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COVID-19 moved us to a remote, work-from-home (WFH) set-up. Despite the pros, nobody talks about the downsides of remote work for long gaps. WFH depression happens to the best of us.

Imagine this. Have you ever caught yourself sighing or feeling existential at work due to WFH? All the colleagues you used to meet for work and banter daily are now pixelated over Zoom and Google Meet. Speaking of which, your calendar seems blocked now more than ever. You only get the time to check in with yourself during those moments between one meeting and another.

WFH has given people the flexibility and freedom to stay connected to their loved ones. That’s a huge blessing. Remote work has saved commute time for many people and improved work-life balance. But the denial phase of WFH depression is something no one talks about.

We’re all skilled at concealing our emotions and pretending like we feel 100% at work. But before we know it, everything about our work life seems to fall apart. It starts spilling into our personal lives. After all, we’ve begun working where we live and living where we work. But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it?

Why we experience WFH depression

IRL interaction replaced

There’s a reason why despite tech advancement, we still crave human interaction. The best part of human interaction is the ability to see another person, have meaningful conversations, and assess their emotions.

But with increased Zoom calls and virtual meetings, we’re experiencing increased exhaustion. Feedbacks take twice as long to come around. Teams take more time to execute ideas, and the lack of work banter results in a lower engagement at work. And so, we are more disengaged from work, and before we know it, our batteries run low.

Longer work hours

Flexibility is the best thing about working from home. Yet, people are spending more time in meetings. They are putting twice as much effort into keeping up with all Slack messages. Here's an activity for you. Think of how many of these statements agree with you.

You check emails outside of working hours. You spy what’s happening in every Slack channel, even on day-offs. Or, you spend time looming over pending projects and due dates during paid time offs. And, even when you try to have work-life boundaries, you gravitate towards work anyway. If any or most of these statements are true, you have difficulty disconnecting from work.

Remote work doesn't look enticing when placing work boundaries feels like escaping the matrix.

Lesser support

Managers are enablers. They help set clear goals and guidelines. They also provide teams with greater responsibilities, valuable feedback and set clear boundaries.

Remote work has reduced interaction with managers. Any communication with them now happens in virtual meetings. If there is something you’d like to tell your manager, you have to wait to find a calendar slot that works for both of you. This has resulted in employees feeling lesser support at work.

Eventually, it feels like we’re doing the same work every day. This creates more significant ambiguity in the roles we perform.

How to tackle WFH depression 

Encourage healthy work boundaries

Our work is an essential part of our lives. But it shouldn’t be the only thing we live for and strive towards. Having healthy boundaries at work helps us assess how much of ourselves we want to give to our careers. The easy way to start creating work boundaries is to have a work schedule. Pick a time that’s convenient for you to log in to work. Discuss this with your manager.

Establish deep work hours. Have an open conversation with your team about your boundaries and understand theirs. This eliminates any uncertainty and helps build integrity at work.

Make time for yourself

Take a hard look at the habits you’ve built at your workplace. This is a result of small decisions and actions we perform every day. While we think these decisions are insignificant, they compound into something more significant.

So begin with honouring your needs. Indulge in activities that energise you. Play a sport you have always loved 3-5 times a week. Read more. Sleep better. Eat healthier. This helps prioritise your values. It reminds you that there’s more to life than being available 24x7 at work.

Provide supportive perks

Talk to your employees. Ask them what more the organisation can do for them. Use their feedback to create personalised benefits for them. For instance, providing comprehensive group health insurance will help them prioritise their health better. Partner with other organisations to provide mental health support to your employees. This will help them check in with themselves better.

Offer paid time off, wellness leaves and vacation days. This will show your employees that you care about them and resting is just as productive.

Where to go from here

Ignoring WFH depression, as an employer, is turning a blind eye to your employees’ needs. The best way to avoid gaps in work and communication is to take initiative. This helps boost employee morale and allows them to put their best work forward.

Moreover, a great way to avoid the blues of working from home is by being aware. Awareness about the practices and habits that don’t work keeps mental health in check. If you're interested in making work better, watch our Uncovering HR live with Sameera Khan, Director of People Success at inFeedo.