Many people are now pursuing a work-at-home career as they look forward to the freedom and flexibility these promising remote jobs may offer. However, what many professionals don’t realize is that working from home can be as equally stressful as regular office jobs or even worse.
Research about work-at-home stress
While many people consider work-at-home setup as an ultimate goal for work-life balance, those who are actually engaged in performing remote jobs report higher levels of physical and mental stress, according to a recent study conducted by the United Nations. In this particular study of over 15 developed countries, including the United States, Japan, Brazil, and some European nations, it was concluded that forty-two percent of remote workers regarded themselves as highly stressed as compared to just twenty-five percent of those who reported for work on site.
Apart from the enormous daily workload, the lack of job security, deprivation of work benefits, and an unstable source of income may cause significant effects on the overall health condition of many mobile professionals. Daily work distractions also contribute to high-stress levels, which may result in poor productivity, depression, and lack of motivation for some. And these are just a number of inevitable issues every remote professional has to deal with a work-from-home setup.
While most work-at-home professionals may enjoy the freedom of being away from office gossips and uncooperative co-workers, they may likely feel isolated at some point in their career. Boredom and loneliness will eventually become among the list of stressors which they need to live on.
While it is true that people may be able to enjoy the flexibility of creating their own schedules for both career and family life, it can also get out of hand once personal problems on finances and priorities begin to mess up. A significant part of this stress experience can be associated with the frequent use of mobile devices, which often includes regular checking of messages, continuous web browsing, and preparing documents under pressure.
The 2017 UN research concluded that the regular use of mobile devices, whether for communication or leisure purposes, appeared to be a significant source of compounded stress for many remote professionals.
Those who use their mobile phones and laptops late at night or people who never shut their modems down even once may experience recurring episodes of insomnia and disturbed sleep. This study also revealed that forty-two percent of work-at-home professionals experience frequent waking at night as compared to just twenty-nine percent of those who were working in an office setup.
Social media browsing can also become a contributing factor, especially if you’re actively participating in various community forums and online surveys.
Work-at-home jobs are believed to be more demanding since clients expect you to deliver based on the agreed project timeline. A higher reliance on the internet for information, smartphone, and other electronic gadgets may lead to higher levels of stress, which may possibly compromise the quality of work if you fail to handle the pressure properly.
What is Stressful about Working from Home?
You may be surprised by the amount of stress you may feel once the challenges of work-at-home setup become more difficult to handle. These stressors may not be the same as dealing with toxic bosses, rigorous commuting, or workplace politics, but being alone facing a lot of distractions at home would certainly give you a hard time. Here are some common sources of work-at-home stress which you need to anticipate:
Presence of distractions everywhere
You should expect distractions at home during work, especially when people know that you set your own working hours. There can be interruptions all day, from friends calling you at any given time to rowdy kids chasing one another all day. Also, random visitors may not understand why you can’t entertain them for longer hours unless there’s an emergency case to be attended.
Even overnight guests may wonder why you need to get up so early the following day or lock up yourself in a room to focus on your work responsibilities, but the list of potential distractions doesn’t stop here. Notification alerts from emails, text messages, and social media posts can distract you even if they seem easy to ignore at first. Once you start checking on these, you’ll be surprised to know how many hours have wasted with little to no productivity from you.
No specific work structure
When working from home, you have the freedom to set your own work time, ignoring the need to deal with morning rush or beat the late evening traffic. However, this feeling may possibly go out of hand once you get used to your own pace or if you struggle to fight distractions during working hours. You’ll soon notice that you have already wasted a lot of your precious time trying to resolve problems or attending to the personal needs of people around you. Late bedtime rest may result in lack of quality sleep and poor work concentration the next day. Frequent use of social media may also drain hours of productivity since there’s no one coming to check on you or any time-monitoring software to track your progress.
Difficulty in establishing work boundaries
Creating a solid structure in your daily work schedules and personal relationships can be challenging if you don’t define priorities or practice proper time management. In a typical work-at-home setup, you may find it difficult to set boundaries between work time and family time or between socializing with friends and performing job responsibilities. When working at home, it can also become more challenging on your part to fulfill various roles, especially if you’re the one doing household errands or taking care of small children.
Segregation from others
When you’re working alone, of course, it is easier to concentrate on work without any co-worker bothering you around. However, your social interaction skills may be affected and may result to a feeling of isolation as time progresses. Social media may provide you a temporary solution, though this type of interaction seems less personal than face-to-face encounters with people. The feeling of isolation can make you feel more alone, less interactive, or worse, less confident.
