Listen to The Mighty Podcast episode, “ Tips on Finding the Best Workplace for Your Mental & Physical Health ” A transcript is provided below. In this special minisode, Mighty staff members Ashley Kristoff and Camara Rauen dive into the pros and cons of working from home or going to an office or dedicated workplace, and the impact both physical and mental health can have on those decisions. If you’d prefer to listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, you can do so here. Connect on The Mighty: Join the conversation on your workplace preference! Join the The Water Cooler group and talk about navigating employment with living with health conditions. Join the Podcast Peeps group to talk about all things podcast. Read this story: If Working From Home Negatively Affects Your Mental Health, You’re Not Alone Transcription: Ashley Kristoff Welcome to The Mighty Podcast where we infuse the health space with positivity, humor, and vulnerability. The Mighty is a safe and supportive community here to help you find the people and information you need to navigate your health journey. We’re so excited to spend some time together today. Now let’s get into what the health we’re talking about. So today we’re going to do something a little bit different where myself and our producer Camara want to share some of our quick tips around health. So hi, Camara. Camara Rauen Hello, Ashley, how is the day going? Ashley Kristoff It is, you know, chaotic, but that’s kind of life. So, you know, I’m trying to roll with it. What about you? Camara Rauen I’m doing all right, you know, here in my home, working from home. As you know, this is the conversation we’re about to have is how our mental health can affect our working styles. And I’m really excited to get into that. Ashley Kristoff All right, so let us dive straight into that topic. I’m somebody who prefers to work out of my home, work out of my own personal space. And it might be clear that Camara– Camara Rauen I do prefer to work outside of my home. I prefer to work around people and I prefer to just be in an environment, or an office, or even just traveling somewhere that is not the destination of my home. Ashley Kristoff What we’re really going to talk about is that mental health reasoning for both of us as to I think there’s like things that are just like straight mental health but there’s also like the nuance to factors that kind of lay on top of that. And the reason why our mental health is impacted by those things. So you want to start do want me to give my first reasoning? Camara Rauen Let’s give your first reason. Let’s go into working from home is now one of the primary things that we know now what is the pro, what have you gained from this actually what it what is your word of wisdom of what has been benefiting you? Ashley Kristoff So I would say the first thing in all honesty is the socialization factor. When I had my first real job I did for a while was lifeguarding. And someone had told me very early on in that especially in this case, because I was a lifeguard in both indoor and an outdoor pool, that I’m basically in a fishbowl. Everyone is watching me. And I mean, that makes sense. I’m the lifeguard and so yeah, they’re making sure that I’m there. But in another way, it’s just like, I felt like that constant pressure in the way I’m presenting myself is always on. And so when I’m in an office space like that, I feel that pressure the entire time I’m working. And so there’s just this level below what I know I can be at all times because there’s always that like little voice that’s telling me that other people are looking at me, and how I’m working. And my work style doesn’t always look super direct, because I need sometimes a sound on or you know, I need to move around. So being watched while I’m doing my job might make it feel like I’m not doing my job when I’m actually optimizing it for myself. Camara Rauen Oh, I love that. It’s very interesting because that’s the exact opposite for me. I, and maybe I kind of feed off of the– not that I like the judgment of it or anything, but knowing that there are other people around, or that there are other people who are working or doing something similar minded, like, “oh, I have to be working, I have to be in the mode.” I need, I need that pressure or like the energy, kind of seeing other people around and knowing that they’re not that technically watching me, but they could be watching me, I get more into that mode of like, I’m just gonna’ work because I’m being watched right now I need to be in the zone, I want to impress these other people who are not really caring about me, but I want to show them that I can work and I which at home does just you don’t have them as much motivation. Ashley Kristoff I think that’s very much the difference of that healthy stress vs. the unhealthy stress. That stress is really motivating for you. But that stress is very demotivating for me. Camara Rauen And I think that’s really valid like it makes I can see how that makes sense. It makes sense that you want to have that time to yourself to not feel like anyone else is pressuring you or getting you to that point which there is some times when I feel like that. Like I’m not looking to have a helicopter boss or coworkers who are like watching my my every second but I definitely do prefer