How to Manage Workplace Stress When… Working from Home
Every person in the world with a job has felt the pressure of work-related stress, at some point in their life. Although you may generally love what you do and be passionate about your career, there will always be stressful elements, challenging obligations and pressuring deadlines. When stress exceeds a certain limit and starts taking its toll on you, it’s time to act.
But what can you do when work = home? Where can you escape the source of your stress?
Finding the reasons
First of all, let’s take a quick look at the most frequent origins of work-related stress, which are the same regardless if you’re working in an office, a factory or from the comfort of your apartment: a low salary, excessive workloads, not enough opportunities for engagement or advancement, unclear expectations, lack of social support, interpersonal conflicts, disorganization, physical discomfort, multitasking, and so on.
Stress doesn’t end when you turn off the laptop or send that last email of the day. Unfortunately, it haunts you beyond the official work hours, especially when the line between workspace and home are blurred. If you work from a desk in the far end of the room, you still see it every time you walk past it to get somewhere and you might be tempted to turn the computer on or check the work phone for one last detail or one last task, which is never really “last” and turns into late-night crunching sessions.
When stress persists for long periods of time, it usually ends up affecting your health and overall well-being, both physical and mental. You may become irritable, depressed, fatigued, you may have trouble concentrating or develop headaches, muscle tension or social withdrawal symptoms.
Lets see what we can do to manage stress properly.
1. Identify and recognize
In order to manage your stress, the first step would be to identify and recognize what exactly stresses you out — for a week or two, jot down the situations that get on your nerves and how you react to them: do you take your anger out on family members or whoever happens to be at home with you? Do you walk over to the fridge and get a snack? Do you simply abandon work and start doing house chores instead? These are not beneficial reactions, as they may lead to various other problems, such as ruining relationships or gaining weight.
2. Establish healthy responses
Instead, try to establish healthy responses: instead of countering stress with food or anger, try to make better choices when the tension rises, such as short breaks for physical exercise (yoga, jogging, taking a walk), engaging in a hobby or a nice activity that you enjoy (read a chapter from a novel, play with your kid, listen to your favorite song).
Also, sleep is very important to keep your stress level down — make sure you get enough hours of downtime to keep you up and running the following day. Keep caffeine intake under control and reduce stimulating activities at night, such as watching an action movie or playing computer games. You need time to recharge, so that you can come back invigorated and ready to perform at your best.
4. Establish boundaries
It’s easy to fall in the trap of being available 24/7, since home is also an office. Try to make a rule out of not answering calls or e-mails after dinner, “switching off” completely on weekends and taking vacations days — being at home is NOT a vacation. You need to change the scenery, relax and unwind, whether it’s far away from home or just visiting relatives and friends.
5. Get organized
Plan ahead for the day and delimit a special place for working. Everything is much easier if you know where your documents, devices and supplies are, ready at hand to be used at a moment’s notice. Keep a positive attitude and buy a comfortable chair to work in — it will do wonders for your mood.
Prioritize tasks, break projects into small steps, divide responsibility and be willing to compromise — perfectionism will set unrealistic goals and make you feel disappointed when you don’t rise up to them. Don’t try to control the uncontrollable, but rather discover some middle ground and even try to find humor in certain situations.
6. Talk to your manager
What seems to have the best effect in a stressful situation at work is extremely obvious, yet often disregarded and avoided — talk to your manager. It’s in his best interest to keep his employees happy and productive, so he’ll be keen on solving whatever issues you may bring up. Have an open discussion and don’t try to complain, but rather work together toward finding mutually beneficial solutions. Avoid conflicts or learn how to deal with them appropriately.
7. Create a support network
Last but not least, you need a support network — whether it’s your work colleagues or your family, don’t be afraid to tell people that you feel overwhelmed and you need help. If the workload is excessive, see if there are any coworkers that might ease the burden and share the assignments. If the children aren’t letting you work in peace, talk to your spouse and try to hire a babysitter or get a grandparent to help out during your work hours.
If cooking and cleaning are taking too much time from what would otherwise be a period dedicated to professional tasks, try to delegate chores or pay someone for housekeeping services. Working from home is still a full-time job and you don’t have to make home chores a second job and get swamped. It will only add to the tension and make you explode.
Stress may be good, too
Remember: stress isn’t always bad. At TRISOFT, we believe a little bit of stress can help you stay focused, dynamic, and able to meet new challenges. It’s what usually keeps you on your toes, but in today’s hectic world, very often it stops being useful and starts causing damage to your mind and body, as well as to your job satisfaction.
If work-related stress is interfering with your work performance, health, or personal life, it’s time to take action. There are always plenty of things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels and regain a sense of control.