So you like the rest of the population over the last two years I spend a significant period of your life working from home. And oh sure when this all started we celebrated I thought of not having to commute and being able to work from our pajamas every day.
But nobody considered seriously the stress that would eventually develop from working at home. That’s not to say there aren’t good things many of us continue to experience from the flexibility of working at home. But a new reality has developed where we must learn to deal with different stresses from a different work environment.
We’ve moved from a world where we spend our day around coworkers and our bosses to one in which we spend most of our time around our children, spouses, and other family members. That’s a double-edged sword for the majority of us.
While getting this extra time with family has improved the work-life balance of many, it’s also blurred the lines between work and personal life. For those that will continue into the future working out of their homes, it’s important to find strategies to manage these new stresses.
Here are some ideas to help effectively reduce your stress when working at home:
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Define your space
When the pandemic started if you’re like me, you thought “ how awesome is this I get to see my entire family a whole lot more.” But as the weeks turned into months and years many of us started to realize the stress of family being around us all the time.
One way to help resolve this problem is to make sure you have your own defined space. Realizing that not everyone has a separate office or area in the house set up for work activities it might be necessary to get creative.
For instance, as I write this article I’m sitting in my spare bedroom hanging out on the bed. That just happens to be one of the most comfortable and quiet places in our home with two young kids and a sitter running around.
Whether you have room for an office or need to convert a bedroom or a basement, it’s critical to find a space where you can have quiet and be able to focus your thoughts.
Set specific time for family
Family members sometimes assume when you were at home that you are constantly available. That’s especially true I have young children and even some older ones. It’s important to make sure they know you have a job to do and that you cannot be accessed at all times.
Create a schedule, and get your family accustomed to it. That’s true not just for little ones, but for the rest of the family as well. If you’re going to be working from home over the long haul, you’ll need periods where you can focus on work with no distractions.
Of course, there may be times when you can lax these rules and enjoy some family time. But if you create this structure and stick to it the majority of the time, you’ll have an easier time managing the stress of working from home.
Stop answering your phone
I hear from people all the time who talk about working more hours now that they work from home. It’s counterintuitive given the reduced time needed to get ready and commute to work. But what some people are experiencing is that bosses and coworkers now think they have access to you at all hours.
Calls have started to creep into the earlier morning hours, and last until later in the evening. And maybe there’s some legitimate trade-off that’s expected there given the benefit to many from working from home. But you need to put a limit on what you’ll do. If your boss calls at 8 pm and you pick up the phone, you’re setting an expectation that you’ll do the same next time.
Even though it can be an anxious moment for some, don’t hesitate to ignore that off-hours call from co-workers. If you set those boundaries early, they’ll know not to do it in the future.
Many aggressive bosses will push you as far as you are willing to go but will back off if you take a stand. So as long as taking those late night/early morning calls isn’t a requirement of the job, don’t be afraid to let them leave a voicemail.
Get out of the house
We’re not talking about exercise here, but just getting out and seeing the world again. Working from home has left many people feeling isolated and less connected with things around us. That in turn has led to increased levels of depression and other mental health issues.
Simple things like getting out to the store where you can see people and get social contact are important. If you feel comfortable working in a public space like a library or coffee shop, give that a try. Anything that will get you out in the world and see other people can be a welcome break from the monotony and stress of working from home.
Get some exercise
This one is on pretty much every stress-reducing list in the world. And it’s for good reason, since it may be the most effective way to help improve overall health, including the reduction of stress.
Try to get out as many days as possible during the week for at least 30 minutes of exercise. That can be anything from a brisk walk to a run depending on your level of conditioning.
Not only can this help improve your health, but most people also see an increase in their mood and overall energy levels.
Make a routine
As with most things, uncertainty can contribute to stress when working from home as well. If you’re living your life on a whim, with no real structure in your day, then consider creating a routine that will normalize things.
While not everyone works better inside a set routine, the majority of people find some level of comfort. This can help a lot with a work from home situation because it will also give your higher-ups a more consistent set of expectations.
If your team at work knows what to expect, and they buy into your routine, that can offload a lot of the stress you may feel.
Get reassurance from your boss
Right there alongside setting a routine is communicating with your managers. Some of the stress when not working in the office can be a lack of understanding of what is expected of you.
The entire structure of your day, and likely the visibility managers have of your work product have changed entirely. And if you have uncertainty about what you are expected to deliver, that can create a lot of stress.
So it sounds simple, but many people are afraid to approach a manager and ask for specific roles and responsibilities. Get that fear out of your head, and just set up a meeting with those you report to. Chances are they will be happy you took the initiative, and it will take a to-do off their list as well.
Ditch the booze
During the pandemic, it is estimated that excessive drinking increased by 21%. Not only is drinking too much bad for your overall health, but it’s also no good for your work life.
The immediate effects of alcohol can be relaxing, but medium and long-term they can be detrimental. Most of us who’ve experienced a hangover knows that anxiety and increased stress can be a side effect of overdrinking.
So if you can eliminate or reduce the amount you drink, then you’ve got a good chance of reducing your stress.
The bottom line
Working from home can be a great way to reduce stress, but only if you take the necessary precautions.
When the pandemic started, the majority assumed that working from home was going to be all roses. But quickly they realized there were some major challenges that came along with it.
From managing family dynamics, to communication lines with bosses, there are a lot of things that changed in a very short period of time. That level of change almost always comes with unexpected consequences and stressors that weren’t foreseeable.
Now that many of us are seeing work from home is going to be a more prominent part of work-life, it’s going to be critical to find your individual way of managing stress and maximized the benefits of this new world.