Long-term remote work isn’t always easy. As part of the bigger picture of how to properly work remotely, there are specific emotional remote work problems that can come up due to the isolation, and these have a toll on the mind and body, from stress and anxiety to depression, or other more serious physical symptoms from gastrointestinal issues to changes in blood pressure or others.
Dysregulated Rhythms, Low Motivation and Sluggishness
With the removal of usual routines, especially positive rituals that empower you throughout the day, it’s possible to feel a lack of motivation, sluggishness, and lack of energy. This can become worse with a lack of setting proper boundaries for work at home.
Loneliness and Social Anxiety
Long-term remote work, especially in isolation, can create a sense of loneliness. This can worsen if being at home alone without a partner, family or pets, and if the person’s work does not include a lot of social contact with others.
In fact, in the long-term, remote working without physical social contact, especially in an isolation setting, can create a long-term feeling of loneliness, and possibly of social anxiety or nervousness when interacting with others, due to the “lack of practice”.
Uncertainty and Insecurity
Long-term remote can cause uncertainty and insecurity, mainly stemming from having lost a sense of routine, a social calendar, and the blurred lines working and living from home.
In specific cases of crises like isolation due to the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, the actual uncertainty in the world stemming from the unknown economic and social impact of the crisis can also create more uncertainty and insecurity.
While for some people this can create a sense of unrest, leading to stress or anxiety, for others this can degenerate into lack of motivation, apathy and depression.
Stress and Anxiety from Blurred Personal-Work Boundaries
It’s very easy to forget the separation between work and personal time, especially if your work is not usually constrained by a specific schedule. These blurred lines create tension and stress, giving you the feeling you’re forced to be “always on”.
Blurred boundaries can be one of the subtlest but most pervasive emotional remote work problems, as they can creep up innocently (one more hour today, one hour of sacrificed leisure time tomorrow), and suddenly your whole rhythm is thrown off-balance.
Irritation and Short Temper
If working at home with young children and/or animals, one can become easily irritated with the constant distractions, sounds, interruptions. With the subsequent lack of focus, and possibly the lack of privacy if not having a home office, it’s easy to become constantly frustrated by not being able to allocate time to the work we need to (and to the leisure activities we want to as well, possibly).
Dealing with Emotions
- Stress/Anxiety. To deal with stress and anxiety, taking care of your physical health can go a long way. Practices like meditation and yoga also help calm a busy mind, establishing a good baseline. For the special case of stress and anxiety caused by lack of control or uncertainty in the future, actions that allow you to take control of something, from hobbies to sports to other tasks that allow you to make decisions and gain control allow you to fight the feeling of helplessness. From a psychological point of view, some CBT approaches to identify your anxious thoughts, evaluating which are realistic and which aren’t and developing substitute behaviors can help here;
- Depression/Apathy. To fight apathy, lack of motivation or even depression, it also starts with taking care of your physical health. Making sure to take care of yourself through leisure activities and establishing some social contact, even if through video chat apps with friends can also help regulate your emotional baseline;
- Frustration/Irritability. Again, taking care of your physical help will go a long way here, regulating your baseline. In this case, exercises like meditation and breathing exercises will go a long way. Specific approaches like CBT to identify your triggers, specific thoughts and emotions, as well as building inhibitors to stop the anger behavior can work here as well;
There can be several emotional problems caused by remote work, especially in a setting of isolation or quarantine, which have several consequences in terms of mental health, from stress and anxiety to demotivation or even depression, and consequences to one’s physical health as well.
However, one can take care of their personal health through exercise and proper nutrition, and practice activities such as meditation or mindfulness to hedge against the effects of long-term remote work (and possibly isolation). Simple psychology approaches like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can help by analyzing triggers, thoughts, emotions and behaviors, and help change these.
A great chronicle about the dark side of remote work can be found here.