As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile worldwide with the development of new technologies, an expanding number of people are working remotely, either part-time or full-time.
While the idea of answering emails in your pajamas may sound relaxing, it can have several negative mental health effects, including higher rates of stress and insomnia compared to office workers, according to a new study published by the United Nations International Labor Organization.
“This report shows that the use of modern communication technologies facilitates a better overall work-life balance but, at the same time, also blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, depending on the place of work and the characteristics of different occupations,” Jon Messenger, co-author of the report, said in a press release.
The study looked at three types of remote workers: those who work from home full-time, those who split their time between working from home and an office, and those who are “highly mobile," working from various locations.
Around 42 percent of “highly mobile” workers struggled with insomnia, compared to 29 percent of office workers. Approximately 41 percent of that same highly mobile population reported feeling stressed, compared to 25 percent of office workers. Much of the stress of working remotely comes from this erasure of boundaries between work and personal life, according to experts.
“Certainly working from home can be really challenging,” life coach Ryann Pitcavage told Travel + Leisure.
“You wake up in the morning, and it’s like: How do you officially get into the day, and how do you close the day?” she said.
Pitcavage, who advises others and also works from home, noted the importance of having “bookends,” or rituals to open and close the day. She suggested taking a quick walk around one’s neighborhood to get a cup of coffee, performing a quick meditation, or ending the day with a workout.
In this way, home workers can give more structure to their days, replacing the time that some people spend commuting to and from work.
Pitcavage also reiterated the importance of creating a physical space in one’s home to do work, however small or makeshift. It’s been said often, but she repeated the wisdom not to work in bed or on the couch. Even in big cities with small apartments, it’s still possible to carve out a corner of the room as a way to contain work life from leisure time.
“It’s so easy to get into the habit of working in your bed, working on the couch...then it starts to get really blurry,” she said.