Is Working Remotely Good for Your Mental Health?
Asking if remote work is good for mental health is a debatable question, depending on who you ask. Corporate professionals, mental health experts, and remote workers themselves have vastly different answers and the reasons behind them are many – even within the same sets of people.
Is there a generally accepted opinion or research study that validates what’s true for most or all remote workers? We believe the answer is no and here’s why.
At Goodwin Recruiting, we believe the answer to whether remote work is good for mental health lies with two unique parties. First and foremost is the individual, in consideration of their personality, circumstances, and preferred working style. Second, and just as important, is the individual’s employer, and whether the employer amply supports people who work remotely or in a hybrid arrangement.
That’s why we ask the question this way:
- Is working remotely good for your mental health?
If you’re unsure, answering these questions may help you with a self-assessment:
- Do you possess the personal and professional character traits to thrive in remote work and stay positive and happy while doing it? The major traits are listed below.
- Does your employer provide the tools, resources, and communications methods you need to stay connected, productive, and succeed?
If you can answer yes to those questions, or if you manage remote workers who can answer them in the affirmative, then you’re likely among those who consider remote work good for mental health.
What are those character traits? And what should employers do to help remote workers perform at their best, experience fulfillment in their work, and maintain their mental well-being?
We have answers, but let’s start with the status of today’s remote and hybrid work environment.
What’s up (and down) in today’s remote landscape?
It has been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic turned workplaces upside down and ushered remote work into mainstream corporate America. What does it look like now? Some employers are mandating that their people return to the office. Others are not. Remote and hybrid work models adopted by companies before and during the pandemic remain solidly in play, many on a permanent basis.
About one third (35%) of workers with jobs that can be performed remotely are still working from home all of the time, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Pew notes that this is down from 43% in January 2022 and down from 55% in October 2020. But hang on for the next revelation…
While those statistics might indicate a steady downward trend, consider this: Today’s 35% of remote workers is staggeringly high compared to only 7% before the pandemic. By all indications, remote work is enduring, strong, and here to stay.
We did some research of our own: Goodwin Recruiting recently asked our network of clients, hiring managers, and LinkedIn audience how many of their employees work from home. Their responses reflect collective reports and statistics from several sources like Pew, the U.S. Census Bureau, and others. Here are the stats we received from more than 700 respondents:
Who’s who in today’s remote workspace? You may find these remote work demographics interesting:
- Young millennials are increasingly working from home. The percentage of people working remotely between the ages of 25 and 34 rose from 16% in 2019 to 23% in 2021, according to the American Community Survey. In that same period, the percentage of remote Black and Asian employees increased from 7.8% to 9.5% and 5.7% to 9.6%, respectively.
- Surveys suggest that more tenured workers also want remote arrangements. Seventy-nine percent of workers over 40 say remote and hybrid work has become a requirement, and 66% say they will only accept a job with a hybrid work policy, according to a recent survey by AARP.
- Gen Z, the youngest workplace generation, is practically running back to the office. Many say they perform most of their work in the office and they have a stronger preference for in-person work compared to other generations, according to Morning Consult.
And now for the traits of mentally healthy remote workers…
Knowing these traits can be helpful to individuals in making self-assessments and job or career choices that involve remote work, and whether the mental health benefits are a good fit for their lives. This awareness is also beneficial for employers to help determine which employees are good fits for their remote and hybrid work roles.
Keep this in mind as you scan the following traits: Just like everybody else, individuals who possess these traits and characteristics get stressed, have down days, and sometimes feel demoralized. Also, some may not exhibit all traits 100% of the time, or even possess all of them.
What sets these individuals apart and makes them stable, mentally healthy remote work professionals is that they’re able to work autonomously, manage their emotions, prioritize self-care, and quickly bounce back to positive thinking when faced with challenging people, situations, and setbacks. In other words, they have healthy coping mechanisms and interpersonal skills. Some people naturally possess these traits, but they can certainly be learned.
People who are effective, happy, and mentally healthy remote workers are:
- Highly independent and self-reliant in nature, organized, conscientious, reliable, thorough, great at governing their time, high productivity achievers, positive-minded, proficient in performing work without supervision, and effective problem solvers
- Critical thinkers, intellectuals, knowledge seekers, and valuable team players who require solitary time to process their thoughts and emotions
- Respectful of time (their own and that of others)
- Level-headed, transmitters of calmness, conflict minimizers (cool-headed, diplomatic), minders of their own business, and avoiders of toxic relationships and situations
- Disciplined boundary keepers who do not let their personal life disrupt their work life and vice versa, and partakers of a healthy mix of time spent with work, family, friends, and social engagements
- Self-aware, open-minded and fair in their interactions with others, good communicators and decision makers, and lovers of time spent alone to reflect on ways to improve their lives, listening skills, relationships, and work performance
How can employers help remote workers stay mentally healthy?
Even for professionals who are extremely competent in fulfilling and exceeding work responsibilities on a remote basis, there are some must-haves to help them stay positive and mentally healthy in their jobs. Many of these must-haves for remote teams are the responsibility of the employer.
