5 Reasons Working From Home Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health
Is working from home the epitome of luxury or a potentially nightmarish mindfield? Sorry, minefield?
by Jack Valentine
Well, at least you put some pants on. That’s a start.
So, you want to work from home. I know, I get it; the unbelievable luxury of staying in your pyjamas all day without even having flu; being able to snark on Twitter without fear of official repercussion, the possibility of having a long one man joy splurgle in your lunchbreak. But take a leaf out of the Pessimist’s Handbook: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. An imaginary Utopia of slobbing about in baggy sweatpants with curry stains on them has its dark side. Here, then, are a few reasons I have gone completely tonto after two years of working from home.
If working from home was more like this, everything would be okay.
It is very easy to turn into a complete recluse; most people go back to their homes at the end of the day, but you’ve been in your house all day, so where to? You could go to a bar – on your own usually because all of your friends want to chill out at home after work – or maybe for a walk or something; but soon you’ll have to return to the office for dinner and bed. Extended periods of this kind of solitude can make for a bucketful of crazy later on, when you’ve forgotten how to interact with people altogether and develop the kind of eccentricities that lead to greeting the postman without any clothes.
If you work from home, unless you’re a painter or something, you’re going to be using a computer; and computers, as we all know, are time-sucking devices designed by the Devil’s imps to lure you away from what you should be doing. Hence, that important press release turns into 2 hours on Facebook commenting on other people’s Instagram pictures of their lunch. Excel chart? That looks complicated, better go scroll through PostSecret again. Timesheet? I’ll fill that in later but right now someone is WRONG ON THE INTERNET and I need to get involved in a comment nest of mini flame wars on a blog RIGHT NOW.
A Growing Sense of Futility
Every morning you wake up with the same ideal; a go-getting, focused digital wunderkind, a satellite office in slick and efficient orbit around the Hub. By two in the afternoon you are mooching aimlessly around the kitchen humming along to BBC Radio 6 Music, picking up crumbs of cheese from the counter with your fingertips and eating them. Every. Time.
Burgeoning Alcoholic Loner Status
When you still need to take the edge off but you don’t have any colleagues to drink with.
Sooner or later the daily ritual of sleeping in too late, blearily opening the laptop and gazing at the same silent, familiar walls becomes intolerable and can lead to an intense downward spiral full of questions like ‘What’s the point? Really, when you get down to it?’ And, ‘I wonder if you can die from being alone.’
Humans are not designed to live in isolated cubes, their only stimulus a digital screen into the rest of the world. We are hive creatures at heart, dependent on interaction with other humans. Hearing someone’s voice and seeing their facial expressions are not things than can be mimicked or replaced. Without them, well, see point one. There’s a reason the Bates Motel was a solo enterprise, you know?
Yes, you can go out and work in cafes, but the resulting Expresso consumption usually means you need to be peeled off the ceiling mid-afternoon and really, the whirl of people in and out only puts a sticking plaster over the fact that ‘Americano, please… Thank you’ are still the only words you will probably say to anyone all day.
I have worked in kitchens, offices, bars, shops and, on one memorable occasion, as the world’s most inappropriate Sunday School teacher. All have been difficult and boring at times like any other job, but after experiencing the contrast I can say there is simply no substitute for getting out of the house for the day, whatever your personal feelings when the alarm goes off; even if your co-workers infuriate you, even if your boss is a homicidal Klingon, especially if your boss is a homicidal Klingon, because the board meetings could get pretty lively. Unless you are fortunate enough to do something you love so much that you couldn’t care less where you do it, take the sanity route and find a hive to buzz in.