity.
Fostering these types of relationships is important to help each of us learn and grow. In a business environment, the people you interact with most are often helping you to recognize your character strengths, your aptitudes, and your areas of interest. They’re probably also helping you to learn new things about your career and the world around you, therefore helping you grow. Work relationships also offer us an opportunity to appreciate the team dynamic and what it means to work together for a greater goal.
Each of these things is important to job satisfaction and feeling fulfilled in life. Professional relationships are especially beneficial in these aspects because they create an environment that promotes communication and problem solving among a diverse group of people. They also generally operate under a climate that promotes efficiency, courtesy, and creativity with the pressure of meeting scheduled goals.
While teamwork and personal growth happen in all types of relationships, professional networks create the perfect environment for them.
Work From Home Alternatives
As we near the 18-month mark of our experience as a primarily remote workforce, don’t be alarmed if you’re feeling the work-from-home burnout already. If you recognize any of the mental health/mental burnout symptoms mentioned above or simply can’t get motivated to invest in your work anymore, there are things you can do to improve your mood and productivity.
Since many of these issues stem from inadequate workspaces and lack of in-person interactions outside of the home, there are a few changes you can try to correct them:
- Redesign your workspace with the right equipment and furniture
- Change the aesthetic of the room with bright colored paint and as much natural light as you can get in your space.
- Try a local coworking space for a change of scenery.
- Network with other remote professionals in your industry through websites like LinkedIn and Clubhouse. This will give you new working relationships that also offer personal and professional growth.
- Make any changes to air ventilation, ambient noise, and lighting in your workspace that you feel are distracting or inhibit productivity.
- Switch up your daily workspace and try to find an outdoor workspace like a cafe, park, or library near you.
- If you need one or two days per week in a professional office environment, check out private offices for short-term rent near you.
If you’re having a difficult time managing your time and understanding what about your workspace is holding you back, you can start by keeping a journal about your typical workday. Journaling will not only give you a creative outlet and promote optimism and good mental health, it’ll help you recognize patterns in your workday that are hindering productivity.