Working from home might not sound like a stressful thing, but it might end up being so if you do not manage your work and emotions well. Workplace stress is a global issue. The increased build-up of stress can lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. The new reality of self-isolating due to the coronavirus has impacted the way we work.
Many people are now working from home, dealing with the realities of juggling home responsibilities with work responsibilities and not really having a clear line between the two. This combination of working from home plus self-isolating is the perfect recipe for stress, but there are ways to reduce it, and working from home can also be appealing—no dress code, no in-person supervision, no commute time, and the freedom to decide where you work. However, working remotely can present some significant and unique challenges.
After all, many of us are being thrown into this sudden transition from working in a physical office to our own homes. Therefore, it’s important to understand how to deal with and prevent stress while remote working.
What Is Stressful About Working at Home?
Employees who work from home may experience more of a blur when it comes to work and personal life boundaries, especially with the use of smart devices. Work-from-home employees may struggle more with the concept of unplugging and ending their workday compared to those who work in an office setting.
Here are some of the common sources of stress that many work-at-homers face:
- Lack of Structure
- Too Many Distractions
- Difficulty Setting Boundaries
- Social Isolation
- Less Physical Exertion
- No physical separation between your work and leisure time
- Unhealthy lifestyle
So here are some tips on how to make your working home experience a stress-free one:
Take a short break from what you’re doing.
Taking a short break from the task you’re working on is one of the fastest ways to bring stress levels down. You don’t need to spend a large amount of time away from what you’re doing, just a few minutes can do the trick. You simply need to shift your focus to something else. Play a quick game on your phone, check social media, or watch 15 minutes of a TV show or movie, then try to get back to work.
Movement is a great antidote to stress, and you should always incorporate short movement breaks into your workday. As little as five minutes of exercise can be enough to reduce feelings of stress and frustration. Walk a few laps around your home, do a 10-minute yoga routine, dance, lift weights, anything really works. The key is just to move. Not only will movement help reduce stress, but it also helps prevent stiffness, headaches, and eye strain by ensuring you step away from your screen for at least a little bit of time each day.
Call a friend or maintain regular communication with colleagues and managers.
Sometimes the best antidote for stress is simply talking it out with a friend. Practicing self-isolation or self-quarantine is beneficial for preventing the spread of COVID-19, but not so great for mental health. Self-isolating means we have less contact with people than we normally would, and that in itself can be a cause of stress. Pick up the phone and actually call or video chat with someone – in this case, texting isn’t enough and isn’t nearly as effective in reducing stress.
It is common for communication between team members to suffer when transitioning to remote working conditions. That’s why you should not hesitate to reach out to your manager and teammates from your ‘home office’ anytime you have a question or suggestion.
Conduct video chat meetings at regular intervals. A video conference is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page about the projects you’re currently working on. Make sure the video chat platform includes features such as file sharing, screen sharing, and multiple users in one chat.
Master your time with a daily schedule.
Maintaining a daily schedule is an important consideration in preventing depression, reducing stress, and increasing energy levels. In the morning, actively construct your day. Think of the tasks that you need to get accomplished.
Having an outline of your responsibilities will guide your actions through the day and leave you with a sense of accomplishment when you are ready to “clock out”. Think about how to use this time to your advantage. Ask yourself if it is possible to grow the business, make work more organized and efficient, or learn a new skill.
Most importantly, wake up everyday and dress for success. You may not need to wear a suit but dress to be active. Be sure to wear proper shoes and leave the pajamas for sleeping only.
Replicate your regular workday.
The body and brain need routines from the most basic of sleeping and eating to other activities, such as work. We are programmed neurochemically to have basic daily cycles. When daily routines are disrupted, our neurological systems shift. Neurochemical imbalances can occur from a shift in daily cycles, leading to depression, anxiety, lethargy, and poor cognitive performance. The basics of a daily routine, including staying consistent with sleep/wake cycles, regular meals, exercise, and activity are essential.
Use online video chats instead of phone calls whenever possible. Maintaining face-to-face interaction with your colleagues is important, especially when isolated at home.
Separate work and life activities.
Work-life boundaries are more important now than ever. Boundaries are the psychological barriers between our life at work and life at home. Create a separation between work-related activities and those that are not. As much as possible, have a dedicated workspace free from distractions, leisurely activities, and household responsibilities. The distance created by separating the space can let you focus on a productive workday.
To reduce packing on more stress, be careful to manage your expectations. It is common to be less productive when working from home. Develop a hierarchy of work tasks, target the most necessary first then work down your list. If you are unable to complete all of the work, be kind to yourself, and take a break. It is recommended to have a dedicated workspace at home. You should at least have a desk if an entire room is not available. This helps prevent work from spilling over into other parts of your life.
Motivation and productivity take work, but, are attainable. The more that a person prepares for the day with a routine, the better off. Control the amount of time that you are not productive. It is fine to relax and watch a good movie, just have limits. Set boundaries for downtime. Getting in the habit of being sedentary will slow your mind, body, and energy. Conversely, consistent exercise and activity maintain an overall sense of motivation.
Be thankful for work.
Practice the awareness of gratitude for your employment. Remind yourself of the reason that you do what you do. Think about your journey and accomplishments. Familiarize yourself with the mission of your job. In a time when unemployment rates are at an all-time high, you have employment to report to. Convince yourself that you have a purpose, arise, go forth, and conquer!
It can be difficult to work from home for long periods of time. By practicing these coping strategies, you can increase the likelihood of success, limit stress, and improve your mood. Keep in mind that we are not in control of what happens to us, but we are responsible for adapting and responding.