Several years to come, one thing we will remember about the impacts of the coronavirus is the fact that many of us were forced to work from home. Although the experience for some seemed exciting, for others, it posed more of a challenge. And it has helped to shine a light on the struggles and stress of working from home, which we will be discussing in this write-up.
Why is Working from Home Stressful?
When most people think of working from home, they imagine that it is an amazing experience with no stress like the office. This is because there is no supervision, and there isn’t as much pressure and interactions that could cause you to lose attention. The truth of the matter is that working from home can be just as stressful or worse for some. The difference is that the problems of working from home are not the same as those of the office. Below are some of the most significant stressors of working from home:
1. Different Types of Distractions
As much as working from home does not have the pressures of working from an office environment, the fact remains that the work is the same. The advantage of office space is that everyone is there for a specific purpose, which is to work. Therefore, the levels of distraction are not as many because everyone is working towards completing a task. Working from home may seem more convenient, but it is subject to a lot more distractions. This could be the kids, your partner who may not be working, housemates or that urge to catch up on that latest series.
Sometimes these distractions can last the entire day. This means that you may fall behind on your work and fail to meet certain deadlines. This can increase any stress and anxiety further.
2. Lack of People to Bounce Ideas Off Of
One of the advantages of working within an office space is the fact that there is an entire team with whom you can share ideas and find solutions to issues. Working from home means you have to be independent most of the time. For instance, if you are working in IT and are tasked with a role that you quite can’t find the solution to, having a team around you would come in handy. Not to say that you cannot communicate with your fellow workmates for answers, but since you are all on different routines, it may not be as easy.
3. Lack of Boundaries
At the beginning of working from home, the lack of boundaries can be liberating. However, after some time, you will start to realize that it is more of a disadvantage. This is even worse if you do not have the self-control to set specific times of the day to work. If you do not tread carefully, the free time you were previously excited about will turn into extremely long hours. This is especially the case if you keep taking breaks and paying attention to other distractions.
The lack of boundaries can also lead to issues like interrupted bedtime routines and sleeping hours. You end up more stressed about the work that you have not been able to accomplish. Creating a structure, schedule, and boundaries at home is quite difficult, especially if you are not living alone. Other people around you may not take well to your demands. This is, therefore, one of the major causes of stress of working from home.
4. Lack of Interaction with Other People
This is a major stressor, especially for people who live alone. Working from home would mean solitude. For a person who has grown accustomed to having workmates who you can talk to during work hours and while on breaks, isolation is a significant causal factor for stress. It can often be very lonely.
5. Inability to Focus
Another significant challenge that comes with working from home is the struggle to maintain focus on work. The amount of freedom at home is both a blessing and a curse. The fact that your bed, fridge, TV, and phone are not too far from your reach can take away focus from your work. The movement of other people in the house and pets can also reduce your focus.
Tips for Managing Stress When Working from Home
Below are some helpful tips that hopefully will help ease the stress of working from home:
1. Identify your Stressors and the Causes
This may be easier said than done, but in most cases, you will know what is causing your stress (1). Although not everything can be controlled, start by taking action and try to change what you can. Then you can focus on the rest of your stressors and see if you can manage them a little better.
2. Create a Schedule
Creating a schedule will help you balance between work and home activities like spending time with family, taking breaks, eating, and catering to guests. When coming up with a schedule, make sure that it is realistic, depending on your lifestyle and needs. For instance, as a mom, you cannot schedule 6 straight hours for work because there are bound to be interruptions from the kids. If you decide to set a schedule, make sure to follow it religiously. Doing so will require a lot of self-control and will power, but will make a difference.
3. Create Distractions for Kids
If you have kids (or perhaps a puppy), one of the main challenges about working from home is keeping them in line. Kids might not understand when you tell them you have to work, and they can’t disturb you. Even when you do explain this to them, they tend to forget after a short while. The best trick would be to delegate tasks to them, such as giving them a creative project. This way, you will be keeping them busy and allow yourself time to focus on work.
3. Set Aside a Specific Working Space
If you have a home office, it will help a lot. However, if you do not have the luxury of a home office, you can convert a space like the dining table into a workspace for specific times during the day or night according to your preference. This will help to create boundaries. Make sure other occupants of your home are aware that the said space is meant for working. Also, make sure the space you choose is free from distractions. You should create a working environment that is almost similar to what you are used to in the office.
If you are lucky enough to take this one step further, why not kit out our temporary or permanent office space with some stationary, some inspirational quotes and a pot plant.
4. Avoid Multi-Tasking
Taking on too many tasks on top of official work tasks can result in distractions. A part of learning to deal with distractions is knowing which tasks to let go, depending on whether or not they will take away the focus from your work.
5. Set Time Aside for Yourself
If you find yourself feeling stressed out, remember to give yourself some attention. Setting time aside for yourself either when you wake up, during a break or before you go to bed will help. Choose to do something during this time to help combat that stress and relax. This could be reading something fun and fictional or taking a moment to meditate and reflect. You may want to do some light stretching or yoga, go for a run or do a home workout to help you release some energy and stress.
You will also want to try and eat well. Being healthy can have a positive impact and make you feel like you are in control. Also, remember to eat! Sometimes you get so carried away with work that you forget to take care of yourself.
6. Split the Work into Small Portions
If you are working on something like a project, you can avoid the stress of beating deadlines by splitting the project into doable tasks. Make sure to complete each task daily, or else you will fail to beat the deadline. You should schedule the tasks in such a way that the last one is set to be completed ahead of the deadline. This will give you time to make changes and inspect your work for mistakes.
7. Seek Help
Working from home without someone to help with tasks like babysitting is almost impossible. You do not have to be a hero and do it all; some help would come in handy. Yes, this is or was not an option during social distancing. But if you need to work from home in the future for other reasons, this is something to consider.
The Final Word
Working from home can be stressful but with a few simple measures, it can be made easier. You will have to plan your time well and try to be structured. It may be challenging at first but once you get into a routine and set some rules and boundaries, you should be able to manage it and take some of that unwanted stress away.