Working from home taking its toll on the mental health & relationships of the nation

As the UK Government continues to encourage those who can work at home to do so, new survey reveals that 80% of Brits feel working from home has had a negative impact on their mental health.

First published: June 2020

Not being in the physical presence of colleagues means many people feel unable to take a break and step away from their workstations, with over a third (36%) of home workers feeling as though they always have to be at their computer to respond quickly. This could be contributing to the higher levels of anxiety and stress people are reporting working from home rather than from their usual place of work. 

Our latest survey found that while Brits recognise the benefits of working from home such as time and money saved by no commute and being able to spend more time with family, this prolonged period of working from home is taking its toll on the mental wellbeing of the nation. 

A quarter of those working from home (25%) say they are finding it difficult to cope with the mental challenges of loneliness and isolation from colleagues. And while video calls have proved to be invaluable in linking physically separated co-workers and clients, they are also inadvertently placing more stress upon us with one in five Brits working from home (19%) saying they feel pressure to look good on video meetings.

Separating work and home has also proved challenging. Almost a third of Brits working from home (30%) have been finding it difficult separating their home lives from their work lives, with over a quarter (27%) reporting difficulties switching off at the end of the day or working week. 

It’s perhaps not surprising then that a third of Brits working from home (34%) say that it has placed a strain on relationships within the household, with both partners and children. 

Our Emotional Wellbeing Prevention and Enhancement Lead, Gosia Bowling, says: “Those who regularly work from home have established routines and boundaries that help them compartmentalise their personal and professional lives. These things take time to get right and will be different for each individual, but without them, the continuous pressure of work can negatively impact our mental health, which in turn can impact not only our relationships but our physical health.” 

To encourage positive mental health, as well as create boundaries between work and home life, Gosia recommends following these five simple tips to help you to better manage your current situation and improve your mental wellbeing while working from home.  

  1. Create a clear divide between your working day and home life. Try to find a way to mark the end of the working day. For example shutting down your laptop rather than leaving it on or open, switching your work phone off or closing the door on the room where you’ve been working. And if you must check-in after the end of the working day, try assigning a specific short period of time to do so rather than doing it continuously. Creating that mental headspace will give you the capacity to unwind and prepare yourself for the next day of work. 
  2. Communicate more. Rather than worrying about stepping away from the computer, take a proactive approach. Tell your colleagues when you’re taking a break for lunch, going for a walk around the block or helping out the children. That way their expectations of a response within a period of time are managed and you can take a break without worrying.
  3. Connect with your colleagues but don’t forget about the phone! We are naturally sociable and like to be with others so using the tech at your disposal can help with this, but always being ‘on camera’ can be draining. Hearing someone’s voice can be just as powerful at connecting as seeing them, so if you’re feeling under pressure to maintain your physical appearance on camera, pick up the phone for a chat instead if you can.  
  4. Find ways to relax. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness can help you become more aware and accepting of your thoughts. Exercise is also a powerful way to help reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing.  As exercise needs space it requires you to step away from your computer, so you benefit from both the mental headspace as well the boost endorphins give to both physical and mental energy.  
  5. Get a good night’s sleep. Poor quality sleep will make you feel more tired, stressed, less energised and more anxious as a result. Having a good bedtime routine will help you to switch off mentally and rest easier, hopefully then waking up with a positive outlook on the day. Try these cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to retrain your body and mind to sleep well at night, and help you unwind more quickly: 

Last updated Monday 14 June 2021

First published on Friday 19 June 2020