Why Working from Home Can Boost Employee Mental Health and Performance

Working from home means greater distractions. While we've previously written about tactical ways to stay productive while working remotely, or how to maintain focus despite zoom fatigue, working from home can actually be good for us, if done correctly. It can improve our work productivity and even be beneficial for our mental health!

What affects employee mental health?

Throughout a hectic workday, it can be difficult to understand how our environment is affecting how we feel and perform. From the people with whom we surround ourselves, to the physical space of an office or home, our environment matters much more than we often realize. As human beings, we experience a complex range of emotions that can be altered by the slightest, unnoticeable changes. In a busy office or crowded living room, we may not always grasp the reasons behind feeling annoyed, distracted, or irritable.

LIFE Intelligence: Personal Development

Cognitive psychology says that there are 4 main components of emotion. These include:

1. Cognitive evaluation (what the situation means to you),

2. Subjective feelings,

3. Physiological changes, and

4. Behavior

However, scientists disagree on the order in which these components take place. For example, the James-Lange theory of emotion states that cognitive appraisal occurs first, followed by physiological changes, and ultimately, subjective feelings. To clarify, in the presence of a bear, James-Lange theory proposes that one would first perceive the threat, the body would undergo a fight or flight response, and the feeling of fear would arise last.

This appears to be a reasonable explanation for how emotions are processed, that is until you hear about the Schachter-Singer theory of emotion. Schachter-Singer theory postulates that even before cognitive appraisal, our body undergoes physiological changes. In other words, before you even fully understand what is happening in front of you, your brain unconsciously changes your body’s physiology to respond to the situation at hand. Take our bear example. Upon seeing the bear, your body might enact a fight or flight response to combat the situation. Only afterward would you realize a bear is standing in front of you. Finally, the feeling of fear comes last.

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What's the point?

The point is that how employees feel about their day-to-day work experiences is not always attributable to what they can concretely see. Subconscious factors play into emotional states. Employees might get stressed or anxious over a variety of things, and unless they have great coping and communication skills, might let those mental health issues affect work performance. Therefore, aspects of a work environment affect each employee differently: some may find working remotely lonely, while others may find it a happy reprieve from distracting water cooler conversations.

how employees feel about their day-to-day work experiences is not always attributable to what they can concretely see

Work environments affect employee mental health

Mental health is a key factor for success. Being in your best state of mind promotes productivity and ensures the submission of quality work.

So how can your place of work impact your mental health and well-being? Let's find out. 

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In order to update the current literature, Törres Theorrel and his colleagues investigated the relationship between work environment and depressive symptoms. 59 research articles were analyzed, and the evidence acquired pointed to a distinct correlation between poor working conditions and mental health deterioration. Employees who reported job strain, bullying, and other indicators of a poor work environment were more likely to report an emergence of depressive symptoms or recurrent depressive episodes. Both workload and the daily interactions people had with their fellow coworkers had sharp repercussions on their state of mind. 

Similarly, Samuel B Harvey et al. conducted a meta analysis of 37 review articles to deduce different factors within poor work environments that contribute to depletion in mental health. A total of 12 risk factors for mental health deterioration within the workplace were identified with backed support from numerous studies, and models incorporating how each factor affects one another were suggested. For example, the job demand-control-support model outlines the negative consequences of high demand/low control positions, where the employee is given heavy workloads with minimal control over decision making. Additionally, social support plays a role in employee mental state, where those experiencing low social support combined with the risk factors above showed an increased risk of illness and reduced well-being. 

It is evident that your surroundings when working, along with the people around you, can heavily impact your mental state. Knowing that chronic stress can have significant impacts on physical health, mental health in the workplace should not be overlooked. 

LIFE Intelligence: Better You

Employee mental health is a key component of employee engagement and performance

According to Robert D. Bretz and Timothy A. Judge, the Theory of Work Adjustment proposes that individuals and the workplace must share a mutually beneficial relationship in order to achieve success. The workplace and work environment must meet an employees needs, and to maintain their job, the individual must meet the needs of the workplace. Therefore, the production of quality work, along with experiencing a regularly satisfactory work environment, improves a company's overall chances of being successful. 

These authors also analyzed the degree to which person-organization fit had an effect on the individuals levels of career success. Person-organization fit refers to how compatible a person is with the values and ideals of their employer. This analysis was achieved through the use of questionnaires, evaluating both career success and desire for differing organizational environments. The data indicated a positive correlation between career success and person-organization fit, meaning those that shared company values were more likely to contribute to the company’s success and their own. Furthermore, those that were poorly matched to the company were less likely to show effective performance in their positions. This study provides a view into how one’s satisfaction within their career path can promote or hinder their success. 

