Everyone seems to have an opinion about working from home.
Some people love remote work; they don’t seem to have “work from home anxiety” at all since working from home helps them balance their personal lives and work.
Other people hate remote work–they feel trapped at home and struggle with the lack of structure, which, yes–may contribute to anxiety.
But whether you love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in between, remote work is likely here to stay in some capacity.
In this article, I’ll cover a few things.
- Does working from home cause anxiety?
- Examples of work from home anxiety
- Strategies to deal with WFH anxiety
- Requesting to work from home due to social anxiety
Let’s dive in.
Can working from home cause anxiety?
For some people, yes–working from home can cause anxiety. A study that polled 256 remote employees found that some of the employees reported higher levels of perceived stress and work-related burnout due to working from home (read the study).
But note that stress, burnout, and anxiety are different. Anxiety (in all its forms) is a diagnosable condition, while general stress and burnout are not currently recognized as mental health disorders in the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
For some people who already experience anxiety and depression, working from home actually helped improve their symptoms (read the study). With remote work, they were able to curb work from home anxiety by avoiding social stressors that come with an in-person workplace.
So although the research isn’t entirely conclusive on work from home anxiety (remote work at this scale is still very new), if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety because of working from home, that’s enough reason to seek help and perhaps pursue a formal diagnosis.
Remember that you may be experiencing work from home anxiety even if you appreciate the opportunity to work from home! You don’t have to hate remote work to experience anxiety when working from home.
Examples of work from home anxiety
Anxiety looks a little differently for everyone.
Here are a few examples of what work from home anxiety can look like.
Many workers struggled with the switch to remote work during the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020.
Since we were no longer receiving direct, in-person feedback from our employers, many people experiencing anxiety when working from home began to overthink everything. In the therapy world, this is referred to as rumination (learn more about rumination).
The TikToker Rod went viral in 2020 as he recorded his own experience with WFH anxiety and overthinking.
Feeling out of control
Anxiety can make us feel like we don’t have control over our environment (read the study). Is home our home, or is our home our workplace? It’s confusing!
So although we’re in the safety and comfort of our own homes, struggling with a lack of boundaries between work time and our personal lives can leave us feeling out of control, which contributes to anxiety.
Difficulty concentrating is a common symptom of anxiety (read the study). If you have anxiety, concentrating is difficult enough. When you’re working from home, you can become even more distracted by things that you wouldn’t normally worry about in the workplace: your dog whining to sit on your lap during meetings, switching loads of laundry, the lawn mower outside (how are they so loud, and why do they always seem to be right outside your window during calls?).
So much input can leave your brain exhausted, foggy, and overwhelmed.
How to deal with WFH anxiety
Although we always recommend consulting with a professional if you’re experiencing anxiety, here are a few tips for curbing your WFH anxiety that you can implement today.
Create boundaries and a routine
Decide when you will start work, and more importantly, when you will stop work.
When you’re anxious, it’s easy to either become a workaholic to soothe your perceived poor work performance or finish work at night if you procrastinated that day (yes, anxiety and procrastination are linked in some cases–check out this study).
By creating a routine and boundaries for yourself, you’ll feel more in control of your work from home life. Plus, the less you work, the less likely you’ll experience work-related stressors, which can exacerbate anxiety (read the study).
Take lots of breaks!
Being glued to your computer all day does nothing for your anxiety. Close your laptop, get outside, have a snack, go for a walk–anything that shuts your mind off from work-related matters.
At most workplaces, there are mandatory breaks and lunch hours. Those moments of separation used to be scheduled for you, but now, you have to schedule them for yourself.
Break up activities
Don’t do the same exact thing all day. Instead, try varying your work activities. Check email for an hour, and then get some deep work done. Take a break, and then work on mindless busy work. You’re less likely to fixate and be sucked into work.
Make sure to take deliberate screen breaks (yes, screen time is linked to anxiety–read the study). Take screen breaks every 50 minutes, and certainly don’t go more than three hours. And no, scrolling on your phone is not a screen break 😉
Spruce up your office
If you’re feeling sluggish and bored when working from home, try decorating your office.
You can go big and buy a standing desk and treadmill, or you can start small with a yummy candle or nicer keyboard.
If you enjoy your physical office space, you’re more likely to feel relaxed when working.
Switch up your environment
Get out of the house if you need to!
I go to coffee shops and a local coworking space a few times per week to break out of my normal work from home routine. This helps me complete deep work that I struggle to concentrate on at home. I end up feeling way more productive, and I’m able to finish more work in less time. That means more time for self-care, friends, and meeting life’s many demands–all things that help me manage anxiety.
Can I request remote work for social anxiety?
If you feel that working in an office is significantly increasing your social anxiety and hindering your ability to work, you may benefit from working from home or other similar work accommodations.
Although rules about working from home due to social anxiety vary from workplace to workplace, it’s possible to get medical leave for anxiety through the FMLA, aka the Family and Medical Leave Act (read these FAQs from the Department of Labor). If you work for a covered employer, you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave over 12 months to deal with serious mental and physical health conditions.
Can I get fired for anxiety?
If you aren’t completing your work duties due to anxiety, your employer may try to fire you. We’re not lawyers, so we recommend consulting with an employment lawyer if you feel that you were unjustly fired or discriminated against because of your anxiety.
Get help for your anxiety
The good news is that anxiety is highly treatable.
Consult with our vetted anxiety therapists to start getting help for your work from home anxiety!