Work from home is not a new concept but now definitely encompass a wider span of jobs and duties, thanks to communication technologies. E-mails, WhatsApp, Skype, G Suite and many collaborative apps which makes one’s life easier. So, what is leading to work from home stress when everything seems to have a cutting-edge perfection?
Challenges of work from home are unique to an individual. But there are common elements known to invite stress during work from home. I am writing this article when for the first time India came across this very rare situation “21 Days Lockdown” owing to Coronavirus outbreak. Clearly my work from home option is not by choice. Experiencing anomalies in the first few days and trying to give it a method, I have tried to address major reasons that leads to work from home stress.
New to work from home situation, the very first challenge is drawing clear boundaries of work. Sometimes the work may extend to very long working hours while very short some other days. Partly, it happens due to the nature of assigned work and partly from the time management ability of an individual.
In addition, there can be many distractions during the working hours. For example, unplanned calls from team members, checking for progress or information about change or update in given work. One of the studies shows that it might take up to 25 mins to get back to the same flow after some seconds of distractions that breaks one’s flow.
Working with best efficiency is a team effort. Clarity while delegating work or executing it improves efficiency to a great deal. It also cut down lot of repetitive decision making that kills a lot of time. Here’s what to ask
Team Level Q&A
Individual Level Q&A
We all know that one staff who would assign a new task right before the ending of working hour. While one can understand that task coming on the desk beyond working hours might have exceptional urgency, if not so – managers might lose their credibility. It’s a saying what goes around comes around, using it in the sense that fatigue today will obviously show up next day work and it must be expected by delegating authority.
Before one step in to start working on such assignment, must try to understand nature of urgency. If there’s an alternative, then starting the task on a brand-new day is not a bad idea at all.
While working from home comes with a comfort zone ie ‘home’ but everything has its pros and cons. Boundaries between household responsibilities and work responsibility gets blurred over the time if one’s not prepared. This is the time when stress starts building up, largely owing to confusion and loss of routine.
After all management is all about the art of balancing. Work from home gives you a unique opportunity to learn balancing time. Set your timeline of working hour and household hours, then be your own boss. Take permission from yourself if either of the schedule is getting invaded owing to the other. Quickly find if it’s happening on a repeat mode, if yes then it needs a fix, else get back to the flow.
Communication is a two-way process and in-person communication has lot of verbal and non-verbal signals that completes the comprehension. While work from home, one might assume that sending an email or texting be easier than call or skype. But that might soon welcome trouble. Shortly after one finds himself/herself calling explaining the meaning of text or email. Later ends up with a draft not as per the expectation – probably because executive started working on project with half clarity from text/email while rest half coming from understanding post calling.
One key is not fit for all, so evaluate technology medium that’s effective in your case. Sometimes a meeting is far more effective than an email and vise-versa.
Working from home involves good level of dependency on screen compared to on-site work. Everything from delegation to execution has to come on screen, be it a monitor or mobile.
Looking at screens for long hours is one of the common forms of stress these days. One of the studies shows that looking at mobile screen in the night is related to improper sleep and hence advises to not to look at mobile screen for long hours during night. In addition, there are many dos and don’ts of using screens beyond the scope of this article that can help to cope up with the stress coming via this medium.
A very common stress that creeps in while working from home is Social Isolation. In a workplace there are personals who shares common goals, common projects and task. It’s easy to get in tune and get working with focus, while still having someone to talk to. As most of the time one is at home set up with no one to share the like-minded platform, it affects an individual in many ways. Emotional detachment, workaholic nature and introvert attributes make their way through in person’s nature.
In a work from home set up, one needs to create such network of like-minded individuals and often this leads to much productive results owing to the freedom of working style. Productivity in discussion comes in as an incentive of getting positive results.
One of a downside of working from home can be lack of physical activity. Even in most office environment equipped with technology; the workstyle is of sedentary type. However, it involves some bit of a movement while arranging files, attending meetings or teaming up for a small event or office celebration. These all comes to a halt while working from home.
But there are ways to overcome it. An hourly break to take a small walk or keeping essential resources like water and munchies at a distance can give you much needed option. While taking a long break, put a good amount of that time into walking or a small table tennis or a squat game with your family members can quickly ramp up the lost energy.
Un-invited guests are very common complain of individual working from home. As the relevance of time is different for different individual, there’s a good chance that they mis-interpret your working time to nothing. Here comes the art of saying ‘No’. It might feel a little awkward in the beginning but for them to understand the relevance of your time, you need to take the charge. Show them the urgency with complete politeness, come up with innovative solutions like noise cancellations etc that can sure be an aid to this situation and yes, gracefully leave the common space to your workbench. Practice makes a man perfect.
Assistant Professor, Department of Commerce & Management , Kalinga University
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