Tips for Maintaining Balance While Working Remotely
For some of us, working remotely is not business as usual. In the face of a pandemic, working remotely is not business as usual for any of us. A change in routine like this is bound to create stress and imbalance in our lives.
The stress in working from home is twofold. First, there are the logistical dynamics; your kids are home, your spouse is likely working from home as well and you’re there 24x7. And then there is the atypical stress; stress about what’s going on in the world today. Many are feeling the strain of the very real threat of illness, mortality and financial concerns. This type of stress is unprecedented in our lifetimes, new to nearly everyone in the world.
Stress management is very important in a time like this. There are lasting effects of stress on mental and physical health and stress in one family member is typically carried over to others. Stress can cause headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, short temper and difficulty concentrating. And, chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
Often, we may not recognize we are under stress, so getting ahead of it proactively is very important. Adapting our work and life situations to create a more natural feel to a completely unnatural situation can help reduce stress for ourselves and our families. The following are a variety of approaches that can help with creating balance and mitigating stress.
- Create a suitable work environment
Try to find a space in your home that provides the proper privacy and comfort to support your work. You’ll want to be sure you have suitable lighting, the proper furniture to work at home and a set of rules on how the family should approach you while you’re in work mode.
- Establish boundaries
Working from home means you’re never far from your desk. But this is not an excuse to get pulled into working when you shouldn’t be. Set a start and end time for your workday and try to stick to it.
- Virtual breaks
At work, we socialized with our colleagues during breaks and in passing. Remote work doesn’t give us the same opportunities to feel connected to our work friends. Consider holding a weekly video conference happy hour with your work team. Bring your favorite snack and refreshment and add fun elements to keep things light, like dressing up or wearing a hat or a mask.
- Redefine your escape
Most people have a routine, things they do regularly to escape. Perhaps it is visiting a restaurant or bar or browsing your favorite garden center. Since you can’t escape anywhere due to travel moratoriums and stay-at-home orders, you’ll need to learn new stress management techniques. Both yoga and meditation are stress-relieving methods and there are ample apps and online videos that can help you to learn how. Implementing just a few minutes a day can make a big difference.
- Create a plan
Creating a calendar of things to do each night of the week creates routine and gives family members something to look forward to. You can try and mimic your normal routines as much as possible. Perhaps Friday night is still date night, but the adjustment is that the family room belongs to the grownups that night, or the kids serve them dinner.
- Change the way you gather
Spending time with family members helps us feel connected and at peace, and long separation from family members can introduce stress. Thankfully technology enables us to get together, albeit differently. Create a regular family video conference. Being in touch can help people feel more connected and holding the gathering regularly gives everyone something to look forward to.
- Kick it old school
With everyone at home and naturally gravitating to devices, it’s important to take a break from screen time. Consider, “what did my grandparents do?” Activities that don’t involve screens are a good change of pace and can be fun for the whole family. Consider family games or watching a movie together. Look through family photo albums and relive stories. Maybe build a fort with the kids in your living room. Time together is time to build connections with family again.
- Get outside
A change of scenery is always good. With spring approaching, now is a great time for outdoor activities. Spring cleanup, planting a garden, washing cars and cleaning windows are all activities the whole family can participate in and things that will feel good once they’re done.
Moving is good for your health and stress relief. And, while your usual routine might involve the gym, there are plenty of activities you can do at home to help keep you and the family in shape. Enjoy running? Plan out a route that adds up to a marathon in your yard or neighborhood. Or, build an obstacle course for the family in the yard and hold a family contest to complete it the most or the fastest. Not athletic, how about a good old-fashioned dance party?
- Talk to your supervisor
If your efforts to find balance aren’t working, talk to your supervisor. They can be a valuable resource to come up with an effective plan to manage the stressors you've identified, so you can perform at your best on the job. They can help you identify areas where you can improve your skills, such as time management. And, they can point out any employer-sponsored wellness resources that you can leverage, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) which often includes online information, available counseling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed.
What relieves stress for each of us is very personal, and each person should look for the things that work for them. Incorporating some of these ideas as well as your own can go a long way in helping to restore balance and reduce stress for you and your family.
Norman Ford is VP of Operations for Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft