About the Author
Since the coronavirus began spreading across the world, almost half of Britons found themselves isolated and working from home in the blink of an eye. And although a great number of us were presumably seeking more flexible working hours and even dreaming of escaping the office, a sudden and quick transition in the midst of a pandemic was certainly not what we had in mind. So, if you’re feeling stressed right now and finding it hard to cope with anxiety, you should know that you are not the only one. Surprisingly, a 2017 study conducted by United Nations showed that, in fact, 40% of people practicing remote work experienced high levels of stress, compared to 25% of office workers.
But what is so stressful about working from home? And how can you protect your mental health?
Here are the key sources of stress that work-at-homers may face due to the enforced lockdown and some proven strategies to help you alleviate their impact and get you mentally prepared for the challenging weeks ahead.
Key Sources of Stress
Distractions & Difficulty Setting Boundaries
If you used to work in a busy environment with constant interruptions, this is your chance to become happier and more productive, but only if you minimize the distractions that are present in your home and set boundaries. Family members, friends, television, household chores and social media may all provide potential distractions during the workday. So, even if it’s easy to be led astray by laundry and dirty dishes or tempting to open the TV while doing work, you should avoid multitasking as recent research reveals that it can be a huge productivity killer that can turn flexible working into non-stop working. Indeed, difficulty tuning out of work has been found to be one of the biggest challenges remote workers face, according to a recent survey by Buffer, with 22% of them reporting that they have trouble unplugging after a long day of work.
Loneliness & Disconnection
Although it might seem easier to maintain your focus while working in your own home, the lack of social cues, and informal social interaction associated with an office setting, can make you feel lonely and isolated. This point has been repeatedly highlighted by many studies, with 19% of remote workers reporting loneliness as the second most common struggle to remote working. Research also suggests that extraverts are more likely to suffer from isolation, given the misfit between their personality and telecommuting, which can get even worse in case they can’t connect with others within their home-based environment.
Stress associated with mobile devices
Paradoxically, although the rise of social media and internet-connected devices were supposed to bring us closer to one another, it seems that they often do the exact opposite. At some point along the way we have abused the advantages of mobile devices, which, particularly in the case of home-based workers, has resulted in poor sleep, and therefore increased stress. Another study also reveals that constant checking has become a habitual behaviour that many of us perform without even thinking. Alarmingly, almost 45% of Americans reported constantly checking their phones, with 44% of them declaring that they feel disconnected from their family and friends even when they are surrounded by them.
Tips for Managing Workplace Stress During Self Isolation
Set a schedule & Stop Saying Yes
As a remote worker, setting a daily schedule and sticking to it is necessary to stay on task, manage multiple projects effectively, and ensure that you don’t blur the lines between work and leisure time. There are several useful apps, such as the Google Calendar , that can help you build your daily routine by creating a list of tasks and setting priorities. Remember that pushing yourself to get the most unpleasant and challenging tasks done first can save you from accumulating the stress on the rest of the day and make you feel more energised. Also, by visibly marking your working hours, you can set healthy boundaries and mental fences with your colleagues and manager and get more comfortable saying no, especially, when being faced with many requests. So, before saying yes and fitting a new commitment into your schedule just remember that there are only so many hours in the day.
Establish Support Networks & Stay Connected
As mentioned above, self-isolation can be daunting, especially when being practiced for a prolonged period of time. So, from where do you start to minimise its impact on your wellbeing? Reaching out and opening up to people that you care about is the first and most important step to avoid feeling low or lonely and reduce your anxiety levels. One of the world’s longest studies from Harvard University concludes that building and maintaining strong relationships is the single most important contributor to our health and happiness. Therefore, sharing your thoughts and feelings with like-minded individuals experiencing similar issues through social media or messaging platforms, may help you overstep your physical restrictions, get some relevant advice and also strengthen your relationship with them.
This can be quite challenging, but well worth the effort. Detaching from your mobile device, especially while in bed, can help you avoid symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and shorter sleep duration, and benefit your emotional and physical health. This point, however, doesn’t imply the complete separation from your phone, but instead highlights the need of using them in a mindful way that doesn’t harm your mental wellbeing. Unplugging from mobile technologies can also help you establish a healthier, less stressful work-life balance a study suggests.
All in all, although remote working provides a sense of freedom and flexibility making it a dream for many people, it is normal that it may, as all changes in life, make you feel uncomfortable and shaken up your daily routine, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. By shifting your mindset and reinventing the way you work, you can relieve this added stress, benefit from a better work-life balance and increase your productivity.