Ottawa

Are you getting 'home fever' while working remotely?

Working from home has become the new normal for many since the pandemic, but teleworking has started to lose its shine for some employees.

Some remote employees are starting to miss the social components of the office

Are you getting 'home fever' while working remotely?

2 months ago
Duration 7:34
Working from home has become the new normal for many since the pandemic, but for some employees, teleworking has started to lose its shine.

Working from home has become the new normal for many since the pandemic, but teleworking has started to lose its shine for some employees.

"Being at the same place, the same routine, the same environment, doing the same thing every day, that was just something that was just too much," said Yazmin Machuca, a project manager based in Ottawa.  

Machuca is among those experiencing "home fever," a term researchers at Carleton University are exploring as part of a study on the sustainability of remote work. 

"Sometimes you just feel you can't work anymore, or you need to just relocate to get back to the mood to work," said Farzam Sepanta, a PhD candidate at Carleton. 

Man with headphones on in front of a university backdrop.
Farzam Sepanta, a PhD candidate at Carleton University, says people working from home could develop ‘home fever,’ especially with a lack of social interaction. (CBC)

There's a huge social component in working, Sepanta said, such as casual chats with co-workers over coffee or between meetings. Teleworking without those social interactions could lead to that home fever feeling in the long run. 

"That feeling of restlessness, irritability or just the sudden urge that you want to get out, you cannot be confined by the walls of your home anymore," Sepanta said. 

Choosing other working options

It's a term Machuca can get behind. 

"You want to burn it to the ground. You want to escape your house," she said, laughing. "You need a change of environment." 

Machuca first started working from home in 2020 and it wasn't all bad at first. 

 "I did enjoy it because I was like 'Oh, I just get up and get going, I don't have to commute.' But it faded very quickly." 

A woman sitting at a computer looking at the screen.
Yazmin Machuca says she prefers a co-working space more than working remotely from her home. (Ryan Garland/CBC)

It was a heartbreaking interaction with her then-four-year-old daughter that was the final straw. Machuca caught the whole conversation on tape. 

"I beg you, I beg you," her daughter says in the video. "Do you want to go to my room?" 

"To play with you?" Machuca asks. "Yeah," her daughter replies. 

If that feeling of guilt wasn't enough, Machuca said the longer she worked remotely, the more the lines blurred between home, work and rest.

When she moved to Ottawa from Vancouver in 2022, Machuca had no physical office anymore and once again was teleworking. 

This time, she decided to invest in a membership fee for a co-working space downtown and so far is loving it. 

"You do have to protect that space and have that separation from work," she said. "You have to just make your home your home and have a time to just rest." 

'Same thing over and over'

While working in an information technology position for close to a year, Klim Dartmoor said he definitely experienced home fever.

"I kind of felt cooped up in my basement, I wasn't really leaving at all. I was just doing my school and work from home and only going outside for groceries and whatnot," he said. 

When he got the chance to start doing a roofing job over the summer, he realized what he was missing out on. 

A man wearing a hoodie and talking into a microphone.
Before he worked in roofing, Klim Dartmoor spent close to a year working from home. (Ryan Garland/CBC)

"I enjoyed that a lot, I started feeling a lot better health-wise, started seeing a lot more people and then I just stuck with that more," he said. 

Now, he can't imagine working remotely again anytime soon. 

"It's kind of the same thing over and over. Wake up, open the screen and just be in front of the screen for 10 to 12 hours." 

Ways to beat home fever

When it comes to social interactions, Carleton researchers found that introverted people and extroverted people have different needs and that plays into experiencing home fever.

Christine Toulouse is a self-described introvert and said working from home suits her personality better. 

Still, she tries to separate her workspace from the rest of her home. 

"I am very careful about making sure that those two don't bleed together because I have found … say I choose to work on the couch one day, I can't sit there in the evening and enjoy myself," she said. 

A woman sitting down at a table.
As a self-described introvert, Christine Toulouse says working from home fits her personality, but it's important to set boundaries between work spaces and the rest of the home. (Ryan Garland/CBC)

Instead, she'll designate one area of a table as her workspace. Packing up her computer at the end of the day also helps. 

For those who are working remotely, Sepanta said there are easy ways to avoid that suffocating feeling of home fever. 

"You just need to know yourself and know how you can avoid symptoms of the sudden urge [to get out]," he said.

It's best to establish a routine, incorporate breaks and find ways to stay motivated and productive throughout the day. Sometimes, Sepanta said, all it takes is changing out of your pyjamas. 

CBC talks to people who couldn't hack it surrounded by their own four walls anymore.

With files from Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco and Ryan Garland

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