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People on 'autopilot' as remote work continues, California doctors say. What's at risk?

Hanh Truong, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Business News

Boundaries are broken down, people often experience isolation and loneliness and their physical health, in some cases, can suffer during prolonged remote work, California health experts said.

Many Americans are nearing their second year of working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while this allows for more convenience and fewer commutes, teleworking has impacted the mental and physical health of many people, experts told The Bee.

According to a poll in 2021 by the American Psychiatric Association, a majority of the 1,000 people surveyed said they experienced mental health impacts from working from home, including isolation and loneliness.

With many workers directing all their attention to a computer screen for many hours each day, they may feel drained emotionally and cognitively, said Dr. Shacunda Rodgers, a clinical psychologist in Sacramento.

"When we were working in the office, there was a big boundary between work life and home life," said Rodgers. "And now that people are working from home and have been working from home for, you know, nearly two years, there's a loss of boundaries really between work life and home life."

Rodgers, who is a member of the California Board of Psychology, said she's worked with clients who are "checked out" and on "autopilot."

 

The stressors of working from home, as well as from the pandemic, have also caused feelings of burnout, disengagement, depression, fatigue and anxiousness, she said.

Physical health complications

Dr. Eric Tepper, a family medicine physician in Sacramento, said he's seen some clients have physical health issues due to working at home. Patients are having problems with sleep, exercise, orthopedics and eating — along with depression and anxiety.

And from family practice to rehabilitation, doctors are problem-solving the complications.

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