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We’ve all lived and worked in a different world in the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed numerous aspects of life. In efforts to protect their employees’ health, many businesses have instructed employees not to work in their offices but to work from home using the internet and technologies such as the cloud and Zoom to enable regular workflows and meetings.
On the one hand, many employees have enjoyed working from home, and businesses have seen increased productivity. On the other hand, this sudden shift to working remotely across numerous companies and industries has caused a lot of stress for many people.
Employees are being asked to adapt to new schedules, often lack access to the materials they need to do their jobs or struggle to maintain personal and family needs at the same time. Additionally, many distractions accompany working at home, such as feeding your pets, receiving deliveries or noises in your home or neighborhood. All these things can lead to too much stress working from home.
If you’re feeling stressed working remotely, you’re not alone. According to research conducted recently, 41% of employees who work at home more often than in an office feel overstressed, while only 21% of those working in the office felt this way. Employees working from home also struggle more often with boundaries between work and home, especially when using smart devices.
Some of the signs that stress is affecting your professional and personal life include:
- Irritation or anger for no reason
- Being in denial about how you’re feeling
- A lack of motivation
- A sense of fatigue or burnout
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulties sleeping
These feelings shouldn’t be ignored. Fortunately, strategies exist to help employees deal with these new and unaccustomed stressors at home. Many of these tips come from the Centers for Disease Control, USA Today and Workplace Mental Health.
- Maintain a regular schedule. Prepare a routine for your work and for your family’s needs. As much as possible, create a plan that matches your pre-pandemic schedule.
- Designate spaces for each family member where they can work or learn. This helps create the sense of working from an office in your home. But don’t make your office your bedroom.
- Dress each day like you’re going into the office. While it’s fun to spend a few days working in your pajamas, it’s crucial to maintain a sense of professionalism. This will also help maintain a routine that feels pre-pandemic.
- Set boundaries on your workday. Set up your workday with a beginning and an end if possible. If your pre-pandemic workday started at 9 a.m., then begin at 9 a.m. at home. If you went home every day at 5 p.m., then finish work at 5 p.m. at home.
- Hold yourself accountable for your work. You might find it too easy to rationalize not completing a task working from home. You might think, “I’ll do it later tonight,” but that often becomes tomorrow or the following day.
- Make sure you schedule regular breaks in your day. Include breaks for exercise or checking with coworkers, friends or family members
- If possible, go outside during one of these breaks. It will help clear your head and improve your attitude.
- Set a regular lunchtime. Just as you do in your office, take a lunch break at the same time each day. Have a healthy lunch. If you regularly take 45 minutes for lunch, then take 45 minutes at home. It won’t help relieve stress if you just run to the fridge, grab a leftover from last night and then go right back to work.
- If you’re in a managerial position, set appropriate expectations. You can help reduce stress for your employees if they know what’s expected of them in an unusual situation. Not knowing what’s expected in a work situation can create enormous pressure.
- Reward yourself for completing complex tasks. Take an extra break or give yourself 10 minutes to communicate with friends or family.
- Learn to say no. Saying no can be difficult in an office setting but is perhaps even more so when working remotely. Feeling overloaded is one of the most common sources of stress when working from home. However, it’s important you learn to say no to a boss or coworker if you currently have too much on your plate.
- Share your feelings of stress with coworkers and family members. Share strategies of ways you found to cope and how the pandemic is affecting your work both positively and negatively.
- Identify the aspects of your job where you lack control. Don’t just let it slide. If working from home has deprived you of a sense of control over your job, communicate that to your manager or employer.
- When you’re not working, do things you enjoy. Create a break from work every day. Watch a movie, do a puzzle, go for a run. Stress intensifies when it feels like your workday becomes your entire day.
- Maintain a healthy diet. There will be a temptation to eat unhealthy snacks because the refrigerator is just around the corner. Eat healthy foods like apples, bananas and other fruits if you must snack.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Healthy sleep is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Avoid working until 10 or 11 at night before going to bed.
- Educate yourself about COVID-19. Know how to protect yourself and members of your family. If coworkers want to talk about how they’re being affected by COVID-19, it’s important to share accurate and complete information. Misinformation will often make the situation worse and increase stress.
Even with all these tips, you can feel too overwhelmed by stress. If you sense control slipping away or that you may be relying too much on alcohol or drugs to relieve the stress and want to stop, we can help. We have compassionate counselors ready to help you 24 hours a day. You can reach out to us at (833) 596-3502.