Absence of focus
While you enjoy the flexibility of work hours as an independent contractor, you may find it really tough to fulfill your personal goals when there are a lot of distractions that often drain your energy out. Frequent phone calls, neighborhood noises, shouting kids, and random visits from friends may interrupt your work momentum, thus preventing you from completing your job on target time.
Consistent focus is important if you have already established some personal goals or changes in your life you wish to make, but keeping yourself motivated to chase those dreams is another story. When performing different roles, both professional and family roles, daily life adjustments often become part of your constant struggles.
Tips for Managing the Stress of Working at Home
Now that you’ve learned about common sources of daily stress, it’s time to build up your motivation and start managing these distractions while working remotely at home. Here are some proven techniques you can try for reducing stress from working alone in a secluded space:
1. Setting up a schedule
As mentioned earlier, you need to set up some boundaries between professional life and family roles. Creating a feasible schedule seems beneficial rather than working when you already have time. You should anticipate distractions coming from all directions to consume your time, particularly if you wait until you’re free to work. Sticking to the schedule, you have created may also give you enough time to accommodate other personal needs without affecting your overall productivity.
How to do it:
- Make use of social media tracker apps to remind yourself to resume working when you get distracted
- Make use of calendars, planners, reminder apps and to-do-things app to organize your daily activities including work time
- Determine the time you perform best whether you prefer to work during day time or late in the afternoon
- Prioritize the difficult tasks first to conserve time and effort for those less-intense ones
2. Getting enough quality rest
You should aspire for more quality sleep because healthy sleep is very crucial for your daily productivity. You can do this by setting a fixed bedtime for yourself and avoiding the use of mobile devices late at night. Failing to do so would result in altered sleeping patterns, making it more difficult for you to sleep.
3. Building your own support group
You shouldn’t feel alone if you decide to work remotely at home. Consider setting up your own network of remote professionals or getting connected with existing online groups where you can exchange ideas and work experiences. Socializing is still necessary because it can be difficult to sustain the energy to be productive if you feel isolated. What’s important here is to identify people who share the same experience and work-related issues as yours.
4. Rewarding yourself for completing a milestone
Every time you complete a project, consider rewarding yourself with something worth purchasing to keep your motivation going. You can achieve this by breaking down the whole project into smaller realistic goals and rewarding yourself for completing each phase. A personal reward may also motivate you to work better, especially if you win more clients or have your proposals approved.
5. Being firm for saying no
When working at home, you’ll be facing a lot of family requests or additional work requests from clients, which you need to turn down if you really want to accomplish something. Also, you may likely encounter burnout if you only keep a list of small-paying, but demanding clients. Find someone from your database you can let go in order to give room for higher-paying clients and more satisfying career growth. By doing so, you are able to improve work productivity, thus providing you more opportunities to earn better.
Take time to filter prospective clients or create a more impressive career portfolio to get hired. But learn to refuse if the offer and job expectations aren’t worth your time and effort.
6. Creating the necessary boundaries
Setting up a personal schedule may help ease the stress of performing both professional work and household chores. But having a separate home office away from your family can help alleviate the effects of burnout. If you don’t have the extra space, you may ask some fellow remote professionals within your vicinity to set up a small office where all of you can work more comfortably. Now, if you feel you’re receiving too many workloads, discuss this issue with your manager or client to create a more effective implementation plan.
7. Practicing disconnection
When working at home, you are likely to spend more time in front of your laptop and mobile devices than other home activities. And you have a tendency to skip your regular meals when you keep yourself too busy. Take time to become active with different family activities or at least stay away from your devices, including mobile phones and modem routers during weekends.
Learn these proven strategies to get away from work-at-home stressors:
- Disconnect your laptop devices and mobile phones from the Wi-Fi connection and mobile data services once in a while.
- Engage in different fun-filled activities, like hiking, community work, and shopping with the whole family, particularly during legal holidays.
- Make a daily weekend routine for some general household chores.
- Disconnect with your clients and fellow freelancers each time you need to rest.
While working at home has many privileges to offer, it is still imperative to know the contributing stressors that may affect your work performance as a whole. Remember that working as an independent contractor will never be stress-free, and it’s all up to you how you can keep the stress levels at bay. Check out more articles from work at home guide HOWPO.
Owner at Be Visible Media
Dale Basilla is a content writer for various niches, SEO (Off-page & On-Page), and lives in a location where there are lots of beaches in the Philippines. He loves to watch anime, TV series (mystery and solving crimes), and movies. In his spare time, he plays chess, plays the guitar, and spend time with his ever busy girlfriend.