5 Mental Health Benefits of Working From Home, According to a Therapist

Post-pandemic, introvert bosses are more likely to continue a work-from-home model — and the mental health benefits are real.

One of the most significant shifts the pandemic has created is how companies are doing their work. For some, working from home was already an option. For others, it was something unheard of — but necessary — to find a way to transition into.

In my experience as a psychotherapist, I’ve generally found that those who identify as extroverts struggled with working from home, but those who identify as introverts found it to be a heavenly relief. Research, too, has shown that introverts’ mental health improved as a result.

I myself moved from seeing clients in an office setting to conducting all of my therapy sessions from home via telehealth. As an introvert, there were things I missed about being in the office, but overall, I found I really, really loved the opportunity to work from home.     

After a year of this being the work culture, lockdown restrictions are easing up, and companies now must decide how to proceed after a year of working from home.

Introverted Bosses Are More Likely to Continue Working-From-Home Models

Some — likely not introverts — may feel excited about the potential shift back to the office and its social aspects: team-building, connecting with peers, working on projects with others, and going to lunch or that after-work happy hour with work friends. Others, however — likely introverts — may have “reentry fear” about giving up the way work has fit into their lives over the past year. Many say they’re not excited to return to in-office meetings, being with coworkers, and non-stop small talk.

Business owners and CEOs have a big say in what their company culture will be like, post-pandemic. So, how have those in leadership roles felt the pandemic has affected their businesses? A recent study by Hitachi Capital Business Finance surveyed 1,000 small business owners and 67 percent of them identified as introverts. The study concluded that introverted bosses are more likely to continue the working-from-home model, post-pandemic.  

Some interesting takeaways from the study indicated:

  • Introverted business owners were twice as likely to say their businesses were “just as efficient” in working from home as their extroverted counterparts.
  • Introverted bosses were 50 percent more likely to say they had “no plans” to change back to their old ways of working.
  • Introverted bosses were more likely to say productivity had increased since workers could do projects independently.
  • Introverted bosses cited less office small talk as the biggest benefit of working from home. 
  • Introverted bosses were more concerned about collaboration in their teams whereas extroverted bosses were concerned about getting ahold of their staff and saw their staff as struggling during the pandemic.

In this study, the introverted participants were likely to be in industries such as IT, scientific/technical companies, or transportation, whereas the extroverted participants were likely to be in media/marketing or retail.

So you may be wondering: What plans does your place of employment have as the lockdown eases? In the event your job does decide to continue to follow the work-from-home model, here are five mental health benefits.

5 Mental Health Benefits of Working From Home for Introverts

1. Less social anxiety: There’s no awkward small talk or social pressure.

It’s fair to say that introverts dread small talk. In working from home, there is no “before the meeting gets started” small talk, “water cooler” small talk, “break room” small talk, or coworkers coming by your desk (uninvited) to chat. This relieves stress and pressure of what to talk about, how to politely end those conversations, and how to cope with small talk. 

This extra stress and anxiety —  especially if you’re an introvert with social anxiety — can not only feel draining, but also take away from work productivity. In fact, research has found that anxiety can have a negative impact on productivity

Plus, constant interruptions can be frustrating, since we introverts like to focus and get deep into our work. So working from home alleviates these extra pressures and may even feel like a “safe space” to do your work.

2. A more comfortable workspace means less overwhelm and more ease in getting work done.

Working from home may feel quieter and more peaceful without office chit-chat, ringing phones, or background noise. The less stimuli, the less overwhelmed introverts will be. There may also be fewer phone calls and more written communication, which most introverts prefer. Dressing comfortably, having more control of the lighting and temperature, and having your favorite tunes playing in the background throughout the workday can also feel like an additional perk. 

In working from home, there is an option to set up the workspace in a way that feels good to you — your very own “introvert zen zone” — and taking a break for a quick refresh without the fear of running into a chatty colleague can feel more relaxing, too. Overall, these simple changes may help introverts to feel more productive, creative, and relaxed with their work. 

3. Virtual meetings allow introverts to “speak up” without actually talking.

In person, introverts may be more comfortable speaking up in meetings when they have something meaningful to say (and when they have thought it out beforehand). But, often, meetings can be stressful for introverts so they stay silent, taking time to think about what they would like to say and how they would like to say it. Plus, they may be intimidated to speak when everyone seems to be talking at once. And by the time there is a pause in the discussion and the introvert is ready to speak, it can feel as though the conversation has already moved on.    

But, with virtual meetings, typing in chat boxes is a relieving solution for introverts! This can include virtual options for raising your hand when you’d like to verbalize something or participating in the meeting by typing a comment. The latter works well, and sometimes the person leading the meeting will even verbalize your comment for you (which can be a big win). Or, they may invite you to elaborate on what you typed, in which case you’re probably more prepared to respond versus if you were put on the spot

So with virtual meetings and chats, for an introvert, it can feel like they’re still participating and voicing their thoughts, but with less fear of embarrassment and pressure of trying to be heard. Getting their point across through writing feels natural and safe, and it can also help with feeling confident in contributing. As a result, it’ll increase an introvert’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem, especially in a team setting.

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4. No commute time means a better work/life balance — you’ll literally have more time to recharge.

Introverts are known for requiring recharge time, and they greatly value this time. The time spent commuting cuts into this valuable solitude. So by omitting it, you have more downtime in the comfort of your home.

Some introverts I have spoken to have shared other ways having extra time each day makes for a better work/life balance. They love: being able to eat dinner earlier because they are already home (especially if they work evening hours); having a hot, homemade lunch they can prepare by simply walking to their kitchen; going for a walk in their neighborhood during their lunch break (research has found that nature has a positive impact on an employee’s stress levels and health); spending more time with their pets and/or family; and they enjoy having bedtime and rising hours that feel more refreshing. Of course, things like taking breaks in the workday, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting enough sleep are all important for anyone’s mental health.

There are many benefits of having a healthy work/life balance, including fewer health problems and feeling more engaged as an employee. This increase in work/life balance is another way for introverts to feel happier, as well as more refreshed, creative, and productive. 

5. You’ll feel more comfortable (and valuable) in an “introverted world” vs. an extroverted one.

In many company cultures, introverts may feel as though the extroverted personality is what is celebrated and recognized. This can cause introverts to feel as though they need to socially perform and put unnecessary pressure on themselves to do so, which is exhausting and can lead to burnout

But working from home alleviates that pressure. Introverts can relax in their homemade introvert sanctuaries rather than feel anxious about showing up in a particular way in the “extroverted world” of their job. This can help introverts to relax when working rather than feeling they need to show up in a way that is inauthentic to them. The latter can take us down a path of rejection, sadness, or wishing we were different — so many emotions when we’re just trying to do our job! Without this pressure, however, we have no reason to question our strengths and value. It’s more peaceful to simply do our work without all the extra feels.

Fellow introverts, what has been your favorite thing about working from home during the pandemic?

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Carolyn Cole is a licensed psychotherapist in Chicago. Her practice focuses on helping her clients with self-discovery, self-exploration, self-love, and healing the relationship with themselves to create the life they desire.