just knowing that there are other people working around me it just it makes me feel like I have, so weird to say, permission to work. Whereas when there’s no one else working around me I definitely get into like ADHD paralysis a lot more and stuck in thought and usually how I pull myself out of that is by looking at someone else and being like, “Oh, work.” Ashley Kristoff Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense because with like ADHD in particular, they talk a lot about how body doubling helps, which I think is really what you’re describing here is just having someone else doing a similar action, you know, helps you do your similar action. Camara Rauen Exactly. Body doubling is what I need. It is that is how I work best. Ashley Kristoff Why don’t we go into your next reason? Camara Rauen So my next reason this is kind of the beginning mindset for me is when you are starting your day, you have to get into that work day. For me, changing your mindset of changing the location is so important, it is important for me to have a destination to go to, it gives me more of a reason to wake up earlier, it gets my mind into, you have to get dressed, you have to eat, you have to go you have to drive It’s like I’m in fast motion of like knowing that I have somewhere to go. And I also still have the time to process, whether it’s a small commute, like once while I go to a co-working space, having to get dressed, throw a quick breakfast into my stomach and then get into my car and drive and park. It’s like I’ve had all of this time. It’s to decompress before getting set up in a work environment. That is my, what I call “work environment,” my mind shifts, I’m not in my bedroom, I’m not looking at my laundry that I need to do. I’m not looking at the dishes when I go to the sink and be like you know what I could do right now? Clean the entire kitchen, that will take an hour. But you know, that’s what needs to be done. Because I’m here. I can’t clean the kitchen at the co-working space. That’s not my job. Ashley Kristoff I mean, you could I just I mean, they probably wouldn’t say no, because that’s probably like free labor. But yeah, there’s really no benefit to you in that in that situation. I think that that’s very interesting because I understand that changing location changes mindset, because I definitely do that to an extent but in my own space. I do have a dedicated space in my house that I really only do work or similar work at. So if I’m sitting in the space, I’m either doing my job, or I am video editing, which is in a very similar kind of setup to my job. So while I’m doing that for fun, it doesn’t necessarily feel like work. But otherwise, I’m not sitting here even you know, you can’t see my space right now. But if you could, I have a table right behind me that even that little shift in scenery makes a huge difference for me. And then being able to go outside and take a break out there easily and in my own space, because I just don’t want that social pressure personally. But then I can also change seating environments. Because you know, in particular, if I’m having a higher fatigue day, sometimes like sitting up in the same location is really hard. So I do have backup places where I can go, they’re still quiet and still feel like my own space, which I just really value. Having somewhere that like feels mine, and feels like something that I have complete control over. Camara Rauen I feel that I actually think that sometimes the things that I do, like once a while from working at home and having my own space and knowing that I can kind of be a little bit of a mess or like kind of organize myself or like lay down if I need to. But I do know that in the long run that doesn’t benefit me it makes me work longer and not as much. I definitely think sometimes I prefer the, I’d rather have a space that I share with someone else. My space doesn’t necessarily make me feel the freedom that I think that you have with that. Ashley Kristoff Yeah, that definitely makes sense. I think it was funny too, that you mentioned like chores, because that’s actually part of my, in a way, part of the way I work, I do so many things that require just for me to think about them. And I find that if I’m staring at a computer, it’s much easier for me to like start opening new tabs in like, taking a train of thought that I had about something different because the intrusive thoughts always come in at any point, regardless of how focused you are. It just gives me, sitting in front of the computer makes me actually act on those verses when I’m like, “OK, let me throw my laundry in, that gives me five minutes to think on this thing while I’m doing something physical with my hands that doesn’t require any thought.” But it makes it so that I can’t do anything else with my hands that would take my thoughts away from that. So for me actually having those things that I need to do are really beneficial part of my thought process. There’s also a thing of when you are out of you know, when you have anxiety, sometimes cleaning is really beneficial. If there’s something I’m like anxious about that I’m working through for work, having something like cathartic that I can fix as I’m thinking about how to approach that issue is like a really good little rush of those like happiness chemicals for me. Camara Rauen