While we hear a lot about workplace stress, there’s a growing concern about the impacts of working from home. Remote work has naturally gained significant attention and traction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was, for many people, a great sigh of relief because now they have to work from home, and this meant they were able to get a lot more done but also be more productive with their workloads. Now the tide has firmly turned.
Businesses are saying that an office-based approach is far more productive, and yes, there were studies to confirm and deny the great productivity of people working from home. But while there have been many advantages, and those organizations that have pushed for a remote-first culture, it has shed light on a new type of stress.
The stress of working from home is something that might not be so obvious on the surface. Working from home is beneficial depending on the person. But there are so many things to discuss here in terms of the emotional stress, the isolation, but also the concern that someone working from home is just not in the loop. Let’s touch on some of the more serious components and what we can all do to tackle them.
Working from Home When Sick: Should We Just “Push Through?”
While so many businesses have robust sickness policies, when we work from home anyway, there can be the desire to push through. It’s something that, prior to the pandemic, became a way for businesses to force their employees to get more done. Any employee that has a laptop can easily do their work from home, no matter how sick they feel.
But in a traditional office setting, taking sick days is the norm, and while there is that pressure to push through, this can have adverse effects on both the physical and mental health of the worker. We still need to recognize the importance of rest and recovery, regardless of the environment. Many organizations have started to provide access to online medical services. These days, it’s easy enough to get an online doctor’s note from organizations like DrHouse and be able to consult with a doctor remotely or obtain a medical certificate if necessary. This ensures employees receive the necessary medical attention, but more importantly, this reduces the pressure on the employees to work while they are unwell.
Some antiquated line managers can embody an approach that if someone’s working at home anyway they can still get work done because they’re lazing on the couch. There is that unwritten anxiety that organizations are not able to keep tabs on their employees as well, but this is why a robust sickness policy should be part and parcel of a forward-thinking organization. Many employees feel that they need to go into the office and work even if they’re sick; however, post-pandemic, we should all take inspiration from a few years ago and recognize the impact on our colleagues.
Why Routine Is Even More Important at Home
To address the anxiety that can come with working from home, we need to ensure we’re not distracted by our irregular habits. For the sake of calming stress and anxiety, we have to remember that, as human beings, we thrive on routine. This is critical in any environment.
While many people need the routine of going to work, the commute can easily get the better of us. Working from home means that we should effectively have two different modes: working from home, but also living at home, and ne’er the twain shall meet. However, many people have yet to catch on, even in a post-pandemic world. While those people were more keen to get back to the office because they didn’t thrive at home, those who needed to work remotely for the sake of child care or even running a household without the necessary commute have a routine and, in fact, separating work life from home life, for example, by having a dedicated room for work, can make a big difference.
Lots of people don’t have the luxury of a spare room in which to work, and this is why simple tools such as getting yourself into a work frame of mind by physically dressing for the job can make a big impact. This also helps to boost our confidence and our commitment to the role. Separating our work mode and home mode is very important. This also includes taking regular breaks. We can all feel the temptation to keep working because we’re at home and we need to overcompensate.
We should remember that regular breaks will put a structure into our day and help us form healthy habits, whether it’s in terms of eating healthier or actually incorporating exercise into our lunch break. Working from home is something we should cherish because we can actually make the most of it.
Feeling Part of the Team When You’re Not Physically There
One of the most significant challenges of working remotely is the feeling of isolation. Many individuals miss the social interaction that comes with working in an office, and the biggest problem many businesses have is that everything in their opinion contributes to the bottom line, and this includes the employees. Therefore, if they’re paying rent on a building, they need to have butts on seats.
However, adopting a hybrid working policy can get the best of both worlds and be more employee-focused. But if there’s one hidden stress of remote workers, it’s the feeling of being left out. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that if you’re not in the office but everyone else is, you’re not joining in with that team spirit. However, you need to find your own ways of feeling part of that team while still getting the work-life balance that is so essential to your health.
Virtual team-building activities or regular video conferences are a couple of things that need to be put into a rigid working structure. Lots of people feel frustrated by the limits of technology; however, communicating with other teams online just requires certain etiquette. And it’s an etiquette that can potentially go out the window when you’re not in person. For example, people can talk over each other in meetings, and if there’s one benefit to be had of online meetings, it’s that everyone has the opportunity to contribute in a way that they may not necessarily feel emboldened to do so in person. There is that sense of being protected by the screen.
Feeling part of the team will contribute to your sense of well-being, but there is most definitely a concern that remote workers are being left behind. This can stem from a cultural issue, which can easily be remedied by an open forum or open-door policy from the leaders, but also from the employees who are working remotely. It’s up to a company to make their employees feel part of the team, and therefore if they don’t, it is the fault of leadership, not the employee, and it’s important for any remote worker to remember this.
Is the Freedom in Working from Home Contributing to Our Stress Levels?
One of the biggest problems in working from home is the blue boundaries between work and personal life. Many people felt that during the pandemic, they have to always be on. Remote workers need to establish those clear boundaries and practice self-care. However, from the perspective of an organization, it may not always be clear-cut, partly because those leaders are always on themselves.
But we have to remember the importance of carving out time for ourselves and understand that burnout from remote work is a real thing because remote employees feel they have no emotional support from their employers. This can completely be attributed to a lack of personal interaction but also a lack of communication.
How We Can All Use Remote Working to Be Better Workers
With so many concerns afoot, it’s easy to overlook the positive aspects of working remotely. If we manage it effectively, we can easily foster a greater work-life balance. Ultimately, the duties of the role will dictate how feasible the job actually is.
Working to engage people on different levels may seem like an in-person task, but remote working invariably creates greater flexibility. If we incorporate daily habits into our routines, it can help us become more resilient and refined workers.
While working from home is, for many, a lifeline, it’s still important to address the nature of working from home effectively, which arguably many people haven’t refined quite yet. Ensuring that companies have a welcoming approach to flexibility will increase employee engagement, but from the perspective of a worker at home, they want to work remotely for reasons beyond the mere professional part of the role.
Therefore, while remote working has become a beneficial option for many, there is still a discussion to be had about the challenges it presents. Lots of organizations think the solution is simple: get them back into the office. However, remote working can leverage a number of advantages. With the right approaches and attitudes, we can successfully navigate this modern epidemic.