For example, not long ago, we conducted a different poll asking our network of hiring managers, recruiters, and job candidates to share the top reason a candidate would leave a job soon after being hired. Responses from more than 1,000 professionals are relevant to the topic at hand. The top two reasons people prematurely leave jobs are:
- Lack of training at 40%
- Lack of appreciation at 34%
Both deficiencies from an employer not only impact an employee’s mental health, but also their longevity in the job.
Here are four ways employers can keep remote workers positive, engaged, productive, and happy:
- Communicate more and help develop employees: Especially with remote workers, it’s important to focus on effective communications (one-on-one interactions at least once or twice a month), as well as employee engagement through training and professional development. Informed and engaged employees are more emotionally and professionally invested and less likely to seek a new job.
- Improve company culture: Studies continue to reveal that a stronger and more inclusive corporate culture is a main attraction for people who are seeking a new job. A positive culture contributes to job satisfaction and makes employees feel welcome, respected, and appreciated.
- Show empathy: In one study, 92% of employees said they would be more likely to stay in their job if their managers showed more empathy. We’re all human and need to know others care – including in the work environment. It’s important to our mental health.
- Provide the right technologies, tools, and processes: Protecting employees’ mental health comes into play here in a big way. Employers can help remote workers (and entire teams) by enhancing the technologies, secure remote access solutions to internal platforms, and team collaboration processes that keep managers, their teams, and remote staffers connected and productive.
Working from home offers many mental health benefits
- Flexible work schedule: You’re the boss of your daily schedule, breaks, and routines. You have the autonomy and trust from your employer to structure your days in ways that suit you best to fulfill your responsibilities. Beyond a flexible schedule, controlling the flow of your workday without someone looking over your shoulder is liberating and reduces stress.
- Big cost reductions: Working from home equates to getting a raise! There’s no daily commute time, so you save money on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. You spend less on lunch (and dinner when you work late). In addition to reducing food costs, you also have access to healthier food that you prepare in your home, including and especially snacks! Also, your wardrobe and dry-cleaning costs are greatly reduced. These savings reduce financial-related stress.
- Pleasing and less distracting environment: Your daily workspace or home office is your own – from sounds to lighting, your desk, your chair, access to windows and fresh air, being able to control the temperature in your home, having your beloved pets close by, and every other environmental factor. Working in the comfort of your home (or wherever you choose) relieves stress. It’s easier to focus on work because distractions are fewer than in an office setting. Also, people with disabilities find great comfort in working from home, where their needs and accessibility are more easily met.
- Better work-life balance: Time savings from remote work is a major contributor to mental health. The lack of a daily commute opens your days to spending more time with family and friends, and pursuing personal interests, hobbies, entertainment, and social activities. As a result, your relationships grow stronger and more rewarding, and you become more fulfilled in life.
- A healthier lifestyle: One of our senior recruiters at Goodwin Recruiting, Paul Viapiano, created and shared this video in April 2023, which says it all about the benefits of remote work. His testimony on running his own business from home tells how life-changing it can be for individuals and their loved ones. It’s the best minute and 13 seconds you’ll spend all week: This Is My Story – Paul Viapiano
- Good-bye stress: All the above benefits make life simpler and even safer, with less time on the road amidst rush-hour traffic and less exposure to others’ colds, germs, and illnesses. Individually and all combined, these benefits go a long way in reducing stress levels in your daily work and personal life. This is good for everyone, especially for people who struggle with anxiety.
- Many more upsides to remote and hybrid work are good for mental health: Check them out!
There are remedies to feeling isolated
One of the drawbacks of remote work that can have a negative impact on mental health is the isolation of spending all day alone and not being able to interact with coworkers. On the flip side, autonomy and alone time are two of the main reasons so many people love remote work. However, both groups equally value, enjoy, and benefit from camaraderie with people they like and trust.
For those who are great at remote work but struggle with isolation, there are ways to change that and make you feel more whole and connected to others:
- Choose a couple of days a week to work somewhere else. Take your laptop or tablet to a café, coffee shop, library, park, the beach – anywhere there’s an internet connection and other people.
- Do you have a local coworker or friend who also works remotely? Share your homes one or two days a week by working together in the same place. Being in the presence of someone you like, trust, and respect can help to create a positive working environment and the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas.
- Make it a priority to regularly connect by phone, text, or video with coworkers, friends, or family. Do daily check-ins and try to do so in person when you can.
- Consider working with other local coworkers to create monthly get-togethers. If your favorite coworkers are not local, do this virtually! Check out this great example of virtual happy hours from one of our senior recruiters at Goodwin Recruiting.
Before wrapping up, here’s one more struggle people have with working remotely that takes a toll on mental health, and that is difficulty in separating work from life. This is not surprising since work and life exist under one roof. The way around this hurdle is to set boundaries – literally and figuratively. Choose and protect your workspace. Create a balanced and reasonable daily routine and stick to it. When the workday is over, turn it all off until tomorrow, and stick to this commitment, too. It’s also important to take several daily breaks and get plenty of sleep.
Is remote work right for you? Let’s look at your options!
If the remote work lifestyle is appealing to you, give us a call or connect with us online today. As mentioned earlier, remote and hybrid jobs remain plentiful. You might even want to explore becoming a Goodwin Recruiting Partner! We’re a nationwide network of professionals who run our recruiting businesses from home and we’re great examples of remote professionals who thrive in this environment.
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