There is a great deal of information about returning safely to the workplace under new and challenging conditions. There is very little information about stresses of working from home.
As workplaces try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, employees may find themselves unconventionally working from home. While this may have advantages, new workspaces can also pose anxieties. Where and how you work are important to your health and safety, mentally and physically. Some of those, who are now working from home, report higher levels of stress.
1. A significant part of stress from working at home may be due to higher use of mobile devices. Research has shown higher levels of stress connected to the habit of constantly checking one's phone and increased reliance on mobile devices.
2. It is true that many people love the flexibility that comes with working from home, e.g. getting up and going to sleep at times that are dictated more by one's personal body clock and preferences can be wonderfully liberating. However, it can also get out of hand and become stressful when the structure, that once felt restricting, is lost.
3. Flexible work hours can become longer as workers struggle to fight distractions and get all their work done, or they can be shorter work hours as others in the home feel entitled to the at-home worker’s time, not recognizing that they are interrupting "work hours”.
4. When working from home, taking care of children during the day can be even more challenging as workers feel pulled between competing loyalties and overwhelmed by the responsibilities of their various roles. It is challenging to set boundaries because those boundaries may be constantly challenged.
5. While most people may enjoy the freedom to choose who they interact with each day (and avoid listening to office gossip, complaints, and politics), they may be surprised by the isolation they feel when interactions aren't automatic and they must make an effort to see anyone at all.
Tips for Managing the Stress of Working at Home
Work when you work best
Many people find that working in the morning, when they feel rested, can be more productive than beginning work halfway through the day after doing other non-work-related activities. At-home workers must experiment to see what works for them.
Tackle the challenging tasks first
Avoid letting unpleasant or difficult tasks hang over your head and create stress when you think about them. Discipline yourself to get the most difficult jobs done first to clear away the less exciting tasks. This fosters a sense of accomplishment, increased energy and satisfaction throughout the day.
Make use of technology
There are apps that help track social media usage (to help decrease use), provide reminders to work when distraction sets in, create to-do lists, and more. Learn to use these tools to advantage.
Stay Connected - Create a Cohort
Create a supportive network of colleagues, fellow work-at-home friends, or like-minded individuals through social media groups, planned meet-ups, or text-chat groups. Find already-established groups through social media or online. This can be a lifeline for finding support and understanding.
Make your work experience pleasant, to keep yourself feeling appreciated - even if you are the only one who appreciates you. Break down tasks into smaller goals, then reward yourself for taking each step. (Hint: Rewards don't need to be food-based!)
Protect Your Sleep
Because healthy sleep is vital for productivity, do what you need to do to protect your sleep. (This includes setting a bedtime for yourself and sticking to it.) This can be quite challenging, but well worth the effort.
Regardless, if returning to the workplace or working from home, there is fear of the unknown and many people are having a difficult time when it comes to their mental health.
It is important that employers take steps to support employees' mental health and address their concerns while they work from home.