For many folks in the United States, stay-at-home and social distancing orders have been in place for about a month. Those who are lucky enough to have the ability to work from home have been doing so out of an abundance of caution and to help flatten the curve of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Now, a month later, the spread of COVID-19 appears to be leveling off in many parts of the country thanks to a concerted effort by Americans who not only don't want to get infected, but who also don't want to infect others if they happen to be asymptomatic.
It's working - but at what cost?
There is no doubt that continuing to social distance and working from home are measures that are absolutely necessary, but on the horizon is another pandemic: mental illness.
WHO experts reportedly 'worried'
WHO experts are reportedly worried about this new pandemic as we continue to shelter in place and cut ourselves off from the people and activities we love.
Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, expressed his concern: "We are definitely worried. We want to avoid a pandemic of mental disorders in addition to a pandemic of COVID-19."
The doctor says that he not even he has been immune to the negative effects of this extreme change in behavior.
“I see it around me. I see it in my own household. This is putting a burden on individual people, but then also collectively; the elderly people who cannot see their grandchildren,” he added. “So my message is: Stay connected. We can not overstate the importance. Stay connected.”
35% of telecommuters report deteriorating mental health
Dr. Hans Kluge's worry is backed up by recent studies.
A new survey conducted by researchers at Keio University in Tokyo and other institutions has revealed that a whopping 35% of people who have been working from home report that their mental health has deteriorated.
The survey was conducted online. 8,475 employees aged 20 to 64, including non-regular workers, responded. 21% of those respondents said that they work from home, and half of those people said that they are telecommuting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here's how the results break down: among telecommuters, 35% said their mental health has deteriorated because of the work from home order; 50.7% report no change, and 14.3% say that their mental health has actually improved.
Focusing specifically on those who said that their mental health has suffered as a result of telecommuting or working from home, 41.3% said that it has become difficult to separate work and their personal lives; 39.9% say that they haven't been able to exercise enough; and 39.7% say that they have experienced difficulty communicating with colleagues.
Those of us who are not used to working from home may recognize some of these feelings. Social distancing and working from home have, for the most part, cut us off from others and from human interaction. There are ways you can protect your mental health while you work from home. The simplest things, like creating a routine and eating healthful foods, can make a world of difference. Remember that staying physically healthy is important for better mental health, too, so check out our best home gyms and best exercise bikes.