Working From Home and Its Side Effects

Hilarious interactive animation showing 30 weeks of gradual decline of physical, mental, and emotional wellness in an unstructured work schedule.
Day 1

The Risks of Working from Home

There is a rising trend in the work from home model. In recent statistical studies, 5 million employees (not including the self-employed) work from home part or full time.
We often hear about all the benefits of a work from home model. Working in your pajamas. No commute. No annoying co-workers. But like all things, working from home also has its drawbacks. If you do not make the appropriate lifestyle changes, it can do you more harm than good.
There is good news! While there are severe consequences for not adapting to the changes, most issues are counteracted with proactive and straightforward solutions.

What Are the Risks of Stress and Loneliness?

Isolation is one of the biggest concerns for people who are not used to working from home.
People are social creatures. Even the most introverted hermit needs some level of face to face human interaction to thrive. Various studies have linked a lack of social interaction and our health. In fact, in a 2015 study by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., she concluded that a prolonged lack of social connection is as harmful as smoking 15 packs of cigarettes a day [1][2].
Some researchers connect loneliness to increased stress and existing conditions like depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder [1][3]. A few factors that contribute to anxiety are:
  • Disruptions in home, work, and social routines
  • New work patterns and remote programs
  • The inability to 'turn off' work
  • Fear of the unknown.
Not to mention the fear of what we can't control like job security, team miscommunications, and internet issues for remote work projects.
A few ways to combat the mental and emotional challenges of social isolation are:
  • Make use of audio and video communications. According to best-selling negotiations author Chris Voss, only 7% of our communication is text and words. 38% of our communication is tone, and the other 55% is body language [4]. We need more than a text or a social media post. A phone call or video conference apps like Slack, Discord, and Zoom can allow you to interact with friends, family, and groups of co-workers remotely.
  • Limit your news intake. The news is made to sell. Unfortunately, negative news sells more than positive. Working from home, you'll hear more constant scandals, political jabs, global upheavals, and other distressing topics than when you were focused in the workplace. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC advised people to limit their news intake because repeatedly hearing constant news about the virus would increase anxiety and stress [5].

    Instead of continually streaming news on your tv and social media, regularly swap to positive and uplifting stories, relaxing hobbies, and music to distract you from the anxiety.

  • Limit your caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake. Whatever you typically do to cope with a busy work week will be overwhelming without the bustle, commutes, and multitasking of a traditional work schedule. Change out sodas for green tea or chamomile for their relaxing properties. Try meditation to reduce anxiety. Swap sweets for fruits.
  • Make time to unwind. Do the activities you enjoy, even if you might need to get creative to achieve them. Take short walks when you feel foggy or distracted. Find meditation, Zumba, and workout videos on YouTube. Find a new eBook. Learn a new language. You can even find free boardgame sites where you can play games like chess, monopoly, and dominoes with family or people across the world!
  • Utilize Mental Wellness apps. Moodkit is a cognitive-behavioral therapy-based app that helps you track mood, activities, thoughts, diet, and social engagement. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America site also has a wealth of available information and resources.
  • Take advantage of any employee benefits you have, such as teletherapy and mental health insurance. Check with your HR department to see what they have available. If you work for a chain or franchise, check BOTH your local office and the corporate office. Some regional offices will be poorly informed about additional company resources.
  • Go out at least once a week with friends or family. Dedicate at least one day each week where you go out and do something enjoyable with other people. It could be a coffee date, a walk in the park, a movie - something that makes you feel relaxed and stimulated.
  • Volunteer. You don't just do something good for another person. Various studies have revealed that volunteering also has a host of other benefits for the volunteer, like reduced stress, improved mental activity, and a more robust social network [9].

How Does Working from Home Affect Our Routines?

