Spending 9 to 5 in the office is beginning to become a thing of the past. The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has shifted the corporate landscape, with many companies moving towards remote work. Remote teams have many benefits for companies, such as reduction of costs related to renting office spaces, more productive staff, a more flexible lifestyle for team members, the ability to bring on talent from anywhere in the world and more! However, the impacts of COVID-19 — from health scares to company layoffs — combined with a new remote schedule and office location (a.k.a. the living room!) has left many employees feeling more stressed than ever before. Read on to learn how to manage stress while working remotely!
While the benefits of remote work are many, there are challenges that come with it too. Workplace stress can affect employees that work remotely, the same as their in-office counterparts. Though it comes in different forms, is often caused by other issues, and can be even more difficult to recognize than your typical in-office workplace stress. Because your employees are infrequently (or never) in the same place as their managers, it might be harder for management to communicate with their team. With so many employees experiencing stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an important issue to solve.
When teams are working remotely, the natural communication that happens around the office just doesn’t exist in the same way. There’s no kitchen to chat in while making coffee, you can’t drop by someone’s desk to say hi, or casually catch up in an elevator ride, if you’re a remote worker. This means managers may not notice the signs of workplace stress and burnout as easily as they would when seeing their staff in person and working together face-to-face. Staff may also feel like they don’t have the opportunity to share their feelings or get support with stress management. Since they likely speak less frequently, and only over the phone or video conferencing, they may not feel comfortable expressing themselves.
Managing Stress and Emotions When Working Remotely
Remote workers have their own set of challenges. Working from home might seem like a dream come true! No rush-hour commute, lunch straight from the fridge, and more flexibility and freedom are all big benefits of working remotely. But there are challenges that come with the perks. Some common problems that cause stress for those working remotely:
- No social interaction – When you’re working from home, you might go an entire day without seeing another person! This can lead to isolation, loneliness, and not feeling emotionally supported. If your employees don’t have a strong emotional support system it may be harder for them to deal with everyday stress. When teams don’t feel connected to one another, it can leave teams feeling like they have no one to turn to.
- Working longer hours – Sometimes working from home can feel like you’re living at work. If teams are in different time zones it can result in feeling like you always have to be on. When there isn’t the boundary of arriving to and leaving the office, it can be easy to work extra hours. All this means that staff are taking less time away from work, and that’s not actually beneficial for their productivity (not to mention their happiness!).
- Work/life balance – When work and home life merge together for remote workers it can be hard to separate the two. Having an office at home can mean that you work when you should play, and the other way around. This lack of boundaries can lead to added stress when working remotely.
#10 Tips to Make Remote Work, Work
1. Create a routine
Following a set routine each day can help you to create the work-from-home boundaries that will help with workplace stress management! Decide on a start and end time, then stick to them as often as you can. Design a morning and evening routine unrelated to your work, and take those times for yourself — for family time, exercise and self-care!
2. Have a separate space for work, away from your home space
Even if you don’t have a lot of space in your home, creating a designated ‘work zone’ can be helpful for managing stress and maintaining a work/life balance. Designate a certain part of your home to work, and then try to make it comfortable, ergonomic and perfect for hours of focus and productivity!
3. Control your tone in emails by rereading a few times prior to sending
It can be easy to send notes that colleagues interpret differently than you mean them when working in a remote environment. Without that face-to-face connection, tone is important. Take the time to double check your phrasing before hitting send!
4. Know yours and your fellow remote workers time zones and be mindful
Waking up to 20 Slack notifications is stressful! Try to be respectful of the different time zones that your team are working from, and keep communication to those hours whenever possible.
5. Vacation and how to leave your laptop at home
Take time off — completely off! If you’re guilty of bringing your laptop on vacation, try to disconnect more fully. It might seem like bringing work with you means you’ll have less to catch up on and equal less workplace stress. But the reality is that you aren’t allowing yourself to disconnect and recharge while on vacation. This goes for weekends too. Turn your phone on airplane mode for a few hours and see how relaxed you feel!
6. Use Zoom, Facetime, Skype with video so your manager can visibly see you and any stress you are expressing
If you need to communicate with your manager about your workplace stress levels, do it over a video conferencing platform. It’s much easier to connect and fully emote how you’re feeling when your manager can see you.
7. Schedule time for informal banter at the start and end of video calls!
Take time to chat! It may not seem productive, but it helps build internal relationships and boost morale. This emulates the normal casual talks you would have with your colleagues when walking by their desks, or in the kitchen at work!
8. Make time for yourself & take mini breaks
Walking away from your computer can be beneficial for your quality of work! Take time for breaks and disconnect for a few minutes. These short breaks are super effective for managing stress. Some ways to make sure you get away? Schedule an online yoga, meditation or massage session so that time is carved out on your calendar. Arrange a lunch date with a friend to make sure you get away from your desk, or plan to take a daily walk at a certain time.
9. Create an after work routine to tell your brain that work is over for the day
Try closing out your day with a meditation practice, getting outdoors to exercise, reading for a while, or listening to music like you would on your car ride home. Any set routine that signals to your brain that the work day is done is helpful for transitioning from work to home life. This routine will help with stress management and keep you working regular hours (instead of all hours of the night!).
10. Consider setting up virtual lunches as a company
Another great way to create community in a remote work environment is through virtual lunches, breakfasts, coffee breaks or happy hours! Simply pick a time, send a meeting invite, and perhaps plan out a few topics of conversation in case things get quiet. Let your team connect in a casual way, so that they feel more comfortable with one another.
Warning signs that your remote employees are about to crack
How do you know if your remote team is feeling workplace stress? Opening up a line of communication is a good first step, so that when they are starting to experience burnout, they’ll be comfortable answering your questions, and discussing how they feel. Try asking your employees “how do you feel in your job now compared to a few months ago?” Then listen closely to their answers. Do they mention having a difficult time concentrating? Perhaps a loss of interest in things they used to like, frustration, irritability or feelings of hopelessness are all signs that your team is at their breaking point with workplace stress.
Also take note if their language becomes more negative. If your staff use phrases such as: there are no options, I can’t do anything, this is impossible or similar, they may be experiencing more workplace stress than they know how to deal with.
You might also be able to spot some signs that your remote employees aren’t handling stress well. Make sure you speak with employees that are starting to make mistakes, missing deadlines or getting sloppy. These can be the first red flags that employees are struggling. Instead of cracking down on staff that’s having a hard time, offer support and stress management.
We know you want your team to feel good! So start supporting them through stress management initiatives in the workplace. If you’ve determined that your remote team is experiencing workplace stress and might be on the verge of burnout, we have some fun suggestions to help manage stress in the workplace.