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How to Cope with Depression From Working at Home 

by | Feb 14, 2024 | Blog

Working from home has become a ‘new normal’ since the pandemic, with around 12.7% of full-time employees working away from the office and 28.2% following a hybrid model. For some people, the ability to work remotely is a perk that provides more freedom, work-life balance, and time in the day to pursue other activities. But that isn’t the case for everyone.

One study by the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine found that nearly 73.6% of employees have found themselves dealing with new mental health issues since they started working from home. While the study was taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors were at play, this is still a topic worth exploring as more people transition to a remote work lifestyle. 

If you find yourself struggling with your mental health when working from home, know that what you’re experiencing is normal. In this article, we discuss the connection between depression and working from home, factors that can contribute to it, and how you can cope with depression when working from home. 

Does working from home cause depression? 

The first question to explore is: does working from home cause depression or does it simply exacerbate mental health issues that already exist? The answer is… it’s complicated.

Let’s sum up some of the research into working from home and mental health (including depression). 

  • In 2020, a review found that some studies showed improved mental health when working from home while others found it to have a negative effect. 
  • In 2021, another review showed that certain aspects of working from home (like having children around, being distracted while working, or changes in exercise and diet) led to decreased mental health.
  • Another 2021 study found that working from home exacerbated feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and sleeping difficulties in people who already experienced these symptoms. 
  • In 2022, another study confirmed these findings by stating that remote workers whose well being was affected by working from home were more likely to have an existing mental health condition. 
  • Another 2022 review of several studies found that working from home can improve certain aspects of mental health (i.e. less stress and improved wellbeing), however ultimately the link between mental health and working from home was unclear. 

As you can see, results are conflicting. The only thing we can be sure of is that the relationship between depression and working from home is complex and many factors are involved. Let’s look at some of these potential factors in more detail. 

What can cause depression from working at home?

So, what is it about working from home that can make someone feel depressed? There are lots of factors at play here. These include:

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Working more hours (or lack of work-life balance)
  • Battling more distractions than usual
  • Pre-existing mental health conditions, such as major depression, anxiety, PTSD, or bipolar disorder
  • Poor diet
  • Having a stressful home environment 
  • Being a parent or caregiver to a toddler
  • Lack of support and communication with coworkers. 

One study found that women and younger adults were more likely to experience stress and depression when working from home. For women, the main causes were family responsibilities and conflicting work-life balance. For young adults aged 16-39, the causes were due to loneliness, financial insecurity, and work uncertainty.  

Signs working from home is making you depressed

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish whether working from home is making you depressed or you’re just experiencing regular work stressors. This can happen when the lines are blurred between work and personal life. 

That said, there are certain signs you can look out for which might signal depression caused by working from home. These include:

  • Feeling extra sensitive to stress
  • Loss of passion towards your job, hobbies, or interests
  • Avoiding social interactions and choosing to stay at home 
  • Being quick to anger
  • Excess feelings of anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite (i.e. lack of appetite or excessive appetite). 

If you’re experiencing these signs for two weeks or more, working from home might be making you depressed. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to protect your mental health and make working from home more enjoyable. 

See also: Depression self-assessment test

How to protect your mental health when working from home

For many remote employees, working from home isn’t an option. If that’s the case for you, there are ways you can make it easier on your mental health. Below, we outline some of our best mental health care strategies for working from home: 

Set up a dedicated workspace

Let’s start with where you’ll spend most of your day: your workspace. If you’re working from bed or the couch, it’s time to kiss that setup goodbye because it’s unlikely to be contributing to your mental health care. 

Ideally, you can set up a space that allows you to focus on your work with little interruption. If you don’t have a separate room in the house, you can try to create a boundary between your workspace and the rest of the house to minimize disruptions. Set up a dedicated, organized workspace that’s well-lit and clutter-free. If you can, invest in a good desk and ergonomic chair to make your remote work environment more comfortable. 

Don’t neglect your physical health

Our physical and mental health are intrinsically intertwined. One of the best ways to boost your mental health is to focus on taking care of your body. People working from home can often find themselves neglecting their physical health without even realizing. With no commute to the office, it can be easy to spend the entire day indoors and neglect exercise. 

