Can home office have a negative impact on our mental health?
More and more people are working remotely, swapping the traditional office environment and daily commute for the comfort of their own home.
Yet research by HR consulting firm Morneau Shepell of Canada suggests that isolation in the workplace affects 41% of employees and 38% of managers in the country.
Of those who said they experienced isolation, 40% described it as extreme. And the highest incidence of “extreme personal isolation” was cited by those who worked at home.
“We specifically speak about mental health and well-being, to look at how people are experiencing that in the workplace — what their challenges are, what works, what doesn’t work,” Paula Allen, VP of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell, told CBC.
The firm’s definition of workplace includes both those who work in an office—possibly with little interaction with co-workers—and those who work from home.
A new trend
Research by Statistics Canada indicates the number of people working from home has been steadily rising, amounting to 2.5 million Canadians in 2016, or 12.6% of the workplace.
Yet according to Morneau Shepell, for almost all employers, mental health issues are the largest or second-largest cause of disability claims. And in another 30% of cases, mental health problems exacerbate a physical condition, for example, when someone with a pain disorder becomes depressed.
Physical isolation generally appears to be on the rise. A Statistics Canada report from March this year indicates the number of single-person households in the country has doubled over the past 35 years.
Today, an increasing number of companies are encouraging remote work, recognizing that workers can be productive anywhere. And by reducing their on-site workforce, they can save money on real estate costs.
Many Canadian workers are welcoming the opportunity, enjoying both the comfort of a home office and the chance to avoid frustrating daily commutes.
Yet a balance between the social interaction benefits of the traditional office and the freedom of working from home is likely the best solution to stay mentally, as well as physically, healthy.