Working from home has become the new norm for many of us, especially since the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic, remote work and flexible working arrangement are increasingly more common today. Remote work means no more commuting to work, more flexibility to manage personal matters and professional life, and less stress or conflict with colleagues at work. So why not just switch to remote work if possible? It would definitely solve a whole lot of problems for people taking care of their family. Well, remote work is not all rainbows and butterflies – it can be quite stressful!
Main Challenges in Remote Work
- Work-life Balance
The line between work and personal life becomes blurry when working remotely from home. It can be difficult to set boundaries, because you are free to manage your time in any way. Maybe you have to juggle both family and work tasks from home, so you are facing an increasing workload and do not know where to start and stop.
- Additional Career Pressure
Many remote workers feel the need to project productivity to their company, as they are not at the workplace to show it physically. This creates additional career pressure and often evokes the tendency to take up more work tasks than required, and work outside working hours. It can be difficult to manage increasing workload, which leaves the remote worker feeling dissatisfied and exhausted.
- Staying Productive
Why is it sometimes so much harder to concentrate and work at home? Some people struggle to stay productive in the comfort of their home, as they are used to their work environment. Remote work allows working in pajamas on your couch, getting distracted by screaming kids or going for a walk in the middle of the workday. No wonder it can be hard to focus and concentrate on work tasks in a homey environment where we are used to enjoy our free time.
These main challenges of remote work can create additional stress. Studies have shown that during the pandemic, the experience of perceived stress was especially high amongst people who had to switch to remote work. 75% of remote workers report being stressed and experiencing burnout at work. More than 37% indicate working longer hours than usual. Look out for the following warning signs of a working from home burnout:
- Feeling exhausted after a long workday
- Having negative feelings about your job
- Experiencing decreased professional efficacy
- Being mentally drained
Since many of us are affected by the change to work from home and the stress that comes with it, here are some ways to cope with the challenges of remote work:
- Create a routine and stick to it
Routines strengthen your mental health by reducing the number of decisions you need to make in a day. Having a routine can get you more energy, peace and control. Make sure to specify beforehand where you engage in different activities and tasks, and don’t forget to include physical activity. Daily walks or workouts can benefit your routine and give you more balance!
- Maintain physical, mental and temporal boundaries
Blurry boundaries are the enemy of remote workers. Tackling the problem by its’ core is the solution – try to avoid boundary-crossing activities! For example, no more email checking outside work hours, no more working in pajamas and no more working from the couch. Get your boundaries straight and create a workspace at home that allows you to feel like you are at work. Maybe take a walk in your work clothes before you start working to put you in the right mindset or have a virtual coffee break with your colleagues to structure your workday better.
- Prioritize mental health
Remote workers can easily feel stressed and overwhelmed, as they are automatically less supported when working from home. To take care of your mental health, you can have regular timed breaks within work and meetings to give your workday more structure, or try out tricks like the Pomodoro technique to work more efficiently (https://www.themuse.com/advice/take-it-from-someone-who-hates-productivity-hacksthe-pomodoro-technique-actually-works ). You can also include breathing techniques, short meditations or a gratitude habit in your workday, to make sure you are taking a break from work. There is no pressure to prove yourself to your employer just because you are working from home. Your mindset matters!
If you feel overwhelmed and stressed when working from home, you may benefit from having a routine that includes physical activity, having clear boundaries that help structure your day, and taking regular breaks to increase productivity.
If you are struggling to work remotely and think a professional can help, you can book an appointment here.
Ronja Sina is an intern at Willingness. She graduated with her MSc in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology from the University of Groningen.
Giurge, L. M., & Bohns, V. (2020). 3 Tips to Avoid WFH Burnout. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/04/3-tips-to-avoid-wfh-burnout
Hayes, S. W., Priestley, J. L., Ishmakhametov, N., & Ray, H. E. (2020, July 8). “I’m not Working from Home, I’m Living at Work”: Perceived Stress and Work-Related Burnout before and during COVID-19. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/vnkwa
Remote Work Guide – Avoiding Stress and Burnout. (n.d.). Wrike. Retrieved August 9th, 2021, from https://www.wrike.com/remote-work-guide/remote-work-burnout-mental-health/