The pandemic has taken a toll not just on our physical well-being, but has also hampered the mental and emotional health to a very great extent. Be it the deadly environment that is spread across the world, the restriction of being locked between four walls, or struggling to establish a sync amongst work, household, and personal lives- everything together, the pandemic has resulted in adverse consequences and dilapidated health from every aspect. With the brimming anxiety of not being able to keep everything in check, coping up becomes twice as challenging.
“The baseline forecast envisions a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020, using market exchange rate weights—the deepest global recession in decades, despite the extraordinary efforts of governments to counter the downturn with fiscal and monetary policy support”, said a report by The World Bank. This downfall in the economy clearly brought into consideration that shutting down industries would only increase the numbers. Consequently, they had to operate regardless of the deadly situations, after remaining shut due to lockdown 1.0, due to which the concept of remote work became trending.
Undoubtedly, work from home, besides being the sole option left for operations, is also a convenient medium of exchanging ideas and establishing strong communication between individuals. Providing easy access, time flexibility decreased costs, and most importantly, being a safe option amidst the pandemic has encouraged people across the globe to step into the culture and get acquainted with the same, the topmost reason being a strong lack of an alternative.
However, sitting in front of the screen for endless hours and not even getting an outlet to let the tiredness out may get more stressful than one can anticipate. The pandemic has changed not only the way we work but also how our mind responds to that work, to the responsibilities and tasks that it needs to carry out throughout the day.
Being at a workplace ensures the attention and dedication to be concentrated in only and only one direction. On the contrary, being at home and trying to communicate may get frustrating because of the various other duties and responsibilities that one has on their platter, which includes several other things than just work. Be it household chores, attending family members, taking care of the physical health, ensuring the necessary precautions against the virus, or taking out time for one’s own self, nothing can be neglected and paid ‘less’ heed to. As an argument, one could say that given the person is at home and in a lesser work pressure environment, seeking self-time might just be a little too much to ask for. But, at the end of the day, without cultivating one’s habits or practicing things that help a person keep their sanity and mental health in check, the probability of the person feeling more helpless and unable to invest time in working, drastically increases. In simple words, work from home is not as easy, convenient, and definitely does not serve as an ‘alternative’ for a workplace.
Here are a few reasons that may contribute to mental stress during work from home:
1) Struggling to manage personal and professional life together: Because everyone is working from home, maintaining a distance between personal life and professional life might seem impossible. Managing chores, taking extra care of the family and oneself, looking after every little happening, and being attentive and dedicated towards the work can get disturbing and hence, lead to frustration, stress, and mental pressure.
2) Job insecurity: The pandemic has been taking multiple turns and making us face unpredictable consequences, including unemployment, poverty, et cetera.
This unpredictability leads to an uncertainty of retention of the job and hence, creates a perpetual fear of losing the job, which is not only stressful but also puts an individual under the pressure of finding alternatives beforehand, which is not an easy task especially during the pandemic. Every employee is more or less aware of how the pandemic has forced the organizations to cut off wages by almost half or even lesser than that, and for worse case scenarios a number of them have even opted for mass removal of the workers who work under them. These instances have been coming under observation a little too often as the conditions have been worsening, and such news only increases the worry and plight of the currently working members.
3) Adapting to a new schedule/ routine: Due to the changing ways of work, the schedule has to be amended accordingly. This not only affects our physical health but also takes time to align with our mental well-being. We might not be comfortable waking up at a certain time, or our mind might not function well at a certain time of the day. And all these would have to be dealt with as per the changes the current situation demands in our routine.
4) Getting hold of new technology and tools: Because of the fact that everything has been shifted to a digital medium, it requires strong experience and sincere efforts to get hold of the expertise of operating technology effectively, efficiently, and in the best possible way. Not being able to tackle the challenges might lead to increased frustration and stir the sense of giving up. Not just on a personal level, even companies have been lately preferring to opt for people with sound knowledge of technology, and thus the ones lacking it, undergo a severe blow in respect to proper job opportunities, regardless of the already possessed skills.
5) Difficulty in communication: Virtual communication can either prove to be beneficial or make a person extremely nervous. In most cases, the latter is observed due to the absence of body language and a lot of expressions remaining unexpressed. Inability of communicating properly via virtual platforms and hence, being unable to deliver the desired message can be a major cause of frustration, and accumulation of such frustration may lead to severe stress.
There are just five of the several reasons that contribute towards mental stress and pressure causes due to work from home.
