Stress & working from home – when your home becomes a stresstest
Since last spring, our world and our everyday working lives have been turned upside down. With the first lockdown, many employees moved their work to the from the office to their homes. Since then, the number of people working from home has grown – now, one in four Germans works from homw. Despite the greater flexibility, the elimination of the long commute and the reduced interruptions to work from colleagues, some employees tend to experience working from home as more stressfull. Especially when home office meets home schooling, the transition between work and private life is fluid, and the exchange with colleagues and the familiar working environment is omitted, many feel stressed. But where can you start to counteract a mental health crisis and better manage stress your stress level?
Stress home office
Especially in times of change, uncertainty, existential fears and the double burden of remote work and family, it is not easy to find balance between what we have to accomplish and our individual wishes and needs. In order to better manage this balancing act, it can be helpful to know which levels play a role in the development of stress and to be able to derive individual possibilities for stress reduction from this. Simplified, there are three stress – the external stressors, the internal stress amplifiers and the stress reactions.
External stressors – around the workplace
First, there are the external conditions and situations, as a result of which stress reactions occur. These external stressors can vary and – even when it comes to working from home – concern the workplace, the work tasks, the working hours, the work culture and the balance between the different areas of life. This means that one employee may be stressed by the fact that the spatial or technical conditions in home office are not available, or by the digital overload caused by constant online meetings, telephone calls or e-mail traffic. Another employee, on the other hand, has more difficulty taking breaks and dropping everything as soon as his shift ends. In the same way, however, a lack of trust and strong control by superiors as well as a lack of contact with colleagues can be experienced as stressful.
Individual stress amplifiers – the influence of personality
Whether and how strongly we react stressed also depends on our individual characteristics, our motives, desires, attitudes and evaluations. Everyday experience shows that different people evaluate one and the same situation completely differently. What drives one person crazy leaves another completely cold. Therefore, how we perceive and evaluate a situation has a decisive influence on whether we react stressed to new work requirements. Moreover, our individual needs, demands and expectations influences how we evaluatione a situation. If these target needs are threatened by the changes resulting from the switch to remote work and if the situation cannot be managed with one’s own resources, it is expereinced as stress. Here, too, the competencies acquired in our own life history and our attitude play a role. Stress is intensified, for example, by a pronounced perfectionism, excessive demands on oneself, or the inability to accept one’s own limits or need for relaxation. Likewise, fear of failure or a general attitude of helplessness can lead to experience the new work reality as stressful.
Stress reactions – body & psyche
Our whole organism reacts to a high stress load. Stress reactions show up on a physical, psychological – i.e. emotional and cognitive – as well as behavioral level. And yet the stress reaction is a very individual. While one person reacts with muscle tension, depressive mood and withdrawal, another struggles with digestive problems or sleep disturbances and is more irritable than usual.
But what can one do to reduce their stress levels in the home office? Overall, there are three strategies to reduce stress levels in the home office – instrumental, mental and regenerative stress management. Find out what is meant by these and what tips can help manage stressful situations in the home office here:
In order to counteract external stressful situations the home office, it is important to design the workplace, working conditions and processes in a way that is conducive to health, to have sufficient resources available and to be appropriately qualified. These tips can help you reduce stress in the home office:
- Create a workspace for yourself.
- Structure your workday and your work tasks.
- Define personal and professional priorities.
- Set yourself apart from the (accessibility) expectations of others and learn to say “no”.
- Delegate work tasks.
- Seek support from colleagues or superiors.
- Have clarifying conversations with supervisors to minimize stressors.
- Schedule regular break and compensation time.
- Optimize your social communication skills, problem-solving skills, and self-management skills.
Mental stress management:
In mental stress management, the starting point is the individual motives, attitudes, evaluations and thought patterns. Since these are usually very deeply anchored in our personality and run automatically and unconsciously, it takes some practice here to be able to perceive and then reflect on the mental stress amplifiers. Here are a few tips on how to mentally counteract your stress experience:
- Accept the limits of your personal performance.
- Critically question your performance expectations, your need for control, your perfectionism and your thought patterns (“I am also allowed to make mistakes”. “I am allowed to say no, weaknesses are human”. “I am allowed to rest”. ect.).
- Embrace reality.
- Focus on the positive, on possible successes and opportunities.
- Visualize your strengths.
- De-catastrophize the situation.
- Identify less with your daily tasks and keep your inner distance.
- Take a different perspective (“how would someone who is not stressed by the situation think?”).
- See the transition not as a difficulty, but as a challenge from which you can emerge stronger.
- Focus on the important things.
- Don’t hold on to uncomfortable feelings, but learn to let them go.
Regenerative stress management
Regenerative stress management, on the other hand, focuses on regulating the physical or psychological stress response and associated feelings – such as anger, fear, sadness, disappointment ect. Both short-term and long-term regenerative stress management strategies can be distinguished. Below are a few ideas on how to regulate your stress response.
- Use relaxation techniques during work (meditation exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness exercises, fantasy journeys, conscious breathing in and out).
- Engage in sports and exercise regularly.
- Take conscious and preferably active breaks (climb stairs, walk around the block, briefly open the window and breathe deeply).
- Maintain social contacts with your colleagues, but also with your friends and family.
- Treat yourself and take time to enjoy yourself.
- Learn to enjoy even the small things in everyday life (a cup of tea, a good smell, a delicious meal, etc..).
- Take on something nice and plan an enjoyable experience.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy and varied diet.
We would be happy to support you in finding a better way to deal with the challenges and stresses in your work situation – also beyond the current crisis. Here you can find our Stressmanagement Training. Please contact us here.
You can find more articles on stress here.