Today more people than ever are working from home. Many at-home workers revel in their new-found freedom: no more commutes, working in their pajamas, snacking whenever they want, being out from under “the boss”, etc. Some workers, however, have found that working from home is a lot harder than it looks.
Shared Space Can Create Conflict
Resisting the pull of family life is a lot more difficult when it’s taking place on the other side of the bedroom wall instead of on the other side of town. At the office, your employer sets space, time and silence boundaries for you. At home, you have to defend your own work time and space. Even worse, you have to defend it from your own loved ones.
One of the great things about family life is the fact that it’s so informal. When you have to restrict that informality to after-work hours, family members can get irritated. Hard feelings can linger after the workday is over, affecting both your home and your work life.
Many people have circumstances that make working from home particularly difficult. What if you have two remote workers and only one home office? Who gets the closet?
What if you have young children? Should you still take them to daycare every morning? What if your daycare isn’t reliable or your children get sick? Do you take off work or try to muddle through?
If you were going into an office, these choices would be made for you. When you work from home, there can be some of stressful decisions to make.
More Isolation, Less Communication
It’s much easier to get work done at home if you’re the only person there. No one is watching television in the background or expecting you to drop what you’re doing to change a diaper or help with homework. However, even though you have fewer interruptions when working alone, it can be extremely isolating.
Workplace communication is also very different from remote communication. Zoom meetings aren’t the same as chatting around the water cooler. Interactions with co-workers are less spontaneous and informal in a remote setting. This can have a negative impact on co-worker relationships. It can also change the dynamic of workplace politics. Huge Study Suggests Remote Work Creates Silos, Changes Communication (businessinsider.com)
Self-Discipline and Employer Expectations
If the upside of working from home is less supervision, the downside is the need for more self-discipline. Even remote jobs have deadlines and benchmarks. This is how employers make sure they’re still getting their money’s worth. Remote workers have to keep themselves on track to meet these expectations.
Some employers trust their employees more than others. It’s natural, however, to want to verify that your trust is well-placed. In a remote setting, employers can be especially sensitive to perceived “slacking”. Employees may be expected to do more, not less, work when working remotely. They may be allowed to make fewer, not more, excuses if they don’t measure up.
Cope With What You Can’t Change
When faced with any stressful situation, there is a temptation to solve it by escaping. Sometimes, if the stress is toxic and escape is an option, this is the best solution. Other times, it’s more realistic, and less stressful in the long run, to try to cope with the job situation we’re in.
Plan a Daily Change of Scenery
One of the nice things about working at an office is the ability to walk away at the end of the day. Here are some suggestions for giving you a similar change of scenery at the end of your workday:
- Set up an office in a location that is separate from your normal living space. Consider using an attic, a basement or a backyard shed. When you get off work close the door, walk away and don’t go back until the next morning.
- Take your old commute time and turn it into a break at the end of the day. Take a walk, go out for coffee, visit the library or do something with a friend.
- Spend time outdoors each day. Be sure to get yourself the proper weather gear, so you never have an excuse to stay inside all day. Spending time outdoors is a proven stress reliever.
Stick to a Schedule
A daily routine helps set work life apart from home life. It will be easier for both you and your family if you follow a set schedule for work. Start at the same time each day. Whenever possible, quit work at the same time each day. This relieves stress in several ways.
- A schedule lets everyone know what to expect, which reduces conflict.
- A consistent quitting time sends the message that family is more important than work.
- It helps you give yourself permission to relax at the end of the workday.
Take Care of Yourself
Everything is less stressful when you feel well.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Don’t eat where you work. Working from home makes it more important than ever to eat at the dinner table, far away from your desk.
- Stop smoking if you’re a smoker. This is extremely difficult, as every smoker knows. In the short run it will probably create more stress than it will relieve. In the long run, however, you’ll feel much better and be better equipped to cope.
- Spend 150 minutes a week in moderate exercise. Exercise is a proven stress reliever. It also helps people live longer and feel better.
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
- Spend time with friends. Having a strong social network helps strengthen people emotionally. It gives them a support system to rely on when feeling isolated.
- Tired of spending 24 hours a day at home? Plan fun reasons to leave the house. Whether it’s a concert to attend, a movie to see, a short weekend trip or a drive in the country, having something to look forward to helps cheer us up.
- Take time to relax. Some people meditate, some take long baths or long motorcycle rides. Indulge in whatever helps you take your mind off your work.