Work from home stress during the lockdown and how it is affecting professionals, working men/women from all walks of life. This global pandemic has lead to a series of unplanned events affecting almost every aspect of life.
This reminds me of a very recent interaction I had with a friend of mine. How his dream of working in a remote cafe in the Himalayas sipping his favorite cup of cafe latte turning into a nightmare.
Cut to a month back, his office made all the plans to set up the employee workstations at home in light of the coronavirus outbreak which has made work from home a necessity to keep businesses ticking. I still remember the excitement in his voice when he broke the news to me.
Work from home stress during the lockdown
Just a couple of days back, I received a call from my friend. In a rather grumpy tone, he started with a long monologue on the work from home stress he is facing currently. I noticed how his dreams of a flexible work-life balance had turned into a sour reality. While remote working can be an exciting proposition in some cases, it can be quite an upheaval task in other situations
Adding to that, the element of isolation makes it further challenging. In the case of my friend, he is spending most of his free time on phone calls with friends to take out his frustrations or he is looking for tips on google to handle work from home stress during the lockdown.
Why is working from home during the COVID 19 outbreak has become a stressful task?
Take a moment and close your eyes, visualize the word office. What picture comes to your mind? It can be your office desk, the pile of files, your gossip with colleagues, your workstation, or your brainstorming meetings with your boss. It can be anything that connects you with your work. Your brain associates your office with your work.
Now picture your home in your mind’s eye. What do you see? You might see your room, your reading area, your family members or your pets. It can be anything. For me, the picture that shows up is spending leisure time with my 6-year-old daughter. Home, for many, is associated with leisure and spending fun times with family members.
So when you start out your work from home during the lockdown you are essentially telling your brain to disassociate the feelings of leisure your home brings to you and set a routine that mimics the one at your office. You are basically trying to change your hard-wired habits at a subconscious level which can take a good amount of time to get used to.
While the hours at the workplace can vary, going to the office usually sets up your whole day. It brings a structure to your day. You get in the morning, get ready, Go to your office and get the work done with your colleagues. For many people, it has become ingrained in their brains.
Now compare this to a work from home situation, you get up in the morning and you are all by yourself. You get connected to your boss and team members through phone and skype but they are not there to check on you all the time. Reporting to your bosses is way more different in a work environment.
Work from home bubble bust
Work from home can initially give you a fake sense of freedom but it can very quickly start hampering your productivity in no time causing the first trigger for work from home stress during the lockdown.
Offices in a physical setup adopt a work culture suited to optimize workflow and productivity. For many employees, working in their cubicles can really get them in the zone. You can collaborate with your team in real-time. People are there to push you, accountability in the face of meeting deadlines seems much more real.
There are systems deployed to measure the work done by employees in offices. Maybe by continuous reporting and filling the timesheets to report their work output which makes them accountable to be on their toes to get their work done. Now imagine bringing this kind of work culture into a work from the home ecosystem. It can be hard to put it into practice, isn’t it?
How work from home hampers your work productivity
Employers can literally go into an overkill to connect and coordinate with employees in work from home situations. It means more phone calls, constantly replying to WhatsApp messages, handling many con calls and video conferences. It can make employees cranky and add to their work from home stress during the lockdown.
Connecting via technology can take a chunk of your productive time and disrupt your rhythm in a work from home scenario, for high-performing employees, any sort of inefficiency can lead to stress and unnecessary irritability. Work from home makes you vulnerable to a host of distractions that you will not find in a physical office.
If you are a working mom, you have the challenge of working along with managing your kids. A friend of mine once shared a laugh with me on how her elder daughter used to start playing in the background to gain attention in the middle of her skype meetings with her clients. It can seem funny in retrospect but ask working mothers and they will tell you how stressful it can get to manage kids, especially the hyperactive ones while working from home.
The element of isolation further adds to your parenting wows. Kids generally love going out and playing outdoors. In the lockdown that has been imposed on them, this is not a possibility. They can’t meet their other buddies too. In such a situation, a mom is expected to be a multitasker super mom, who can manage to strike the perfect balance between work and managing the kids effectively.