A work from home lifestyle can seem very different from a traditional model. You have no commute. There is no set 'clock-out' time. Work and home responsibilities are frequently blended. There is no pressure to shower or dress up. You don't have a scheduled lunch break. Without discipline, this can slide into a host of mental and physical issues.
Traditional Work Model vs Work From Home
Traditional Work ModelWork From Home
Morning Work Routine
Regular Commute
Lunch Break
For example, you must be mindful of snacking habits. It is not unusual for new work from home employees to undergo the Freelance 15, where you gain about 15 pounds in the first month from more snacking and less activity [6].
Also, the disruptions to your wake and sleep schedule will affect sleep quality. Poor sleep affects your mood, attentiveness, productivity, and ability to resist bad habits [7]. Lack of showering and not changing clothes produces hygiene issues. In short, your routines have a direct effect on your mental and physical health.
You can combat these issues fairly quickly. For example:
  • Maintain your 'go to work' routines. Shower, dress, and groom as if you were going to the office. This helps you shift to 'work' mode and get your morning projects done [6].
  • Set up a dedicated work area and timer. Avoid the kitchen or living room if possible. You want a space where you can differentiate between 'being at work' and 'being at home.' If you are working from home for an extended period, decorate the zone with office knick-knacks.
  • Keep your bedtime and wake schedule. Even if you don't have to get up at a set time for a commute, a set sleep schedule will help you stay healthy and energetic. If your work from home situation is temporary, it will also help you transition back into your old work routine when the time comes [7].
  • Set goals and plans. Make sure to be specific (I will work on this project from 9 am to 1 pm) and attainable. Goals will help you with time management and productivity.
  • Build accountability. According to the CBC, "part of the reason people are more effective in a good work environment is that they feel visible and accountable to others" [6]. One way to keep accountable while working from home is to post your goals and progress on social media. You can also reach out to people close to you. Have them gently come down on you if you start sliding into bad habits.

What Are the Health Risks of Social Isolation?

Self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when you work from home. If you do not make your health a priority, you can suffer severe health risks. Multiple studies show that it can increase the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, and other pressing issues [1][2][3].
To stay healthy in a work from home environment, you must put effort into your health. A few simple tips include:
  • Exercise. If you can't get outside to walk, bike, or jog, pull up a free workout or cardio-dance video on YouTube. It will help with blood flow, energy, blood pressure, and other physical issues that a sedentary lifestyle risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise also improves depression and anxiety (and their related health issues) [8].
  • Cook Fresh Meals. Fresh ingredients have fewer calories and preservatives than their store and restaurant counterparts. The nutrients will also improve your energy and mental clarity.
  • Hydrate. Even a little dehydration can affect your mood, concentration, and energy. Prolonged dehydration can cause other severe complications like kidney failure or less blood oxygen due to low blood volume [10].
  • Research the risks and solutions to a sedentary lifestyle. You'll have to adapt a few things for your situation, but knowledge goes a long way towards effective change.
Working from home requires a lot of effort and self-care. If you don't do the extra work, you swap the stress of commutes and offices for anxiety and depression. You trade routines for obesity and reduced productivity. You exchange annoying coworkers for serious health issues attributed to sedentary lifestyles. Proactive solutions like the ones above help guard against the risks and allow you to enjoy your work-from-home lifestyle.


[1] The risks of social isolation. (2020). Retrieved 11 April 2020, from
[2] Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237. doi:10.1177/1745691614568352
[3] Valtorta, N. K., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., Ronzi, S., & Hanratty, B. (2016). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. Heart, 102(13), 1009–1016. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308790
[4] Voss, C., & Raz, T. (2016). Never Split the Difference (1st ed.). New York: Harper Business.
[5] Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2020). Retrieved 11 April 2020, from
[6] How to avoid bad habits during social distancing and isolation | CBC Life. (2020). CBC. Retrieved 11 April 2020, from
[7] How Losing Sleep Affects Your Body and Mind | (2020). Retrieved 11 April 2020, from
[8] Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. (2020). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 13 April 2020, from
[9] The 6 health benefits of volunteering - Mayo Clinic Health System. (2017). Retrieved 13 April 2020, from
[10] Dehydration - Symptoms and causes. (2020). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 14 April 2020, from