• Kathryn Knight

Could remote working have a negative impact on mental health?

Updated: Mar 25

As the sun starts to show it’s face again, I smile with happiness at the prospect of warm leisurely walks and being able to go outside without the need for my raincoat or brolly – “so long wet and windy!”

Yet there’s also a part of me that feels reluctant, there’s a hesitancy and a very slight feeling of unease about leaving the house. I’ve reflected on this and considered my lifestyle over the last 2 years and microscopically over the last couple of months. The key residing feature has been a slide toward more remote (home) working.

I carry out my role as a Mother, the home is clean and tidy, there is food in the cupboards and a hot meal on the table every night. The washing is done, the kitchen sink is empty and the flowers are even watered! I am up every morning, ready for a new working day and once the morning school routine is completed, I am at my desk, ready to beaver away. Emails, ‘zooms’, telephone calls are not a problem and my self-discipline ensures the work is done. I am pleased with myself for not having to go out in the car anywhere – Eco-warrior and looking after the pennies (especially with soaring fuel prices) all at the same time. Yes – I am winning at life! But am I really?

I love being with people (actually physically in the same room as them), I love communication and bouncing off others. I love to have a laugh and a joke, I love to check in with others, listen to stories and I love to feel a part of something bigger than me – whatever that might be. But has technology and our adaptation to working from home over the last 2 years taken this away from me?

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely agree with the option of having hybrid working and remote working - giving people the option for what suits them best. And I love having that flexibility in managing my work and my home life, but what about connection?

Hybrid working gives more option and flexibility for people to maintain that connection, being able to go into the office as well as work from home. Remote working though is not quite the same. We are all human and the majority of us desire and need connection but can this need always be fulfilled through a screen? In fact, it has to be considered that a lack of connection and real communication with others can be a cause of depression.

I browse social media and I am amazed at how many jobs advertised are now purely remotely based, with businesses now able to cast their net wider into the pool of potentials as they now advertise nationwide. And these remote working jobs are sold to us on the positives of flexibility and more work-life balance - but how true is this?

And I find myself wondering about the impact of remote working and continual improvements in technology on people’s mental health. I worry about what future working models are going to look like for the next generation - the ones who already live their life through a mobile phone or computer screen.

Nothing can ever replace or replicate the power of connection, establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships and friendships and we are happier and healthier when we have it in our lives. I am recognising that although I am still connected with others my happiness battery is not 100% charged, I’m missing getting my battery topped up and I’m missing that feeling of belonging. I get that from being around others, learning and listening to others, feeling energised as the little neurons in my brain start firing up and responding to others.

The power of connection is contagious and spreads like magic and when people feel connected, that sense of belonging to something greater can spread – something the world could use more of right now.

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