To relieve depression caused by working from home, try to make an effort to focus on your physical health. Here are some key things to focus on: 

  • Movement/exercise: Research shows that exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Try to schedule in 20-30 minutes of exercise at least three days a week to get your heart pumping and boost endorphins in the body. Even a little bit of exercise is better than sitting at your desk all day, so find something you enjoy and make an effort to get up and move when you can.  
  • Eat well: Working from home means being in close proximity to the kitchen and its abundance of snacks, sweets, and sugary drinks. Try to focus on eating well, making time for proper meals three times a day, and cook nutritious, balanced food that fuels your mind and body. While snacks and indulgences are a great way to treat yourself from time-to-time, keep them occasional.  
  • Go outdoors: Whether it’s a morning or evening walk, or even just spending some time in your backyard, try to spend some time outdoors. If you have a park nearby, make it your mission to visit at least a couple of times a week. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve your mental health, including lower risks of depression and improved concentration (a bonus for work!)

Keep a regular schedule 

One of the best aspects of working from home is having a flexible schedule, but sometimes that can be one of its biggest pitfalls, too. 

If you have existing depression or another mental illness, you might already be prone to procrastination. This can be more difficult to battle when you’re working from home and there seem to be no hard deadlines in place. It’s all too easy to reach for your phone or switch on the TV, only to find yourself having missed an hour of work without realizing. Whoops! Now you’re stressed out with a piling workload that keeps you working late into the evening. This is never a healthy recipe for mental health.  

The best way to set solid work life boundaries when working from home is to create a regular daily schedule (and stick to it). Try to organize your hours and outline the work tasks you need to complete each day. This not only gives you an outline to follow and keeps you in check, but can also create a sense of stability and purpose. 

Take lots of breaks

While some people find themselves easily distracted when working from home, others can be sitting at the computer for eight hours straight without a break. Neither of these is good for mental health. When creating your daily schedule, be sure to include lots of breaks to stretch, take a walk, run errands, make meals, or anything else you want to do. 

Making time for breaks throughout the day can help you maintain focus, prevent burnout, refresh your mood, and ease the buildup of stress and subsequent depression. Breaks can also give you a chance to relax and unwind during your workday, so you’re less likely to procrastinate during your working hours. 

During your breaks, be sure to step away from your workspace and avoid picking up your phone or switching on the TV. This will give your eyes a break from the screen and let you properly recharge and disconnect. 

Get dressed

Yes, it’s tempting to work in your pajamas. But getting dressed as if you’re going into the office can have a positive impact on your mindset and increase mental well-being. Getting dressed signals to your brain that you’re starting your workday and helps create a mental boundary between personal and professional life. Simple actions like doing your hair or wearing makeup can also boost your confidence and motivation when working from home. This signals to our brain that we are transitioning into a different state of mind and being. These simple yet deliberate choices wield remarkable power in elevating your mindset and fostering a productive work environment.

Stop working when the day is over

Without clear boundaries, it’s too easy to let your work leech into dinner time. To protect your mental health, it’s important to set a specific end to your workday and log off as soon as that clock hits. Avoid the temptation to keep working late into the evening and be sure to turn off your computer, switch off work-related notifications, and mentally transition to non-work activities. This needs to be a mindful effort. Make a ritual, like setting a timer for the last hour of the workday, to wrap up tasks and mentally transition. Use this time to prepare for the next day, then switch off work-related notifications and focus on non-work activities. This helps establish clear boundaries and protects your mental health.

Check-in with your mood

Our final tip is to check in with yourself and keep track of your mood. If you find yourself experiencing anxiety and depression regularly, be proactive about taking measures to make yourself feel better. Look back on your week and see what might have been contributing to these feelings. Ask yourself:

  • Have you spent enough time outdoors?
  • Have you been moving your body?
  • How has your diet been?
  • When did you last speak to a friend?
  • Have you been setting proper boundaries between work and home life?

You might be trying really hard to make working from home a supportive and pleasant experience, but it’s easy to slip up as the weeks go by and find yourself feeling low again. Remember to always take it easy on yourself, be proud of your efforts, and then find one thing you can do to boost your mood the following week. 

When to get expert help

Working remotely can be difficult for some people and sometimes that takes a toll on our mental health. The tips we’ve spoken about in this article can help ease depression from working at home and make remote work easier and more pleasant. But it’s not always enough to relieve depression symptoms. 

If you find yourself experiencing a persistently low mood for most of the day, most days of the week, you may need extra support from a mental health professional to get you back on track. Depression is a serious mental health condition, but thankfully, it’s also treatable. Your provider can help you find a treatment that works for you and your symptoms. Whether that’s antidepressant medication, talk therapy, or a treatment like TMS therapy, help is there when you need it. Contact our team to see how we can support you today.