Effective coping strategies for working from home

The boundary between work and personal time needs to be clear and protected.

 Working from home (photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)
Working from home
(photo credit: Thought Catalog/Unsplash)

Many people today are working from home. It is one of the numerous byproducts of the pandemic, which has changed our lives. There are clearly some advantages to working at home. The benefits include time and money saved on commuting, no dress code to follow and no supervisor or colleagues looking over your shoulder. Nevertheless, is working from home optimal and how does it impact productivity, and a worker’s physical and mental health?

One of the most comprehensive studies on the impact of working from home (Eurofound and the International Labor Force, 2017, Geneva) found:

  • 41% of employees who more often worked from home vs on-site considered themselves highly stressed, compared to 25% of those who worked only on-site.
  • 42% of those who work from home report frequent night waking, while only 29% of office workers reported the same.
  • Employees who work from home may experience more of a blur when it comes to work and personal life boundaries, especially with the use of smart devices.
  • Work-from-home employees may struggle more with the concept of unplugging and ending their work day compared to those who work in an office setting.

Vicky Valet, writing in Forbes Magazine online (March 12, 2020) stated that 75% of employees feel that they are not as productive working at home. Setting up a work space is no easy task, creating a structural nightmare for some. Another problem is that employees complain about at-home distractions, such as receiving non-work-related deliveries, getting non-work-related calls and texts, caring for young children, and outdoor noises such as building construction or neighboring apartment-related noises.

 A woman works from home (credit: INGIMAGE) A woman works from home (credit: INGIMAGE)

Helpful strategies that make working from home less stressful

Set up your workplace. Finding a comfortable and private space in your home is essential. Arrange your work space with the right equipment and try to make it look attractive.

Create a routine by beginning the work day at the same time each day, it will help to make you feel like you are at your job. Carving out a routine may include setting your alarm for the same time each day and doing the usual morning rituals, such as eating breakfast, drinking a hot drink, getting kids ready and taking kids to school. Then begin the transition to your work. 

When you are at your workspace, close the door and let other family members know that you should not be disturbed, unless absolutely necessary. Your routine should include taking time out for a lunch break. Mark the end of your day at a specific time by putting things away and leaving your workspace. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be flexible, but it is better to have a clear boundary that your work day has ended.

Always dress for the day. Some of my clients tell me that they stay in their pajamas during working hours at home. However, it is better to get dressed and groomed as if you were going to work because doing those things actually impacts your mindset that it is time to work and tackle your responsibilities.

Stick primarily to your work hours. Not setting clear hours at which you’re at work makes it difficult for your brain to make the important switch in and out of work mode. This shift in mode is vital for both your mental state and job performance.

Reduce distractions when you are ready to begin working, be sure to silence your phone and turn off any computer notifications to ensure you are not disturbed by non-work-related notifications. As well, you may consider listening to relaxing music at work or use noise-canceling headphones.

Take work breaks. Studies have shown that work breaks actually increase productivity.

Establish a post-work routine similar to getting dressed in the morning; taking the time to wind down after work is an important step to communicate to your brain that your work day is over. Shutting your devices, music, lights and closing the door will help you to create a good boundary between work and personal time, even when both activities are happening at home.

Connect to family members and friends after finishing your work routine. This is actually a critical part of succeeding at working from home. The boundary between work and personal time needs to be clear and protected, not blurred, or there is a risk of feeling overwhelmed by two competing sets of demands. Therefore, reconnect to your family or socialize with friends.

Unwind by doing something relaxing and enjoyable, like watching a good film or reading a book.

Exercise helps to reduce work stress.

Getting a good night’s sleep has been shown to be positively related to work productivity.

While working from home may not be ideal for everyone, those who cope best with its demands will be less stressed. Companies and employers would be well served by giving their employees some training on what constitutes effective work from home practice. 

The writer is a marital, child and adult cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist and consultant with offices in Jerusalem and Ra’anana. www.facebook.com/drmikegropper ; [email protected]