Remote work has become a popular option for many employees and employers around the world. It allows for greater flexibility in work schedules, work-life balance and eliminates the need for long commutes. However, despite the many advantages of remote work, it can become a source of stress for many people. In this long-form blog, we will explore how remote work can increase your stress levels and how to combat it.
Comfort and Isolation
One of the main advantages of remote work is the comfort of being able to work from home. You can wear comfortable clothes, work at your own pace, and create your ideal work environment. However, this comfort can quickly turn into isolation, as remote workers can feel disconnected from their colleagues and decision-makers. The lack of social interaction can lead to loneliness, which in turn can cause negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression. Furthermore, isolation can lead to decreased motivation and productivity, which can make work more stressful.
To combat this, establish regular communication with a team, even if that means scheduling virtual coffee chats or video conferencing meetings to recount staycations, weekend experiences, or funny incidents at home. This will generate a stronger bond and sense of camaraderie within the team, can your experiences for the better, and builds a support system around remote workers.
Working from home can be a source of distraction. Unlike a physical workplace, the home is not designed for work. Therefore, it is easier to get distracted by household tasks, family members, and pets. These distractions can cause delays in work completion and increased stress levels. To avoid this, it is important to create a dedicated workspace to separate work from leisure activities.
Furthermore, creating a schedule that tells yourself and others when you are expected to be at your workspace and available to communicate can keep unnecessary distractions at bay. It might be difficult for others to recognize the importance of people’s schedules, so it is helpful to make sure that everyone knows that you are not to be disturbed during certain times.
Lack of Structure and Boundaries
Remote work offers greater flexibility in terms of work hours and location. However, this flexibility can cause a lack of structure and boundaries, leading to increased stress levels. Without a clear structure, it can be challenging to prioritize work activities, which can lead to procrastination and missed deadlines. Additionally, the flexibility can make it difficult to manage work-life balance. Working remotely can cause a blurring of work and home life, leading to increased stress levels.
To combat this, one should establish clear work hours in which they commit to complete their work. It’s necessary to limit the chances of overworking, especially if there’s no visible line between work and leisure. Schedule in daily activities and assign time limits to break up the monotony of the day. Even if you are free to choose your working hours, it’s best to choose a preferred schedule that won’t disrupt your sleeping schedule, your leisure activities, or your family time.
Remote work heavily relies on technology, from video conferencing to cloud-based software. Unfortunately, technology can be a source of stress. Technical difficulties and glitches can cause delays in work and lost productivity. Furthermore, the constant need to check emails and notifications can lead to a feeling of being “always on”, as there is no clear separation between work and leisure.
To combat this, establish digital wellness measures. Create rules that help you balance your personal and work responsibilities. It’s crucial to establish fresh definitions of your workday and your weekend, and to stick to them. Other measures include installing applications that remove distracting notifications and avoid checking work-related activities when you are not at work.
Lack of Support
Remote workers may not have access to the same level of support as their colleagues in physical workplaces. This can be a source of stress, as it can be challenging to get quick responses to questions or have face-to-face discussions. Additionally, remote workers may not have access to the same resources, such as training or equipment, which can make work more challenging.
To combat this, make sure to stay connected with your team and management to ask for support when needed. Ask if communication protocols can be established and executed, ensure there’s attention given to requests and promptly addressed, and establish an open channel of communication. To ensure everyone is on the same page, schedule check-ins to stay connected with your team, each of which can help to dispel anxieties and offer support.
The Importance of Taking Breaks
One important aspect of combating stress while working remotely is taking breaks. It’s very easy to get caught up in work and forget to take a break. However, taking short, frequent breaks has been found to increase productivity and reduce stress levels. It’s better to take a break after completing a task, before starting another to prevent burnout. Even taking just a few minutes to stretch, meditate, or walk can make a huge difference.
Managing Stress in a Virtual Environment
Working remotely can make it more challenging to manage stress, as there is no physical separation between work and personal life, and no support system as in physical workplaces. There exist steps to manage stress in a virtual environment.
Firstly, when working remotely, create a schedule that is realistic and adherable while avoiding overworking. This will help you stay on top of your work, without feeling overwhelmed or burned out. Secondly, effort to stay connected with your colleagues by networking and using chat channels or video conferencing software, and talking with them about what they’re feeling. Lastly, prioritize mindfulness and self-care activities, such as moderate exercise, meditation, or other stress-promoting activities.
Effective Communication within Remote Teams
The key to success when it comes to remote work is effective communication. It can be challenging to communicate over different time zones and establish routine communication. Therefore, communication protocols must be established to ensure remote workers have the resources they require to do their job effectively. Software applications, email groups or forums can be implemented to promote discussion, update the group and communicate goals and deadlines.
Organizations can also establish set meeting times, and regular updates to keep remote workers informed about company news, new projects, and objectives. Similarly, they can create policies that encourage checking in with remote workers to provide support, feedback or build a greater sense of community.
Finally, as communication can suffer from misinterpretations, especially if English is not the primary language, always use clear and concise language with regard to company policies, deadlines and goals to avoid misunderstandings.
The Importance of Feedback and Support
One significant challenge of remote work is the lack of support and feedback from colleagues and managers that may lead to feelings of isolation and anxiety regarding how the workers are performing. Therefore, it’s critical that remote workers receive regular feedback on their progress and receive support when necessary.
To overcome this, companies can adopt a feedback culture by using project management software to track the progress of each worker, giving regular feedback and recognition regarding target accomplishments. This helps to ensure that remote workers are on track, and more likely to spot any obstacles before they become pressing issues.
In addition, companies can provide access to training opportunities, resources, and tools that will help employees expand their skills and competencies. This will help to build a sense of community and promote greater knowledge and proficiency.
Remote work can offer significant benefits, including greater flexibility, improved work-life balance, and less time spent commuting. However, it can also contribute to elevated stress levels due to isolation, distractions, and improper structure. Taking frequent breaks, establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life, and maintaining connection with colleagues are all key elements to coping with stress in a remote work environment. Lastly, setting common goals, communicating team objectives, and providing regular feedback and support can help foster engagement and promote the success of remote work.