Feeling stressed? Disconnected and overwhelmed? You’re not alone. While office workers have responded positively overall to the nationwide shift toward remote work—either as employees or as budding solopreneurs—working from home has introduced new challenges. In particular, the blending and overlapping of the home/office environment is something that millions of Americans have had to adjust to quickly, many finding it challenging to compartmentalize their work lives from their personal lives so that both can be productive and rewarding.
While workplace stress is unavoidable in most jobs, chronic stress at work leads to exhaustion, resentment, decreased productivity, and ultimately, burnout. The most common causes of workplace stress that workers overwhelmingly cite:
· Low pay
· Too much work
· Not enough advancement opportunities
· Lack of respect from supervisors, colleagues, clients
· Inflexible schedules
· Too many/not enough hours
· Lack of job security
Personal issues, child care challenges, and ongoing health concerns can also weigh heavily on people and interfere noticeably with their job performance. Working remotely, while preferable to many, can add additional stressors to the ones listed above. Remote working can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnectedness from colleagues; communicating entirely through devices can also be challenging and can lead to lost hours and reduced productivity as everyone tries to get in sync. The overlap of home life and work life can feel disorienting at times and introduce a myriad of new distractions to the working day.
A combination of efforts may be necessary to help reduce job stress before it becomes overwhelming. Taking some simple steps to reduce stress while working at home can help you be more productive with your working time and derive greater enjoyment from your leisure time.
You obviously need a dedicated space from which to work, but to make it productive it helps to be as organized as possible. Spending a lot of time searching through items to find the documents you need not only reduces productivity but also adds to your stress. Identify the most important items for your job and position them strategically to make your tasks run with maximum efficiency. Create a filing or storage system that you can stick to, and remember to clean out old or obsolete items on a regular basis before clutter piles up.
There are a lot of benefits derived from remote work, but working from home introduces new distractions that you may not be prepared for. The most typical causes for distraction during the workday include interruptions by children or family members, social media usage, and non-work related calls, emails, and drop-ins. Insulate your home office from as many outside distractions as possible. Limiting personal calls and social media usage, as well as setting a schedule of breaks when you can interact with children or pets, can reduce the number of times your work is interrupted.
A big advantage of remote work (i.e., lack of commute) can also introduce a disadvantage: you never actually leave. Having no official boundary between home and office can become a source of stress for a lot of people, compelling them to work longer than they normally might. Setting rituals to officially begin the work day, begin a lunch time, and then end the work day can help create structure and stability. The home/work overlap can be a great thing, but not if one of them subsumes the other.
The location flexibility that remote work offers is a huge plus, but for those who rely on collegiality and collaboration, working so distantly from colleagues can eventually also lead to unwanted feelings of isolation and loneliness. Working and communicating all day exclusively through tech devices can become enervating for a lot of workers and contribute to further stress and burnout. Staying cognizant of your own emotional wellness and recognizing the onset of feelings of isolation and disconnection can indicate to you that it’s time to take a break, join a social group within your company, or socialize outside of work. Take advantage of your portable office life by working outside your house periodically so that social interaction is a regular part of your week.
Staying cognizant of remote work’s benefits may help remind you why you chose it to begin with. Make conscious efforts to use those benefits to your advantage. Since you no longer have a commute, think of enjoyable or productive ways to use that time, such as more sleep or time devoted to a hobby you enjoy. Since you no longer have to wear office attire, dress for comfort as well as professionalism. Find times during the day to add in enjoyable, stress-reducing activities you would not be able to from the office: listening to music, taking short exercise breaks, enjoying nice weather with walks or bike rides, etc.
As the number of people shifting to remote work increases, so does the stress. While remote work helps eliminate certain stressors—most notably the commute—and generally improves the work/life balance for most people, it comes with its own set of challenges. Integrating some stress-reducing activities, staying connected to others, and cutting down on distractions can help make the work time more productive and rewarding.