Remote work has many benefits over office-based work. Here are only a few of the benefits of remote work:
- Less time commuting, more time for family and hobbies
- Set your own schedule
- Fewer interruptions, more time for productive work
- Work from wherever you want
- Better for the environment
- Easier to hire for diversity and inclusion
But the coin has a flipside too. 2020 was the year where millions of people suddenly had no choice but to work remotely. For anyone who'd worked in an office for years, if not decades, this was a big change. Unfortunately, many companies still look at remote work as "more of the same, just by yourself in a different location."
But remote work is drastically different from office-based work. If those differences aren't addressed properly, it can lead to stress. As Buffer's 2019 State of Remote Work survey showed, remote workers struggle with:
- Unplugging after work
- Distractions at home
- Different time zones
- Staying motivated
- Taking days off
Even if the company you work for doesn't have any remote work policies to address these issues, you can mitigate most of them with a few relatively simple adjustments to your routine.
Firstly, the number one problem remote workers face is unplugging after work. Remote work can easily turn into "always online". Suffice to say this can be stressful. For many people, it's helpful to set strict boundaries between work and life. The easiest way to do this is to set up an after-work ritual.
This could be anything you want it to be: exercise, listening to music, reading a book, or even saying a sentence out loud (“Shutting down all work engines, activating relaxation mode”). The intention is to create a signal to your brain that work is over.
Secondly, if you've set up a remote environment where you're not disturbed very often, it's easy to work for hours on end without ever taking a break. This isn't good. You need to make room for mini-breaks.
Every once in a while, whenever you switch focus or after a particular period of time, stand up, stretch, walk around. Resist the temptation to check your phone. Let your mind wander for a while. Pet your cat or dog, or spend a few minutes with your kids. Not only are these mini-breaks good for your health, but they'll improve your focus and productivity when you then return to work.
Thirdly, because remote work tends to blur the boundaries between work and life, it's easy to forget about the fundamental habits that make you a happier, healthier person: exercise, get enough sleep, and eat healthily.
Take advantage of the freedom that remote work gives you. Go running on a Monday morning. Visit the gym when no one's there. Spend more time preparing a delicious meal. Take the opportunities where they are presented to you.
Fourthly, tackling loneliness is difficult, but not impossible. Ideally, this is something your company will address with a remote work policy. X-Team organizes many events every week to make all X-Teamers feel as if they're part of a community that's there for them. But you can be proactive about this too: reach out to colleagues for a casual chat.
This can be in the form of a virtual lunch, tea time, or a pair call. Get to know your international colleagues. Not only will you feel much closer to that person, but it'll make you feel part of a community and you'll feel less lonely as a result.
As a final point, be careful not to act in such a way that it stresses out other people. Given that most remote communication is done in writing, emotionally proofread your messages before you send them. In particular, check for clarity and tone.
Emojis and GIFs can help here, particularly when you're chatting with someone. They're a great way to add nuance to the messages you're sending and to avoid misunderstandings. The clearer and more emotionally neutral your tone, the easier it will be to communicate with your colleagues.
These were 5 simple ways to manage and reduce stress as a remote worker. How do you keep your stress level under control? Let me know by commenting below 👇