If you do any or all of your work from home, maybe this scenario sounds familiar to you: You’ve got a tight deadline coming up on a work project and you’re worried you’ve fallen behind. Then you realize your refrigerator is on the fritz and you need to arrange for a repair. While you’re doing that, a text comes in from your dentist, reminding you about an appointment in two days. If it feels like the demands of your remote work and non-work life are all being whirled together; you’re not alone. The combination can be stressful. Here are some ways to manage your remote work stress.
While not every industry can have its employees work from home, the pandemic years showed many companies what was possible – and sometimes even more productive – when it came to allowing remote work schedules. The share of employees reporting at-home work rose from less than 5% in early 2019 to more than 60% by May 2020, according to WFH Research, a data-collection project. Since then, there has been a return-to-the-office push by some companies. But others found benefits to having their employees work either fully remote or on an office-remote hybrid schedule. WFH Research noted earlier this year that about 30% of all work was still being done remotely.
Remote work and stress
While working from home offers conveniences and perks, lots of at-home workers have come to depend on, it also can create stress in ways that office environments do not. Some employees do not thrive in solo workspaces. They miss social interaction with their co-workers. They feel better about working if they can bounce ideas off other people in person. For some, working alongside others keeps them on track and productive, and makes them more accountable for their work. Others have trouble setting boundaries between home and work time. This can make them feel overloaded. Loneliness, anxiety and stress can result from all of this.
Signs of stress
Whatever the cause, stress can cause short-term mental and physical problems as well as contribute to chronic illnesses. That’s why it’s so important to recognize and manage your stress level. How do you know if you’re stressed? Signs of stress, according to the Cleveland Clinic, include:
- Being overly tired or easily fatigued
- A weakened immune system leading to more illnesses
Managing remote work stress
Just like each person’s body reacts to stress differently, there are individual solutions for remote workers who feel stressed out. If you are currently working remotely and have the option to go back to the office – either full-time or on a hybrid schedule – it’s worth trying that to see if your stress level decreases.
If your plan is to keep working from home, here are ways you can bring down the stress in your home office environment:
- First, set firm boundaries: Work within your appointed work schedule only. Set an alarm, if needed, reminding yourself to be done at 5 p.m., if that is the time you’d normally leave the office. Be strict about not letting work drift into your off-work hours.
- Be efficient during your work hours: Make a daily list and get everything done that you can. This will ensure good productivity, but it will also make you feel better about cutting your work off at the end of the day and transitioning into home life.
- Take lunches and breaks: If you were in the office, you’d take time for lunch or a walk for a coffee. Do the same at home. Giving yourself a dedicated meal time and morning and afternoon breaks will allow you to return to work feeling more energized.
- Exercise: Work exercise into your work day. It’s a great stress-buster. This can be a walk at lunchtime, or a short at-home treadmill or weight-lifting session during break time. Or save your workout for after your work hours so you can devote more time to a walk with friends or family or a trip to the gym.
- A mind-calming routine: Add something to your day that is mentally calming. This could be meditation, yoga, journaling, or just time away from loud sounds and computer screens. Quiet downtime helps people feel more relaxed.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below:
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382
- A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7.
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982
- Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider.
- Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.