Wow, 2020, so much of life as we know it has changed. For one, the relationship between work and home is increasingly blurred due to an increasing preference for work from home arrangements.
While these measures are designed to help stay safe, remote work comes with its own challenges. Factors such as an unfamiliar work environment, the lack of a defined structure and distractions we didn’t know exist can all take their toll.
As a result, instead of giving us more control over our time, remote work can leave us stressed instead, robbing us of our vitality and productivity.
If you’re seeing rising levels of stress as you work from home, these tips can help you get a grip and find ways to become more relaxed, happier and healthier.
Remote work can often feel strange. We’re used to the body and thought processes of leaving home for work in the morning, and returning home for a rest-filled evening. But work from home can blur the lines between the two, so we don’t know where work ends and home begins.
Allowing this to happen can be dangerous. You may find yourself either doing too much (extending work hours long beyond normal closing), or not doing enough (using work time for play).
Either way, it’s beneficial to maintain clear boundaries between work time and rest time. While this can be hard, especially due to the distractions of being at home (more time for social media or family keeps checking in), it’s possible.
Start by designating a room or a secluded space in the home as your work space, and make sure you only work here. Additionally, dressing up for work in the morning can help, as it makes you feel like the work day is about to begin. But that’s not all…
Productivity experts advise that setting a schedule for work from home can be helpful. While it can be liberating to work only when you feel like it, distractions you don’t expect can crop up, causing you to work longer.
By deliberately planning your work day, you can give yourself enough time to complete work and still enjoy play or rest time. But it’s absolutely important to avoid being overly rigid with your routine.
If you’re not required to be on call at specific times each day, you can plan your routine around when you’re most productive. Or if your baby gets her nap at a specific time of the day, you can plan some work for that period instead.
It’s also a great idea to prioritize your most challenging tasks. Getting them out of the way early not only leaves you with lighter work for the rest of the day, you’ll feel more productive and satisfied at what you’ve accomplished.
Whether you’re having a slow work day or getting absolutely killed at your workstation, sometimes you need to come up for air. This may also be the case when distractions are coming at you from all sides and you’re close to losing it.
When you’re at this point, it’s beneficial to just step back and take a breather. Give yourself 5-15 minutes away from your work station and allow yourself cool off. You can take a walk, do some yoga, get a snack or chat with your loved ones – the point is just to let some steam off.
Those mini-breaks can be powerful tools that help you regain mental sharpness and center yourself before proceeding with work. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, taking these short breaks can improve productivity. Danish students who received a short break before a test reported significantly higher scores than other students who didn’t get a break.
You can use apps, like Time Out (for Mac), to remind yourself when it’s time to take a break, stretch out a bit or find a more comfy sitting position.
Remote work can make it easier to focus on work – since there’s no longer the distraction of chatty co-workers coming by for some quick office gossip. But while this can initially feel blissful, not having people to talk to outside your immediate family can wear on you.
In fact, according to a study by the European Foundation and the International Labor Office this can also lead to stress. The study found that 41% of remote employees reported feeling more stress, compared to 25% of their colleagues working at the office. One of the reasons for this was the social isolation of working from home.
That’s why taking the time out to connect with friends can be a great stress relief measure during remote work. Apart from the fact that this will give you an opportunity to step back from work, it can also be the perfect opportunity to share your burdens with an understanding friend.
You’ll feel much better for it, and if your friend also happens to be a work colleague, you might get a chance to catch up on some of that office gossip.
If you’ve made your daily routine, there’s something you should always keep in mind – plans do not work all the time. Sometimes, certain tasks take much longer than you expect, or you just don’t feel motivated or energized for work.
Even if you have been unable to make a routine, it’s important that you don’t beat yourself up. Just living through a pandemic is difficult, much more trying to work through one.
As a result, you should know it’s okay to not be at your absolute best all the time. Understand that you are doing your best and give yourself points for effort. This is important because the more guilt or blame you heap upon yourself, the more stressed you’ll become.
Instead, accept that it’s not all gone according to plan and then see where you might tweak things to help. But also appreciate the fact that circumstances do not always fit plans. So, always ensure your plans are flexible and can accommodate a lazy day or a period when you’re just not strong enough to keep up.
Finally, as you adjust your life and work habits to manage stress, it’s important to also focus on the needs of your body. When our mind and body are not functioning at peak efficiency, it can make it harder to get work done, leaving us feeling stressed and disappointed.
Irregular work schedules and the stress of remote work can also interfere with our optimal health, including depriving us of healthy sleep.
The European Foundation and ILO study found that prolonged use of devices can interfere with our sleep cycle, leading to stress. 45% of remote workers reported frequently waking up at night as a result, compared with just 29% of office workers.
Less sleep means less energy, and this robs us of the motivation and mental alertness we need for the work day. That’s why taking care of our mind and body is important, and there’s no better way to achieve this than with nootropics.
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