Working remotely can feel overwhelming for some people. This is natural, particularly if you’re still adjusting to this lifestyle.
Lately, you feel remote life has lost its luster. Maybe you’re losing motivation and missing in-person meetings. Also, routinely living in slippers doesn’t seem as appealing.
Maybe your reality is entirely different from the one exemplified here. But still, you feel down, hopeless, and are irritable working from home.
In any case, it’s natural to wonder: Is this a case of the blues, or could these be depression symptoms? And if they are, is it because you’re working from home?
Evidence about the “working from home depression” case isn’t conclusive.
Extensive research shows that the outcomes of working from home are contradictory. Some studies report that working from home improves mental well-being. Others say it may influence well-being negatively.
This is partly because everyone’s experience is different, and many other factors can be involved in how you feel.
Pros of working from home
Working from home can have benefits. This is why some research from 2021 says it has the potential to improve your mental health.
Some of the perks, according to research, include:
- commute-free working
- increased time with loved ones
- self-care opportunities
- increased free time
- more flexibility
Cons of working from home
It’s natural for some people to miss the office or feel a sense of loss if working in an office has been your routine for a while.
Even if it were hard to appreciate at the moment, working on-site offers many
- social support
- ample opportunities to take breaks
- your involvement in the company’s decision making process
When you do business from home, those on-site advantages all change.
In fact, a review of 23 studies across 10 countries shows that, for some, telecommuting can lead to:
One 2020 study found that pandemic-related job insecurity and financial concerns were a source of symptoms of depression and anxiety in general.
- increased distractions and interruptions
- decreased physical activity
- increased food consumption
- multitasking with young children in the home
- higher workload
- longer hours
It depends. Research shows that working remotely has the potential to increase symptoms of depression. But it’s not that cut and dry.
Whether working off-site leads you to experience depression or not may depend on many factors, including:
- virtual co-worker connection
- company support
- management of work/personal life boundaries
- specific work demands
- gender equity
- home working environment
- tech privacy concerns
- social connections and distractions outside of work hours
If you’re connected with your co-workers, your work demands are the same as they used to be, and you have a working environment you feel comfortable in, your chances of developing depression may be lower.
But if you feel isolated, have a hard time turning “off” your work brain, and you’re balancing deadlines while taking care of small children, you may be more likely to develop some form of depression.
Research findings vary.
For some people, working from home improves mental health or has no impact on existing depression symptoms. For others, working from home could add symptoms to the list, including anxiety and chronic stress.
So, if you’re already 1 of the 264 million people worldwide who live with depression, in theory, working from home could intensify your symptoms.
There’s really no consensus regarding the root cause of depression. It’s likely a combination of unique factors, including:
- genetics: family history of depression and other mental health conditions
- biological: brain chemistry, physical conditions
- environmental: chronic stress or challenges in your home or community
- physical: medications, substance use, nutritional deficiencies
- psychological: major life changes, loss of a loved one, unresolved trauma
From this perspective, you could already live with some factors that may increase your chances of depression. If the sudden changes to your routine with working from home have caused you significant stress, this may be considered an additional psychological factor.
Only a mental health professional can help you determine the cause of your symptoms, though.
Mental health experts use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to provide accurate diagnoses.
They’ll work with you to identify “clinically significant” symptoms that may interfere with your home, work, school, or social life.
Even if you have high-functioning depression, and some of your symptoms may be harder to spot, deep sadness may lie just beneath the surface. A therapist can help you unearth what’s going on.
They’ll ask if you’ve had 5 or more of the following symptoms consistently over at least a 2-week period — nearly all day, every day:
- loss of interest or pleasure in your usual activities
- changes in appetite or weight (gain or loss)
- changes in sleep patterns
- aches, exhaustion, fatigue, or loss of energy
- feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- feelings of worry or restlessness
- a decreased ability to focus or feeling more indecisive than usual
- thoughts of death, making a suicide plan, or suicidal ideation
If working from home has become a challenge for you, it’s highly advisable you seek the support of a health professional.
You can also start developing some skills that may help you manage your emotions differently.
Seek professional support
Psychotherapy is considered a frontline treatment for depression, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
You may find it helpful to choose a therapist who specializes in one of these modalities:
- acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- behavioral activation therapy (BA)
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
- problem-solving therapy (PST)
- psychodynamic therapy (PT)
Your doctor may recommend antidepressant medication to help you feel better if they determine you have depression.
Maintain social connection
A 2020 study found that regular communication with your colleagues and managers can help you feel less isolated.
Consider weekly “coffee chats,” socialize over virtual lunch dates, or subscribe to fun Slack channels. While it won’t replace the quick catch-up at your colleague’s desk, it may balance out the sterility of electronic exchange.
You could consider one or more of these strategies:
- Take breaks. Set a timer for 45 minutes of work, then take a break for 15 minutes.
- Maintain work/life balance. If you can, relax in a different place from where you work.
- Exercise. Movement can help releaseendorphins, a feel-good neurotransmitter.
- Sleep: If you can, try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Nutrition: If possible, eat whole, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods.
- Meditation: A little each day can help you detach from distressing thoughts.
Thanks to the internet, working from home has never been easier. But for some people, this new way of life can present challenges.
If you’re feeling depressed while working from home, there are several steps you can take to support your mental health.
Working with a mental health professional and enhancing your self-care routines may help you manage your symptoms.
Learning more about depression may offer insights as well.
Last but not least, remember to have some self-compassion. We’re living through unprecedented times, and no one expects you to be handling it perfectly.
You’re allowed to feel however you feel. You’re doing the best you can.