The world is slowly evolving past the long-standing traditional mode of working.  Rather than the usual means of waking up early to prepare for work in a place far away, many people – especially those skilled in digital skills such as website design, coding, and programming, among a myriad of other things, can now freelance remotely. These people can find work on freelance platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, Fiverr, and others from home.  They are paid by clients who might be living thousands of miles away from them, or they might be working for a company overseas. Using the web, the information and requisite tools are available. All resources are at their disposal. These remote workers make money without being part of an organized on-site structure. Though, this work-life can often deprive them of the benefits of social interactions, communication, and physical networking guaranteed and supplied by working on-site. While it is important to note that these freelancers and those who work remotely do so because it is the modality of their jobs, it is essential to point out the health outcomes and the side effects (both positive and negative impact, if any) of being constantly closeted. So, we must ask the question – Is remote work bad for our mental health?
A Major Shift from On-site to Online
Most people across the globe are part of a working system that has confined them solely to a system that requires physical presence. This has been considered the norm while working from home. Previously, “remote work” has been the exception.
However, this status quo witnessed a significant shift in the latter part of 2019 and into 2020. Covid-19, the deadly virulent pandemic, drove people into their homes and forced businesses to operate remotely.  Those who could not afford to do so adopted a hybridized system that combines remote work and on-site work. This was the case for virtually all businesses and even places of learning.  From this shift in work modality, much research has been conducted to determine employees’ health and mental state. These reactions vary from one individual to the other. Although there are lots of positives recorded, there are also reactions that were contrary.
Outcomes of Remote Work: The Positives and the Negatives
Some people claimed to have had more positive experiences than negative ones during the brief but remote work experience during the global pandemic. This article starts with the positives, then the negatives, using their Covid-19 experiences as a yardstick.
Employees do not have to spend on transport or fuel their cars to their workplaces. Not only this but the fact that the home environment is more familiar and out of the watch of a superior, people claimed that they were more mentally relaxed and executed their work efficiently and without stress. Another benefit is the workers’ proximity to family members and loved ones. Increased productivity and a mental eagerness and readiness to work became prevalent. A Microsoft survey conducted in 2021 attested to this with their findings that 56 percent of those working remotely claimed to be happier and to have had reduced stress.
On the other hand, negative emotions could arise from being isolated and working without sufficient social interaction. Some suffer depression from their loneliness and secluded lifestyle, which remote work can enable.
How can remote work be balanced with positive mental health? The truth is that every individual must find a work-life balance. People must recognize what animates and amuses them and engage in such things alongside their remote work. Only then can they be mentally liberated.
- GALLACHER, G. et al. Remote Work and Employment Dynamics under COVID-19: Evidence from Canada. Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques. (2020) Vol 46. No1, S44–S54. doi: 10.3138/cpp.2020-026
- Cameron, G. D. et al., (2016). Occupational Stress and Health Outcomes Comparison of Faculty Teaching in Online, On-Ground, and Mixed Working Environments. Pedagogy in Health Promotion. (2016) Vol 2. No 2,108–116. doi:10.1177/2373379916640549
- Quinlan, M. et al., (2008). UNDER PRESSURE, OUT OF CONTROL, OR HOME ALONE? REVIEWING RESEARCH AND POLICY DEBATES ON THE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY EFFECTS OF OUTSOURCING AND HOME-BASED WORK. International Journal of Health Services. (2008) Vol 38. No 33, 489–523. doi:10.2190/HS.38.3.g