For the most part, working remotely means avoiding rush-hour traffic, noisy colleagues, dress codes, your boss breathing down your neck, or feeling like you are chained to your desk, all of which are significant pluses. So, why are you feeling stressed?
Getting used to remote work may cause some unpleasant realities to become apparent as the novelty wears off. This article will explore some symptoms, causes, and solutions to remote work-related stress.
Symptoms of Remote Work Stress and Burnout
Although these can vary from person to person, there are a few key WFH stress symptoms to look out for:
- Struggling with focus and motivation.
- Experiencing high levels of anxiety or irritability.
- Having trouble sleeping or constantly feeling exhausted.
- Degraded work performance and decreased productivity.
- A range of physical symptoms, such as depleted energy, indigestion, headaches, and heart palpitations.
The reality is that you might have experienced some of these symptoms while working from the office. However, being aware of them now is more important than ever, as your colleagues might not spot these symptoms early on since they are not around you. This is why it is crucial to be proactive about your health and well-being when working remotely.
You can start by knowing some common triggers of remote work stress and their solutions.
6 Causes of Work-From-Home Stress and Their Solutions
1. Lack of Social Interaction
We all crave social interaction, especially when we are stuck at home all day. You might be missing out on the water cooler chats or the occasional office banter.
Not having these interactions can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This can be worse if you are an extrovert who prefers working in a busy and stimulating environment. There are several things you can do to overcome remote work loneliness, including:
- Schedule regular check-ins with your team.
- Join an online forum or virtual group related to your work or hobbies.
- Use video chat tools like Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts to have face-to-face conversations with your colleagues.
- Organize virtual coffee breaks with your remote co-workers.
- Create virtual water cooler chat groups to discuss topics unrelated to work.
- Leverage your flexibility to work from places where you can socialize, such as coffee shops or coworking spaces.
Taking the necessary steps to combat loneliness will help you mitigate its harmful effects on your mental health and productivity.
2. Email Overload
There are several ways to communicate in a traditional office setting, including walking to someone’s desk, picking up the phone, meetings, and presentations.
However, when you transition to remote work, you might start using email exclusively to communicate with your colleagues. This can lead to an influx of messages, which can be overwhelming and stressful. There are a few ways to reduce email overload:
- Set aside specific periods during the day to check and respond to emails.
- Set up email filters and rules to help you organize your messages.
- Use other internal communication tools to supplement emails, such as Google Meet, Twist, and Trello.
- Unsubscribe from mailing lists or newsletters you are not interested in.
- Use email tools like Spark or Spike to help you manage your inbox, prioritize vital messages, customize notifications, get follow-up reminders, and more.
In addition to this, you might also want to manage information overload in general. This means being selective with the information you consume, being mindful of your time on social media, and limiting your screen time.
3. Longer Work Hours
One of the reasons remote work has been an unpopular option is because employers believe their employees would slack off without supervision. An ensuing result of this belief is that your supervisor might be inclined to expect more work from you or check in on you more often.
This can lead to longer work hours during the week, and in some cases, working during weekends, giving rise to the “always-on” work culture. But, working longer hours does not necessarily result in better work. However, it can hurt your well-being and lead to burnout. There are a few things you can do to manage long work hours:
- Set realistic expectations with your supervisor.
- Take breaks, even short ones, to rejuvenate and refuel.
- Set work-life boundaries and stick to them.
- Set your availability in your calendar and communication app, so people know when you are available.
- Create a customized work-from-home schedule to match your availability and needs.
- Boost your wellness by getting enough quality sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.
4. Long and Unnecessary Meetings
Chances are, you are you have been invited to an unlimited number of meetings since you started working remotely, from status update meetings and brainstorming sessions to standup meetings.
While some meetings are necessary, you can avoid many of them to save time and avoid Zoom fatigue. There are a few ways to do this:
- You can start by ensuring that your must-have meetings are as productive as possible by sending meeting agendas in advance, setting time limits, and only inviting the right people.
- Use project management and asynchronous communication tools to pitch new ideas, share updates, collaborate on projects, and explain tasks.
- Replace non-urgent videoconference meetings with concise written updates that you can add to your internal wiki.
5. Less Physical Activity
One often-overlooked downside of remote work is that you might not get as much physical activity as you would in an office setting; no more walking to the bus stop, down the street to grab lunch, up and down the stairs to the copy room, or your colleague’s desk.
If, like many, your daily movements consist of walking from your bed to your office chair, which might be in the same room, you could be exposing yourself to several health risks.
Working from home typically involves being trapped in one place for long periods, leading to less physical activity and increased risk for conditions like obesity, heart disease, and depression. To offset the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, you can:
- Try to get up and move regularly.
- Take a break to walk, even if it’s just around the block.
- Invest in a standing or treadmill desk.
- Download a fitness app like FitOn, and set goals to increase your activity levels.
Ensuring that you boost your physical activity levels will improve your well-being and productivity.
6. Technical Failures
You might be responsible for your technology setup and troubleshooting when you work from home, and you may no longer be able to count on that handy tech support colleague down the hall to help you with your computer issues.
This can lead to problems like poor internet connection, computer crashes, software issues, and lost files, which can be overwhelming, particularly if you are not tech-savvy. To reduce the chances of technical failures, you can:
- Make sure you have a backup when your internet goes out, like a mobile hotspot.
- Make sure your devices have all the necessary software updates.
- Secure your connection with a VPN to prevent data breaches.
- Create a system restore point on your computer if you need to repair your system.
- Make sure that you back up your files regularly to an external hard drive or the cloud.
Taking proactive steps to prevent technical failures will help you stay productive and avoid stressful situations.
Outpace Common WFH Stressors for Better Productivity
Working from home can be a great experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. By outpacing the most common work-from-home stressors, you can improve your well-being. Try implementing the tips we have mentioned above to enjoy a stress-free and productive remote work experience.