Mental health benefits of working from home vs the office

Everyone knows the COVID-19 pandemic caused a huge amount of physical, emotional, and mental damage. For many of us, our lives were completely turned around. If you were one of the few to keep their jobs, it’s most likely you transitioned from working in an office with colleagues to working at home on your own. 

As the coronavirus is transforming from a devastating illness to be avoided at all costs to something preventable and no longer life-threatening, many companies are requiring their employees to return to work in the office — either full- or part-time.

While many workers missed being surrounded by their co-workers at the beginning, most employees are now reluctant to go back into the workplace. If you’re in the same position as millions of others across the country, it’s likely because you’ve been unknowingly enjoying the many mental health benefits of working from home.

Mental health benefits of working from home

Think of the immediate benefits of working from home and what comes to mind? Getting to sleep in longer? Attending online meetings with your webcam off in your pajamas? Being able to cuddle your pets throughout the work day?

While many people agree these are all great benefits of working from home, there are many more important ones that greatly affect your mental health, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you view the rest of the world.

Extra sleep

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the average one-way work commute in the US was just short of 30 minutes. By working from home, you can spend an extra 30 minutes sleeping each morning.

In 1943, Maslow confirmed that humans need to meet certain physiological needs (such as sleep) before they’re motivated to seek higher needs. By getting extra sleep every day, our overall well-being is improved and we’re more motivated to take care of ourselves.

No commutes

Avoiding commuting doesn’t just mean we get more sleep. It also reduces our stress levels. Long periods spent driving boost the body’s release of cortisol — a stress hormone that’s connected to high blood pressure.

By simply avoiding physically going to the office, you avoid the stress linked to the journey.

Better finances

The financial burdens associated with commuting (paying for public transport, parking, gas, etc) can also cause stress and worsen physiological health. Although the pandemic caused money concerns for a lot of people, removing the burden of paying for work commutes helps to reduce stress and boost physiological health.

More freedom

A lot of people work so many hours and have so many responsibilities that they feel like their work takes over their lives. While the pandemic was a scary time and imposed a lot of restrictions on us, working from home also afforded us incredible freedoms many of us had never experienced before.

Johnson & Krueger and Pantell et al. carried out research that discovered that lower stress levels, more sleep, increased exercise time, and more opportunities to cook and eat food at home all result in positive mental health outcomes.

Having more disposable income and the freedom to spend more time with family also boosts our emotional well-being and our physical health. Gilmour et al. confirmed that even receiving social support virtually (such as via video chat) can improve our mental health and make us feel better.

Fewer barriers

Most jobs come with a lot of restrictions that end up dictating our lives. When we work from home, a lot of these barriers that cause psychological distress completely disappear. For example, women are able to manage morning sickness or period cramps more easily without having to take time off or divulge personal information.

The benefit of removing these barriers also applies to employees who are also responsible for looking after elderly relatives or children. As caregiving responsibilities primarily fall on women, remote work could increase equality when it comes to employment and could even reduce the wage gap.

Less toxicity

One of the most important ways remote work improves our mental health is by restricting the time we spend with toxic coworkers. Høgh et al. concluded that by working from home and avoiding colleagues who cause trouble, the level of workplace bullying and hostile work environment perception dramatically drops.

This is especially true for minorities, such as employees of color, who are more likely to report being in a hostile work environment and experiencing workplace bullying, according to Pitcan et al.

Returning to the workplace

If you feel much happier, confident, and comfortable since you’ve been working from home, it’s natural to be concerned about returning to the office. But situations are rarely black and white, even if that’s how they appear. It’s always worth discussing other options with your boss, such as continuing to work from home or only working in the office part-time.

If speaking with your boss about the subject isn’t possible, it’s worth discussing the topic with your colleagues. It’s almost certain they feel the same way as you and you may have more sway if you approach your boss as a solid group.

Take the first step

If you’re struggling with work-related stress, depression, or anxiety and feel like you’ve got no one to talk to, we’re here for you. Whether you’re feeling isolated because you’ve been working on your own at home for so long or you’re worried about the negative impact of going back to the office, we can help you get into a comfortable routine that works for you.

Make your first online appointment today and we’ll help you figure out what’s best for you. When you’ve decided on the path you want to take, we’ll work alongside you to develop a step-by-step plan to get you there so you can do what’s best for you and your mental health.

About the author: Krystie Hudson

Krystie’s favorite types of therapy to use with her clients are EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and SFT (Solution Focused Therapy).  She also incorporates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Internal Family Systems with clients as needed.  She prefers to work with clients ages 14-100.  She is especially skilled with trauma and parenting problems/support, family issues.

Read more about Krystie here >>

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741