I get that. Like for me, I agree that to an extent having something else to go do can be a good distraction, it can definitely refresh you. But for me, it exhausts me because I’m doing this alone. I’m like, “OK, I’m gonna’ go do this thing” and I’ve checked out. Once I go to clean my room or I go to do the dishes or I go to have lunch at home, half the time I’ve checked out I am in a different world. I’m like, “This is now lunch world. This is now cleaning the kitchen world.” We’re going to get the job done or halfway done but in my mind done and avoid the work that I need to be doing and then work longer to barely get the thing done. It’s like the diversion is well now you’re in your house so you need to participate in the house and I’m like “Ah. No.” This leads me to my final point. When you are working at a space that is not your house whether it is in an office, whether it is out of the house at another friend’s house, whether it’s a co-working space, you’re just not your house, at the end of the day, you have to go home. You have to leave. Leaving, being able to know that I cannot, I can’t stay at the co-working space overnight. I can’t, I can’t stay there, past they close at eight, I have to go home, I have to eat dinner. For me that is so vital to have that cut-off time, it makes me work more, it makes my mind realize that I have a cut-off time when I’m at home, sometimes I give myself the permission of, well, I can just eat lunch longer, and then I’ll work longer, I can just clean this thing and then I’ll work longer, it doesn’t matter like I’m just here. It’s also that thing of like, I can just wake up and start working. And I’m like, oh, having that diversion from beginning to end of knowing that there is an endpoint and my bed is not right behind me. It’s like, well, I can just work until I want to sleep. Am I even working that long or that hard? Not really sometimes. But just having diversion, having that start and finish somewhere else is important to me. Ashley Kristoff Yeah, that definitely plays into my last thing as well in that not having a commute, not having that time where I have to sit in the vehicle, you know, I get fatigued really easily. And so that additional prep time really cuts into my energy for the day. And so if I’m just saying sitting at work for eight hours, you know what I’m doing that from home, and it’s almost a straight eight hours, you know, with little breaks often. But when I’m doing it out of a space, it’s almost like I’m just adding, it’s 10 hours. And so now there’s an hour up front now at the back, where I have to allocate energy for that as well. Which means in those eight hours, I’m sitting in the office, I’m going to be less productive, just fundamentally based off of that. And then with that kind of fatigue reasoning to when you’re in an office space, and like I’m overtired, there’s not really a good way to approach that with anyone and go on like, “I just need to like rest for five minutes.” Or let me do a task that’s a little less like, energy consuming is the best way to put it. It allows me to like basically fit my work schedule around the way my health is feeling that day, and not feeling like I need to show up in any particular way. Because there are some days where, you know, depression is high, some days were fatigues high, some days where everything is high. And I’m like, “OK well, let’s pick the lowest energy tasks, and I will get all of those off my plate today.” I feel less pressure in like the workstyle that I have because I can accommodate it for my health and know what’s going to yield the most productive week for me, even if each day looks a little different. Camara Rauen I think that that’s great. And I agree with you, having the ability to have that time to rest or to like take for depression days is very important. And I think that that’s something that needs to be a conversation in the workplace of having managers and different people at companies realize that we all, whether we’re extroverts, introverts, ambiverts, we all need to be able to take breaks and feel comfortable to whether we’re working at home or working in an office. And I do think that’s something that no matter what side of the argument you’re on, is very important. Ashley Kristoff I will say I think that there is you know what, since we did a lot more work from home, there’s a lot of better mental health accommodations that sort of come naturally with that. But I think in all reality, it’s like this is kind of like step one, and how we should approach mental health in the workplace, overall accommodations in the workplace. Because we do know everyone has such a different style of working so let’s just call it a strict professional environment, probably works for a lot less people than the people at the top who think everything’s working perfectly even realize. sS having a way that we can basically bring the best parts of working from home for your health into an office space is going to be the best middle ground for everyone to work well at their best. So we ended up asking our community their preference, you know, do you work from home? Do you prefer to work in an office environment or outside of your home? Camara, our first response was for someone who prefers to work out of the house, so why don’t you read it off for us. Camara