Remote Working and your Mental Health

by Marie Quinn, Workplace Wellness Manager at Drinkaware

As many of us have now learnt, working from home is very different from working in an office. According to recent research from NUIG, 52% of people now working from home have never done so before.1 Multiple factors influence how successful we are at remote working, Internal factors include personality ( eg conscientiousness, extraversion) ability to self-manage and work/life interface. External and organisational factors include access to technology and space, organisational culture (eg trust levels) and management style.

Remote working can reduce stress for some people, (eg no commuting!) but can be a cause of stress as we try to balance the needs of those around us and the need to work. In addition, many are finding it hard to “switch off” after work and are working longer hours. Remote workers may feel “pulled in different directions” as they try to balance all aspects of life happening in the same space. In all about a third of workers say it is difficult to work effectively these days.

But it seems remote working is here to stay with the same NUIG survey showing that 8 out of 10 of us would like to continue with at least partial remote working in the future.

Of course, the restrictions around Covid 19 are adding additional strains to our lives, and much has been written about the effects on our mental health generally.

Alcohol, Mental Health and Covid-19

Drinkaware, the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland, has published findings from new research on behaviours, attitudes and motivations driving alcohol consumption among adults in Ireland since the introduction of Covid-19 restrictions.2

The study, which focused on the 30-day period leading to 24th April 2020, found that 52% of adults are now drinking alcohol on a weekly basis. To put the figure in context, this compares to 44% of adults surveyed last year (Drinkaware Index 2019) who said that they drink alcohol at least once a week.

At 88%, the most cited reason for drinking during this time was ‘to help relax and unwind’. Almost half (47%) said that tensions in their household had increased in the past 30 days. While one in five (19%) said they had noticed an increase in consumption among other adults in their household.

One of the reasons we drink is to alter our mood or change our mental state. So, it stands to reason that alcohol can affect our mental health. While alcohol can temporarily ease feelings of stress or depression, over time the opposite effect may occur.

We know that people who drink heavily are more prone to depression. Alcohol effects the chemistry of the brain, lowering the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can lead to depressive symptoms.

So, drinking to improve mood can lead to more serious problems, as well as preventing us from dealing with problems in a healthier way.

HSE low-risk guidelines are that women should drink no more than 11 standard drinks per week, and men no more than 17 standard drinks, with at least 2 alcohol=free days per week. A standard drink is 100mls of 12.5% wine, half pint of beer/lager/cider or 35.5mls (pub measure) of spirits.

References.

1.McCarthy, A., Ahearne, A., Bohle Carbonell, K., Ó Síocháin, T. and Frost, D. (2020). Remote Working During COVID-19: Ireland’s National Survey Initial Report. Galway, Ireland: NUI Galway Whitaker Institute & Western Development Commission

  1. https://www.drinkaware.ie/latest/one-quarter-of-irish-adults-drinking-more-during-covid-19-14-drinking-4-times-a-week-new-drinkaware-ba-research

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