Amidst so much happening in and around one’s home, it might become difficult, or may even seem impossible to figure out certain things, and hence, managing and sorting them out may seem critical. Recognizing the symptoms of stress and anxiety is significant in order to begin accepting it, and furthermore to initiate the healing. Below are a few emotions/ feelings that one might feel when they are stressed out:
•Feeling sad, anxious, or depressed
•Lack of motivation
•Getting frustrated, annoyed, and irritated quickly
•Tiredness and fatigue
•No proper sleep schedule or difficulty in sleeping/ waking up (commonly known as sleeping disorders)
•Lowered attention/concentration span
•Making minor/ stupid mistakes repeatedly
•Doubting oneself or considering them ‘not good enough’
•Decreased productivity, leading to anxiousness
All these are indications of mental pressure which are not supposed to be ignored and addressed as a mere ‘phase’ because of the possibility that it might lead to further complications and might affect the health to an extreme extent and alongside bring your productivity, creativity, and efficiency down to zero.
Work from home stands as a big challenge when it comes to surviving the pandemic and making your way through it without much damages and especially, the irreparable ones. To ensure the prevention of burnouts and stress caused by the trend of work from home, it becomes important to identify the place where one is facing these challenges and try aligning them with what works for them not just presently, but in the long run as well because the concept of work from home does not seem to go out of trend at least in the coming few years.
Here are a few challenges that one might face as a consequence of work from home, along with some simple and practical tips to overcome them:
1) Establishing strong communication among the team members
Communication is the most significant factor that keeps the flow of work in sync and harmony when working from home.
Miscommunication may lead to confusion, errors, repetitions, et cetera. Working on the same project via a physical medium, i.e, the office, is not just clear and transparent, but also quick. A worker has an assurance that he/she has conveyed or delivered the desired message or document to the one it is supposed to. But, via virtual platforms, there is always a possibility of occurrences of technical glitches, network issues, confusion, and mishandling, or being partially acquainted with the technology.
As a precaution or solution, depending upon the kind of challenge being faced, one may use the tools and platforms that serve and offer convenient and smooth communication.
For virtual meetings, effective channels may be used in order to interact systematically and smoothly. Some of the platforms that are good in this case are:
- Google Meet
- Microsoft Teams
For sharing documents, exchanging ideas, collaborating on a common project, the following platforms offer a convenient way of communication:
- Google Drive
- Canva (for graphic designing)
2. Increased screen time
After work, it might seem difficult to turn off the screen and one might continue sitting endlessly in front of the screen and hence, damage their health and schedule.
Unplugging is as important as plugging in.
In order to keep a check on the screen time, one can set a reminder which shall make sure that they get up from the front of their device once the work hours are over. Alongside, having a fixed plan or schedule may serve as a restriction from continually sitting in front of the screen due to the constant reminder of achieving those tasks or aligning to the planned schedule.
Making it a habit of switching off after work hours can help an individual to live a guilt-free day with increased productivity and satisfaction.
Everyone knows how time flies when we have a gadget in our hands!
3. Keeping distractions in check
As discussed previously, managing personal and professional life together might prove to be the biggest challenge that one might face whilst working remotely, and the segregation of the two might feel impossible. Addressing phone calls, attending the family members, preparing meals, and various other factors that contribute to these distractions may cause trouble when wanting to focus on a specific work.
One needs to be extremely disciplined and determined in order to eliminate distractions and pay more attention to the work.
Having a separate workspace helps the best in such cases. Not only does it inform you that you are supposed to work and eliminate every other distraction from in and around your mind, but it also instills a reminder in everyone else’s minds around you and keeps the disturbance away. Creating rules like turning off phone notifications, not attending calls of less or no importance, not opening multiple tabs alongside the ones of work (example, Youtube, Facebook, and so on, setting a separate time for cooking, et cetera can help keep all the distractions in check.
4. Being a technology foe
Not being acquainted enough with the basic and latest technology can turn out to be a major cause of frustration, embarrassment, and decreased productivity. Not everyone, especially the middle-aged people and the ones residing in backward/ rural areas are familiar with the latest technology and hence, may take time to adapt to it.
Using the right tools which involve less complications and technicalities need to be put to use in such circumstances by the heads of the organizations so that all their employees/ workers are able to access technology without facing many difficulties. In both cases, it is advised not to hesitate before asking questions regarding the same because otherwise, it may lead to piling up of work and in the end, will cause mental health issues due to the pressure of meeting deadlines. Asking for quick training from the employer may also help in becoming an ally of technology and may help in increasing efficiency and effectiveness while working.
Prioritizing mental health and addressing it openly helps not only to embrace it but also makes you skip the unnecessary excuses of being unproductive. Work from home is not as easy as it may seem. It does not affect everyone in the same way. It is not necessary to match all the above symptoms or relate to the common challenges for an individual to start taking care of their mental well-being because everyone works differently and so, the effects of work from home are most likely to differ.
Hope these tips help in establishing a better work environment at home wherein one is not just more productive, but also enjoys the advantages of working remotely.