Working remotely leads to more emotional exhaustion & mental health problems
The evidence for this statement is two-sided. While earlier research suggests that remote working was associated with lower emotional exhaustion and more positive emotions, recent research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that the opposite may be true. While these negative effects associated with remote work could be contingent upon the pandemic context, the researchers warn that working remotely may exacerbate other issues that cause burnout. Therefore, we think more research will be required on this topic in a post-pandemic context.
Early research on this topic found that remote workers experienced more negative emotions, such as loneliness, irritability, and guilt, compared to in-office workers64. More recent research by Gallup found that while before the COVID-19 pandemic remote employees experienced less burnout than their in-office counterparts, now it’s actually the opposite. The authors concede that this could be a result of working conditions during the pandemic (children staying at home, poor working spaces, lack of home/work boundaries), but they also warn that remote work can intensify root causes of burnout, such as14:
- “unfair treatment”,
- “unmanageable workload”,
- “unclear communication from managers”,
- “a lack of managerial support”,
- “unreasonable time pressure”.
Gallup also found that remote workers were also experiencing increased levels of stress, worry, and anger14.
But the majority of earlier research actually points to a reduction in negative emotional effects when working from home. Several studies have found a negative correlation between working remotely and exhaustion70, including emotional exhaustion45. Likewise, other research found that remote workers experienced more positive and less negative emotions associated with work, on the days when they were working from home, compared to days the spent at the office71. One researcher suggests that working remotely results in less exhaustion because it allows the worker to conserve their energy by not having to commute, being able to readily respond to family needs, and reducing the emotional drain of daily work activities72. More recent professional research found that remote work is particularly suited for millennials, with 54% of millennial remote employees claiming to have “thriving” well-being, in comparison to 47% of those who work in-office73. The same trend was also observed in Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, but to a lower extent.