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Managing the stress of working remotely during the Coronavirus

Managing the stress of working remotely during the Coronavirus

Recently, we published an article that offers seven practical ways to help you reduce stress at work (you can read it here).

We wanted to take this idea further and offer an insight into some of the common stressors of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what you can do to mitigate these.

First things first: The world of work has changed forever

Companies like Google, Microsoft, Gap and United Airlines have all recently had to change their policy on working. Many employees are now working from home full time to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and many won’t ever return to a normal office environment again.

But like working from an office, remote working comes with its own set of side effects. And given that you’re alone for much of the day, it can be easy to let things like executive stress, anxiety and depression spiral out of control.

While some people argue that working from home offers more work-life balance, others argue the opposite, stating that working from home causes them more stress. Here are a few common stressors to watch out for if you’re working from home, and what you can do about them.

1. A lack of structure

Whether you like it or not, humans depend on routine to be productive in their day-to-day lives. Without structure, we can lose our sense of purpose and value in the world, and we end up blurring the lines of our own personal boundaries. For instance, when does work stop and leisure begin? How much is too much time on our phones?

This feeling can eventually morph into feeling out of control, and that’s a cause for concern. When we feel out of control, we often feel more stressed and more overwhelmed with our day-to-day tasks, and this can lead to negative ‘escapism’ habits that help us avoid rather than address these things.

It’s important, then, to set clear boundaries between work and play as early on as possible. Be sure to segregate your office environment and your home environment, even if the two things exist under one roof. That way, you can better balance your day and focus on work at work, and home at home.

2. Too many distractions

There are many distractions when trying to work from home. If you have young children, for example, it’s easy to always want to play and be with them. It can also be easy to continuously venture to the fridge for food, or to watch television during ‘office’ hours.

While setting boundaries is critical to helping remove these distractions and focusing on work, it’s also important to recognise when something is a distraction and when something is downtime. Next time you turn on the television, ask yourself: Am I doing this to avoid work, or am I actively taking a break? Ultimately, if you’re not truly invested in what you’re watching and you’re thinking about work, you’re most likely ‘escaping’.

3. Social isolation

A lengthy period of time alone isn’t good for anyone, no matter who you are. In today’s pandemic, social isolation is a real concern and it’s leading to more unhappiness, depression, anxiety and, in some more extreme cases, even suicide.

Much like knowing when to take a break from work, it’s important to recognize when you need some human interaction. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and FaceTime a relative just to catch up and get in your social fix. This will help you realise that you’re not alone, that everyone is experiencing what you are. Remember: there are people out there that care about you. Ultimately, this social time will help you reduce your stress and focus better at work.

4. A lack of movement, a poor diet

2020 has been a scary year so far. As a consequence, it can be easy to turn to comfort food more often than we like to help us through this turbulent period. Much like the ‘escapisms’ we mention above, eating poorly is just another variation.

What’s more, without a commute to work or the ability to venture outside as regularly as you like, it can be tricky to get in a good amount of movement, leading to stiff joints, aching bones and poor health.

We encourage you, then, to go outside and put the laptop away more frequently than you feel comfortable with. We urge you to take a walk while you take a conference call, and to make a smoothie rather than find that bar of chocolate in the fridge.

Finally, set up a reward system

To reduce your stress of working from home, be sure to set up your own reward system. Finished a project? Treat yourself to chocolate. Put in a full day’s work? Turn your phone off and sit in the park.

Self-discipline and rewards are your greatest strengths as a remote worker. In the western world, we’re often setup with this system through childhood – our parents will reward us for good behavior and punish us for bad behavior.

While we don’t ask you to be hard on yourself during this time and punish yourselves, it is important to remain vigilant of your actions at home and try to actively reduce your remote working stressors. Only then can you really be truly ‘on’ when you’re on, and truly ‘off’ when you’re off.

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