Ditching your commute to work from home might sound like the path to pure happiness. Yet, research shows that it’s not quite as pleasurable in practice.
Gallup’s research on working from home stress conducted between April and September 2020 shows that almost a third of remote workers are stressed. They’re so stressed, in fact, that they say they are always in or near a state of burnout.
That’s especially concerning because occupational burnout can lead to everything from disengagement to despair. And with the Great Resignation in full swing, employers can’t afford to lose the skills or input of talented staff members.
Of course, virtual working doesn’t have to feel like a burden or become an addiction. The key is to figure out how to balance the demands of a job with the demands of a household.
Whether you became a remote worker by chance or choice, you shouldn’t have to live under undue stressors. Apply some of the following advanced tips to keep your working from home stress from getting out of hand.
Here are five innovative strategies for lowering work from home stress.
1. Set Tech Boundaries for Everyone in Your Family
When you work virtually, you’re bound to have off-the-chart screen time. If you’re a parent, your school-age children may spend many hours daily learning on their laptops and tablets. Consequently, make sure everyone gets away from their digital devices by setting up “techless time.”
For instance, consider turning dinner into a tech-free zone, or set aside time every evening where all your family members can recharge their phones while they recharge their spirits. Reading a book, getting some exercise, or just relaxing away from technology allows you to unplug and unwind.
Be aware that middle schoolers and younger teens won’t necessarily like these rules. That’s where buying them a phone with limited capabilities can give you a parental assist. Gabb Wireless offers a thoughtfully engineered kids’ phone built without access to social media sites or the internet. It’s a streamlined, practical way for you to worry less about your children being tempted to spend day and night online.
2. Stop Answering Work-Related Pings When You’re”Off the Clock”
You’re kicking back in bed with a book at 10:30 p.m. when you hear an alert on your phone. It’s your boss, asking about an assignment. Your stomach starts to churn, and your head begins to ache. Is it better to answer the call of duty (even though it could make you feel overwhelmed) or put off responding until the morning?
Unfortunately, our always-on culture promotes the belief that it’s rude to ignore texts, emails, DMs, and calls. This can lead to us feeling guilty for playing with our kids, talking with our spouse, or just living a personal life free from corporate distractions.
It can be hard to turn off the nagging suspicion that your supervisor will think less of you if you set boundaries. It’s critical to your mental health, though.
Start by telling your team when you won’t be available each day—then stick to whatever you say. Just because your house is where you do your work doesn’t mean you have to be office-ready 24/7.
3. Set Up a Specific Area for Your Home Office
The main reason for working from home stress is the feeling that you’re “on-call” no matter where you go in your house. One way to delineate your personal and professional spaces is by physically setting up at least one office area.
You don’t have to set aside a whole room as your workspace, either. Some people have found success by creating an office nook in a large walk-in closet, the corner of a room, or an area of a finished basement. The point is to have a spot that’s designed for work.
Be sure to fix up your home workspace so it’s pleasant and welcoming. Have plenty of light and decorate it attractively. You’ll feel at ease going to it when you need to get some tasks done. Plus, your household members will learn that when you’re at your remote desk, you’re technically on the job. Consequently, they’ll think twice before interrupting and causing you the frustration of having to constantly switch gears.
4. Hire a Babysitter to Give You a Break
As a parent, you can’t do it all no matter what you’ve heard or told yourself. As much as you might like to be an attention mom or dad to your younger kids, you can’t always do that and be a dependable worker at the same time. So, take a deep breath and check out the online help-wanted pages for a babysitter.
Depending on your arrangement and the age of your kids, you might only need a babysitter occasionally. Look for one who’s knowledgeable, reliable, and flexible. Be sure that the babysitter you choose has enough experience and check all referrals.
You can’t imagine the relief you’ll feel knowing that your children aren’t going to burst in on an important Zoom client call. Yes, it will cost you some money to invest in a babysitter. But if it makes you more productive and reduces your working from home stress, it’s worth a try.
(Side note: Have pets who crave tons of attention? A loving pet sitter can serve the same purpose.)
5. Allow Yourself to Use Up Sick Leave
In an office setting, employees who feel unwell frequently call in sick and use their PTO. Among the work-from-home crowd, you see a bit of difference. Lots of ailing virtual workers force themselves to slog through the day because they don’t feel good about using up their sick leave.
According to a poll released in November 2020 and evaluated by Study Finds, two-thirds of remote workers remained hesitant to use up sick leave on anything less than Covid.
In other words, you might feel compelled to plug on despite aches and pains. After all, you’re home so it doesn’t matter, right? Wrong, as it turns out. Presenteeism—the act of being on the job but not being mentally focused on your responsibilities—soars among the sick. It doesn’t do anyone any good to press ahead if your body and mind require much-needed rest.
If getting as close to a stress-free existence is your goal, do what’s necessary for your health. PTO is meant to be used—even when you’re a WFH team member.
It’s not practical to expect that you can totally eliminate all your stressors as a remote worker. But you can reevaluate your choices to improve how balanced you feel at the end of each day. You can start by following these five tips on how to limit the stress of working from home.
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Featured photo credit: Avi Richards via unsplash.com