For the last few months, we have all heard the phrase “new normal.” This is the situation we are facing now, no thanks to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Governments had to enforce strict quarantine and lockdown measures to curb the spread of the deadly disease.
Companies also had to shift to work-from-home (WFH) arrangements until the situation normalizes. Instead of reporting to the office personally, employees have to log in for work through specialized software; conduct meetings virtually via video conferencing apps; and communicate with colleagues and clients via emails, messaging apps, and phone calls.
While there are advantages to working from home, such as avoiding crowds and traffic, wearing more comfortable clothes, saving money, and spending more time with loved ones, WFH can also be taxing.
WFH-related stress and burnout
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc globally, we experience a wide range of emotions and reactions to it, including stress, fear, and anxiety. We fear for the health of ourselves and our loved ones; we feel anxious for the uncertain future should the dreaded disease continue to unfold; then, there’s the stress we experience from work.
With these challenges in mind, some managers worry about their employees’ productivity, putting more pressure on them to perform more to maintain the same efficiency pre-pandemic. Putting pressure on subordinates can cause more stress to employees struggling to juggle the demands of their professional lives and responsibilities.
Last year, the World Health Organization recognized workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon in its latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases.
It is defined as “a state of vital exhaustion” classified by three factors: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.
How to cope with WFH stress and burnout
Once you have identified that you are indeed stressed or suffering from burnout, there are ways to deal with and manage stress. Here are ways to manage stress while working from home:
- Set a schedule – By setting your own schedule, you create structure and boundaries. By following it, you allot time for breaks, eating, sleeping, relaxation, and spending time with loved ones. Use your phone or computer to set up your schedule. There are programs or apps readily available to help you.
- Learn which tasks to prioritize – Instead of procrastinating or dreading to do the more difficult tasks, psych yourself into doing these first before moving on to the easier tasks. Create a to-do list with your planner or use apps that you can download for your phone.
- Find kindred spirits – Create a network of supportive colleagues or friends who are also working from home. Rather than keeping your feelings to yourself, share these with like-minded individuals who readily understand and empathize with you.
- Learn to speak out – Many people think that speaking out may cost them their jobs; therefore, they keep accepting tasks instead of saying no. Let your managers know that you are already loaded with work and cannot accept any more requests until you are finished with your current workload. Once you admit this, your bosses will be more understanding.
- Create boundaries – Control the tendency to answer calls, messages, and emails when you’re not logged in. At the same time, talk to your family or the people you live with, to respect your working hours and the space you are using as your home office. Create automated responses to your phones and emails to avoid personally addressing emails and calls.
Here are some ways to keep burnout at bay and cope with stress:
- Strike a balance – Find a balance between working, self-care, and spending time with friends and family.
- Plan a ritual – This is something that you can do daily, weekly or monthly. It could be a night of self-care skin care routine, a virtual movie date with friends, or a break from social media.
- Do things that are not related to your job – Find a hobby that has nothing to do with your work. If you are in the creative field, do activities that are mentally stimulating or theoretical. If you are in the corporate field, find a more artistic hobby like painting or crocheting.
- Put your wellness first and follow healthy habits – Avoid unhealthy habits such as consuming excessive levels of drugs and alcohol. Occasional drinking sessions with friends and family are acceptable but be aware of your limits. Instead, eat healthier by having well-balanced meals instead of fatty and processed food.
- Exercise – An easy way to cope with stress is to release it by working out. Exercise acts as a stress reliever because it releases endorphins and improves your mood. Go outside to jog or walk or workout at home. Do yoga, circuit training, or Pilates or join online classes like Zumba. Go on breaks – Stay sane and healthy or take breaks in between working. While you are taking care of your physical health, take care of mental health, too. Learn to meditate or reconnect with friends. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back to breathe. Go outside for some fresh air—studies have shown that seeing something green or being with nature can help relieve stress.
- Take a shower or a nap, play a game, or light a candle – Do something that will take you off your gadgets and give you some clarity for a little while.
- Seek help – Don’t be ashamed to admit that you need help. If things are becoming too overwhelming, seek professional help or talk to somebody you trust to help you deal with your stress.
Be easy on yourself
Managing stress doesn’t happen overnight. It involves a lot of work and time to ensure a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle.
Remember to pause once in a while. Do not feel pressured to figure it out in one go. Start by making small changes to how you live your day-to-day life while we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Celebrate small wins.
However, if you are still feeling enormous pressure and stress, do not hesitate to seek help to get you through it.