Remote, hybrid work linked to more anxiety, depression


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Dive Brief:

  • Workers had an increased rate of anxiety and depression symptoms if they were fully remote (40%) or hybrid (38%), compared to those who worked in-person (35%), according to a Feb. 20 report from health and productivity research nonprofit Integrated Benefits Institute. 
  • While the number of individuals taking a mental health prescription increased from 20% to 22% and the unmet need for counseling rose from 12% to 14%, overall symptoms of anxiety or depression fell from 40% to 35% from July 2021 to August 2022, the report found. 
  • “This report is a thorough examination of a wide-spread mental health issue — experiences of anxiety and depression symptoms. Such experiences can range from mild to severe and are an important cause of presenteeism, sickness absence, and disability,” IBI Director of Research Candace Nelson said in a news release. “This research was conducted to provide employers comprehensive and timely facts, so they can better target programs and benefits addressing mental health.”

Dive Insight:

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become an increasingly important topic for employers to address. 

That includes employers like colleges and universities, whose employees continued to be interested in remote work after the end of the stay-at-home phase of the pandemic. College employees who say they are likely to look for new jobs are often seeking remote work, according to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, or CUPA-HR. And consultancy Grant Thornton found 56% of higher ed employees preferred to go to the office less than four days every two weeks.

Google searches for same-day mental health services and centers for workplace mental health grew 1,300% from February 2020 to February 2022, according to a report by marketing platform Semrush. And searches for “how to ask for a mental health day” skyrocketed 1,000% during the same period. 

The problem becomes especially acute for remote workers who may not have access to on-site mental health services. Experts say employers may need to put in more effort to remain connected to remote workers to better spot potential mental health issues. 

Sixty-four percent of executives said remote work negatively affected their employees’ mental health, up from 55% the previous year, according to an October 2022 survey by RSM US and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Seventy-three percent said workers felt isolated, an increase from 68% in 2021.


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