You lose the commute when you work remotely. You lose the office politics. You gain a better sense of work-life balance. And yet, you can’t completely shake the stress of work.
We generally think of stress as a bad thing – and it can be if we don’t approach it with the respect it deserves. Letting stress get the best of you while working from home will result in a loss of focus and decreasing quality of life even when you’re off the clock. So take a different approach. Stress is often an indicator of an underlying problem. Find ways to address the issue and you can reduce some of the stress.
At an office, a quick coffee with a co-worker or a few laughs at the water cooler can alleviate frustrations and concerns. But what about when you’re telecommuting or working while on the road and don’t have a water cooler.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Eat right while working at home, and battle the temptation to snack all day. Plan your meals, build stretching and exercise into your routine if possible, and find a good chair to maintain a steady posture. You can even use your kitchen counter or similar surface as a standing desk. Grab a little fresh air when you can, and remember that you don’t have to work nonstop, wire to wire, to establish your reputation; you just have to be responsive and reliable.
2. Organize Your Workspace
As with everything in life, an organized space = organized mind. If you’re a remote worker, you’d better get used to working remotely, right? The urge to work sprawled out on your unmade bed some rainy morning is tough to resist, but it’s rarely a good idea. Instead, make a home office. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean a huge project, but there are some beautiful examples out there. Find a good desk with room for all of your materials, try to install it amid natural light, and place a few plants here and there. Make sure clothes and other household items aren’t scattered around your workspace – you need to focus. This will not only help with your productivity but will mark some delineation between “home” and “office.”
3. Schedule Your Workday
Put simply, you need a plan. If you’re new to the remote workforce, seeing the day stretch out ahead of you as some amorphous blob of time while trying to work from home or from a coffeehouse, for instance, will put your productivity behind the 8-ball before you even get started. Structure your day. Set personal deadlines even if your manager doesn’t. Impose some order, and stick to your to-do list to stay sharp and on point.
4. …But Schedule Some Disconnects, Too
Conversely, think of your workday as a trip to an office. It has to end, and you get to go home. By giving each day a consistent rhythm, you can put limits on your workload and truly enjoy shutting down your devices and spending time with your friends and family. The importance of lunch breaks, five-minute mental rests and meditations, fresh air, and closing up shop promptly cannot be overstated when it comes to handling the stress of virtual employment. I mean, even Ben Franklin knew this way back when, as I recently discovered all over the Internet!
5. Create a Virtual Network and Participate
Keep up with your network – think of all your the Remote Nation© colleagues and co-workers out there who would enjoy a brief, friendly interaction to lighten their day. Early morning IM exchanges, occasional texts to check in, conference calls and Skype sessions, established support networks, and responsible and relevant use of social media are all great ways to keep in touch with them and maintain your relevance within the company while you spread a little good cheer.
Overcoming the Stresses of Virtual Employment: The Bottom Line
There’s a lot of personal responsibility involved with working remotely, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when officing at home. Planning, structure, self-care, organization, interaction, and scheduling breaks will go a long way toward successfully coping with stress.
Have you ever dealt with excessive stress while working remotely? What tips would you add to my list to help those professionals new to virtual employment?
Photo by Christian Erfurt