This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.
Dealing With Stress as a Remote Worker
Workplace stress is a global issue. The increased build-up of stress can lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
The United Nations claims that workplace stress is a collective challenge that we should all tackle and deal with together.
It’s common for everybody to feel some stress in their day-to-day lives. There are some simple, yet effective ways to reduce stress, such as getting enough sleep and learning to say no if the workload becomes too much.
However, for some, simple exercises and routine changes are not enough and workplace stress can become too much to handle. In these situations, it’s important to recognise the mental health issues associated with workplace stress and talk to somebody about it.
Workplace Stress in a New Working Environment
The way we work is changing. Not all jobs are 9-5 office days anymore.
Approximately one in five people telecommute every day for work. Many successful companies only have remote teams with no office space at all — and it’s no surprise why. There are multiple reasons why businesses are opting for remote work: reduction of costs for renting office space, environmental friendliness, and the opportunity for staff to have a more flexible lifestyle. All of these factors can be extremely attractive during the recruitment process.
Just over 20 years ago, as little as 1% of the world’s population had access to the internet. Now, 40% of the world’s population have internet access, making remote working possible for people all over the globe. In addition to the expansion of internet access, new software has been developed specifically for remote teams. Software such as Hubstaff can monitor work progress, while Slack is an online communication channel used by companies in multiple countries.
As the working environment changes, this will impact stress in the workplace as the workplace itself is redefined.
Problems with Stress as a Remote Worker
Given that remote working is still a relatively new concept, there is little data to indicate whether remote work increases or decreases workplace stress.
However, what we do know is that workplace stress can come in a different form for remote workers, which can be more difficult to recognise.
Both managers and employees face a different set of challenges when working remotely. Managers require new ways of communicating with their team; they must be open enough so employees feel comfortable, but confident enough to say “no” or explain if they are dealing with stress.
Here are some of the common issues faced by remote workers which can lead to workplace stress and mental health issues.
No Social Interaction
It’s important to realise that remote workers can feel a sense of loneliness. Lack of face-to-face social interaction can have a negative impact. Unlike in an office environment, there is nobody to go to lunch with or grab a drink with at the end of the week.
If all remote communication is via the internet or phone, there might be fewer casual conversations on how people are and more about business and work. Starting a conversation for the sake of talking socially and informally may not be commonplace, but it should be.
Ability to Work Longer Hours
If all of your work is carried out on a laptop and in your home, it’s more likely that you can work longer hours as nobody is there to monitor you. A retail manager can’t legally keep their shop open longer, so employees have to go home and finish work at their set time. Working remotely means you can end up working late in order to get work done. If employees don’t take care of their logged hours, and employers don’t do enough to warn against presenteeism, this can lead to working burnout.
Blurring the Work-Life Balance
Working remotely is great for flexibility, and some argue that it can create a better work-life balance for this reason. On the other hand, if somebody is working from home, it’s easier to blur the boundaries between home and work. The UN argues that this is one of the many negative impacts of remote working. It can be stressful knowing when to switch off and cause problems in the home due to this.
No Telltale Signs
When working in an office environment, there are often clear signs and symptoms if somebody is stressed. This can be an increased emotional reaction to situations or a lack of motivation. Visible signs, such as bags under eyes and weight loss, can also be seen. When working from home, there isn’t anybody to notice these telltale signs, apart from family members or friends.
How Can Remote Workers Reduce Stress?
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to replicate the suggestions of those who work in an office.
Resting, drinking less caffeine and getting enough exercise are all sound ideas to fight the issue of workplace stress, regardless of where your workplace is.
Remote workers should also bear in mind the following ways they can help manage their workload and stress:
Creating Routine and Defining Boundaries:
Having a separate office space away from your family can help. If you don’t have space, going to a local library or cafe to create a boundary between work and home can be beneficial. This means you have clearly defined working space and time. When you finish work for the day, don’t bring your laptop or work into your home space.
Discuss Issues Face to Face:
If you feel your workload is getting too much, talk to your manager. Using Skype or Facetime as a means to see each other face to face has benefits and can make you feel closer to that person, they are able to relate to you more. This gives a manager the opportunity to visibly see if stress is affecting you.
As a remote worker, it can be tempting to take your laptop on holiday with you to stay in the loop at work. Many office workers wouldn’t do this, so you don’t need to either. When you have a holiday, make sure it is a holiday and you disconnect.
Make time for Social Interaction:
Whether it’s your workmates or not, spending time with people offline is important. Arrange drinks with your friends on a Friday night or do something where you’re out of the house and interacting with people. This can kerb the sense of loneliness associated with remote working.
There is still much to learn about working remotely and the effect it will have on both businesses and people.
Remote companies need to start thinking about how they can ensure that employees aren’t overworked and stressed. Management courses for remote team leaders can help train leaders for this new working environment.
About the Author
Christine Macdonald is the director of The Hub Events. Offering a variety of training courses in the UK, Christine provides training for managers in a variety of positions.