LIFE Intelligence: Live Better

Abdulwahab S. Bin Shmailan conducted an explorative study centering around job satisfaction, job performance, and employee engagement. Abdulwahab found that an employee satisfied with their position is more likely to be more engaged. In addition, employee satisfaction was found to increase work productivity, while low employee engagement decreased profit margins and led to higher turnover rates. Therefore, it is beneficial for workers to find the right fit for themselves and for employers to be engaged with employees. In doing so, meaningful work is encouraged and good business practices are formed. 

employee satisfaction was found to increase work productivity, while low employee engagement decreased profit margins and led to higher turnover rates

LIFE Intelligence: Feel Your Best

Can working from home hold a key to employee wellness?

With the right training, resources and support tools, remote work can be both good for your people, and good for business.

Working from home is an option that many companies and individuals have transitioned towards since COVID-19 quarantine. However, in order to outline the benefits of working remotely, one must have an understanding of what work-life balance entails, especially at home.

According to Tracey Crosbie and Jeanne Moore, a potential way to define work life balance is to split it into 3 categories: meeting personal mental health needs, meeting relationship needs, and meeting career needs. To maintain successful work life balance, these three areas must be accommodated accordingly. Employee wellness benefits, such as meditation, therapy, and career coaching, are becoming the norm alongside more traditional learning and development tools, like leadership training or soft skills training.

LIFE Intelligence: Onward & Upward

Nicholas Bloom et al. investigated how working from home affected the work performance and job satisfaction levels of call center employees. The researchers monitored performance rate, and at the end of the experiment, participants reported work contentment. They found that working from home resulted in a 13% increase in work performance, which were attributable to more calls per minute and more minutes per shift. The workers also reported higher levels of contentment and showed lower rates of attrition. 

working from home resulted in a 13% increase in work performance

In addition, Jean-Victor Alipour et al. analyzed administrative data following the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic. They concluded that working from home actually prevented temporary reduction in working hours. These results, along with the results above, indicate that working from home is beneficial not only to the employee, but to the employer as well. Work quality and performance can potentially skyrocket, as long as you attempt to balance work and life properly.

working from home is beneficial not only to the employee, but to the employer as well

LIFE Intelligence: Know Yourself

How can digital tools like LIFE Intelligence promote mental health and employee engagement?

These studies show that a positive work environment can not only improve how you feel about your employer, but also improve your work overall. In conjunction with the findings regarding working from home, working remotely can be a powerful tool in promoting work performance and enhancing employee well-being. Because these things are so intertwined: our moods, relationships, and daily tasks, LIFE Intelligence is a two-part tool that takes a comprehensive approach to employee development.

The app trains employees in three areas for holistic health: their self, career, and relationship fulfillment. For remote communication skills, leadership training, and mental health support 24/7. Digital tools such as these are ideal for a work from home environment, as employees can use them privately and on-demand. With the right training, resources and support tools, remote work can be both good for your people, and good for business.

Lucas Bezerra
December 7, 2020


Lang, P. J. (1994). The varieties of emotional experience: A meditation on James-Lange theory. Psychological Review, 101(2), 211–221

Theorell, T., Hammarström, A., Aronsson, G. et al. A systematic review including meta-analysis of work environment and depressive symptoms. BMC Public Health 15, 738 (2015).

Harvey SB, Modini M, Joyce S, et alCan work make you mentally ill? A systematic meta-review of work-related risk factors for common mental health problemsOccupational and Environmental Medicine 2017;74:301-310.

Jr., R., & Judge, T. (2002, May 25). Person–Organization Fit and the Theory of Work Adjustment: Implications for Satisfaction, Tenure, and Career Success. Retrieved October 17, 2020.

Bin, A. (1970, January 01). [PDF] The relationship between job satisfaction, job performance and employee engagement: An explorative study: Semantic Scholar. 

Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying, Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment , The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 130, Issue 1, February 2015, Pages 165–218. 

Crosbie, Tracey & Moore, Jeanne. (2004). Work-Life Balance and Working from Home. Social Policy and Society. 3. 223-233.

Alipour, J., Fadinger, H., & Schymik, J. (1970, January 01). My home is my castle: The benefits of working from home during a pandemic crisis. Evidence from Germany. Retrieved October 17, 2020.

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