Stress is a part of everybody’s life. Whether it’s a result of a toxic job, awful workplace politics, unmotivated staff, an incompetent supervisor, or something entirely different isn’t the most important question. The most important thing is to be able to cope with that stress on a daily basis, and not let it rule your life.
While stress on some level is unavoidable, the increased build-up of it can lead to serious health problems. Additionally, the more you wait the harder it gets to handle these issues.
Some simple, and seemingly trivial, yet effective ways to reduce stress include getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, breathing fresh air, and learning to say no when the workload becomes overbearing.
However, over time, these simple exercises can only take you so far, and you need some more effective ways to handle the amount of stress you’re feeling. Especially when this stress changes entirely due to major changes in our work life.
How Remote Work Changes Stress
The way we work is changing. Each day more and more people start working remotely due to personal reasons, or pandemic lockdowns, and the well-known 9 to 5 is changing in a lot of companies.
As the internet evolves, so do other things, like new software, developed specifically for remote teams, and other technological innovations. And as the working environment changes, so does the way people face work-related obstacles. This translates to a different kind of stress, along with different ways to handle it.
Because this is such a new change, people still don’t know whether remote work is benefitting the stress level of people or increasing it. Whichever the case, it’s apparent that it has changed it, and we need to be able to manage it.
Managers and employers face different obstacles when working remotely, therefore they have different sources of stress. Overall, the most common issues include the lack of social interaction, more room for overtime, blurred lines between home and work, and so on.
Stress Factors in Remote Work
Due to the lack of social interaction, the feeling of loneliness becomes a problem in the everyday lives of employees. The opportunities of interacting are basically non-existent, therefore, casual conversations are no longer a part of a workday. This can be solved by encouraging each other to start a social conversation even if all modes of communication are online and mostly work-related.
The ability to work longer hours has opened the door to the overflow of overtime. Monitoring has become harder both in positive ways and in negative ways. Now there’s no one to tell you to go back to work from a long lunch break, but there’s also no one to tell you to stop working once your workday is over.
Finally, and possibly the biggest obstacle of all, there’s no longer a clear line between your home life and work life. Some people learn to handle that very well, using discipline and well-established, solid rules. For these people, the flexibility of working from home is a blessing.
But for others, this is an issue that seemingly can’t be solved, and these lines are harder to bring back without the existence of a workplace. This can be solved with incredible self-discipline and a rock-solid daily routine that clearly differentiates your work life and home life.
Overall, the biggest issue with remote work-caused stress is the fact that it has fewer signs for your environment. When working in an office, there are clear signs and symptoms if someone is stressed. These can be emotional and even visible, and in most cases, people offer to help or let your employer know about the situation.
At home, these feedbacks are less present, and if you’re not surrounded by family and friends, chances are, you won’t even realize these symptoms. This means that it will take much longer to even look for help.
First of all, you need to make sure you do the little things first. Resting the right amount, getting enough exercise, and the usual recommendations are the foundation of a healthy stress-free life. Also, it’s important to look out for symptoms that refer to more serious outcomes of stress overload, like depression or anxiety.
For example, if for a few weeks you sleep less, and drink more coffee, that is a sign of stress. But if after a few weeks you find yourself tired all the time, you can’t seem to get out of bed, you sleep way more than necessary, and still, you feel like a sack of potatoes, that can be a sign of slight depression.
In addition to the aforementioned small details you should pay close attention to, there are ways to manage workload stress at home.
Creating a routine and defining boundaries is one of the most influential ways to handle stress in the long run. It’s also one of the most challenging. Create a clear line between your work life and home life by not mixing the two in any way, be it physical or mental.
Also, it’s wise to organize your daily breaks. Most people have a few 10-minute breaks throughout the day and one long lunch break. Make sure to stay within your “work mode” while on your breaks as well, while enjoying the freedom remote working can bring.
This means that instead of playing video games, watching an episode of Friends, or taking a nap, you can make fresh coffee, go on a walk, play with your pets, or make a fresh home-cooked lunch.
These are just some ways to cope with stress while working remotely, but it’s important to take one small step at a time. If you get the hang of these, and you start to recognize change, make sure to look for the next steps, and never neglect the progress you’ve already made.