It helps if she has an understanding spouse. Both of whom can work as a team to take care of the kids while managing the work from home stress during the lockdown that comes with it. For working women, work from home can turn out to be a struggle during isolation because when you are at home the daily household chores are never seen to end.
You are working both as a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee at the same time. If you have a demanding mother in law, it can become really stressful as with elders, they fail to understand the concept of doing office work from home. Have you ever come across elderly people for whom, work is not working unless you are going to a physical office? Well, you are not alone if you have ever experienced this. If there is any dysfunctional element in your family from a demanding mother in law to an abusive husband, it can worsen your work from home stress during the isolation.
Work from home presents a great challenge to your ability to focus. While dealing with a lot of things currently going on, trying to seek escape from it people seek diversion on online stuff like playing online games, strolling social media sites thus piling up his workload and running into an overtime situation. It can be gaming for someone or binge-watching a Netflix series on the side for someone else. A lack of a controlling office environment can make you do things at your own pace along with succumbing to your guilty pleasures. It all adds up to ultimately increase your work from home stress during the lockdown.
A handy tip can be to use tools that block your favorite websites and work with self-discipline. Using the Pomodoro technique where you work in blocks of time eliminating any sort of distraction. If you imbibe it in your attitude that work from home is the same as it is in an office environment. You will get the same optimum results as you were getting in an office environment.
Lack of social connection
I am not talking about the gossip with your colleagues over a tea break. Work from home stress during the lockdown increases because it brings a sense of disconnection. When I was working in a corporate office, face-to-face interaction and occasional banter with colleagues brought the necessary relief from the monotony and increased my ability to cope up with the pressure of meeting deadlines.
Also, some works are better accomplished through task allocation in teams. Face-to-face presence can make the coordination, response, and feedback among teams better as compared to work from home. There is a greater likelihood of everyone being on the same page in an office environment.
Whether work from home will suit the employees or not depends on the nature of the job also. For jobs that are process-driven and repetitive in nature, work from home during isolation can make life difficult for you. However, if your job is a creative one, then work from home can actually give you the solitude required to think clearly. In such a case, it can enhance your productivity also.
Keep your phone away
In your schedule, make time for spaced-out meetings by coordinating between your team so that you don’t need to check your phone again and again for the constant pings you can receive. Make a to-do list or agenda for the day and go by that. Use Bluetooth headphones to attend to those urgent calls but try to keep the phone away as much as possible. It will not eat up into your productivity and you will be able to do more during the day.
Set a schedule for yourself.
You can work at a stretch of 1 hour and take a 10-minute break and move a little around the house. Just the other day, a friend of mine complained that he has experienced acidity for the first time in life as he has been working from home for the first time. Give yourself a break and stretch yourself, walk around the house in those 10 minutes. Drink lots of water. Work from home stress during the lockdown can make your cortisol levels go up, short meditation sessions can supercharge your mind and keep it calm.
First things first, create a professional-looking space that can even be a desk to give you a feel of the office environment. Our mind works through images. Create a workspace that resembles your office cubicle. It should be away from your bedroom or any space that makes it tempting for you to relax and feel drowsy.
While working from home, it may prove difficult for you to keep your drive going. You can literally hack your brain to keep going. See, the human brain works on a reward system. It craves rewards. Divide your work into small achievable tasks and give yourself a reward that can be anything like eating your favorite food (homemade at this point of time) to binge-watch a series after the day’s work and see how easy it becomes to get through the day.
Know that it shall pass
If you are experiencing work from stress during the lockdown, you are not alone. Also, keep reminding yourself that it is a makeshift arrangement and won’t last forever. Develop a hobby side by side to keep you sane and handle the situation with a sense of creativity.
Working from home during the lockdown can be stressful. It can lead to a feeling of boredom and lack of interest in work. However, if you manage your time well by identifying the stressors, you can reap the benefits of greater flexibility or at least save your time on long commutes if nothing else.
I hope this post helps you guys to relieve a little bit. Remember, we all are together in this and we will get through this. Just take one day at a time and structure your day it will help you to calm your mind and put you at ease. Please take care of your work and your mental space.
Priyanka Nair is the author of 26 Days 26 Ways for a Happier you and Ardhaviram. An NLP practitioner and Founder of Sanity Daily, helping you prioritize your mental health. Let’s build a happy community.