Rauen Ah, a person I relate to! So this person is stating they “spent most of the pandemic working from home and the lack of interaction with people caused my anxiety to go out of control.” I feel you. “The commute sucks, the gas prices suck, but overall having done both, I prefer not being stuck in my apartment alone all day long, day after day.” Completely feel you it feels like a groundhog day, waking up and doing the same thing over again and not feeling like you have any variety and then not having the people in interactions completely validate and agree. Ashley Kristoff So I’m going to affirm on my own now which we had someone respond that they prefer to work from home. And this is what they had to say. “Definitely prefer remote work for me. I have an office space and the lack of commute and social interaction is way easier on my chronic fatigue.” This person literally is like saying all of the same things I just said earlier. “It’s also easier to handle bad pain days. I’m way more productive at home as well, both on a daily basis and over the long term because I’m not wasting so much energy on a commute.” I feel like I wrote this. “My anxiety levels are all better too since I don’t have all the stress of pretending to be healthy around other people, it’s easier to pass is healthy than when I can work remotely.” Which I mean, we can talk about how that’s an issue in itself that like we shouldn’t have to hide what’s going on with our health, but yes, I 100% like resonate with that. Camara Rauen I love that we have a middle ground question too. This is a great way to kind of wrap up the episode, is there really one best way? This person was stating, “I have a job where I work from home some and go to the office some and work in different locations now and then. I like the variety.” You know what, I think change is the best way to keep your mind growing and learning. I don’t think that there is one answer. And I do think that the hybrid model, at least having people have the option or choice when possible for some jobs is really important. Ashley Kristoff Yeah, I 100% agree, I think that there is not a one size fits all. And that’s if we lean into that I think we’re gonna have a much better workforce that’s both, you know, doing the things that the people who run the companies want, but also like, as workers, it’s just more motivating to be able to work in the way that works for you and do the things that are being asked of you. But yeah, I love that answer as well. So we’re gonna wrap up here, we just have some quick tips we want to give so Camara, I will have you go first. So what tip would you give to somebody who prefers like you to work outside of their home, but are finding themselves working at home? Camara Rauen If you are better off working with other people and outside of your home but you have to work remotely for now, the main thing is creating a changing up routine. Do not do what I do, have the time and wake up and start working and open that computer, open that Slack, open that phone, you need to get out of your house out of your place, even if it’s just one step of fresh air or to the kitchen. Have something you do before work, you have to have the transition time and also after work too. Your break is not just right after in your workspace, take a step outside or at least outside of the room to give yourself just division of space. Ashley Kristoff Definitely. And my tip for somebody who is working in an office right now, but prefers to work from their home, the main thing in all honesty is to find a way to make that space feel like your own. Sometimes just getting into that kind of like mindset that this is my space can help kind of remove those outside stimulus triggers that aren’t super productive for people like me or people who like to work from home. So make it feel like your own. Whether that means like decorating your space, whether that means changing seats, or when I say even changing seats, like your own supplies. If you have a chair that works better for you or you know, a system like that makes it feel like something that’s worked best for you so that you aren’t just like feeling like you’re in this kind of stagnant place where you don’t feel as good about your environment. Camara Rauen Exactly. I think it’s all about making your space, whether you’re in person or out feel comfortable for you like whether you’re like me, and I feel anxious without people and are you like working on your own, each way is valid, and we got to find a way to support and validate each. There’s not a one size fits all like you were saying, Ashley. Ashley Kristoff Yep. And I think that’s a perfect way to end this episode. So Camara, thank you for talking about our workplace tips together. And I really hope that however our community likes to work, they have some good things to think about when it comes to their work style. Camara Rauen Yeah, thank you for having me, Ashley. Ashley Kristoff Thank you for listening to The Mighty Podcast. If you want to continue this conversation, head over to TheMighty.com or download The Mighty app to become part of our community. We’d love for you to give us a rating and review us on Apple Podcast, follow us on Spotify, or if you’re listening on The Mighty, give this page a heart. Join us on our next episode and stay Mighty!