July 12, 2023
July 13, 2023
Managing Stress, Anxiety & Burnout In a Remote Work Setting
Scrolling through LinkedIn and when tuning in on internal company topics, mental health is a rising star in the discussion. Working has become a lot more flexible and fluid, allowing us to organise our lives more freely. At the same time, it demands a lot of self-management.
Especially the generations of Millenials and Gen Z are affected by increased stress levels and anxiety at the workplace, with burnout rates constantly rising. At Acer8 we put a lot of emphasis on our employees’ mental health by trying to create an open discussion around it. We work in a remote-first setup where we mainly see each other on screen. In the following, you will find a few insights and tips connected to our own working experience.
Taking a Closer Look
Working in a set-up where the majority of your work is happening outside of an office space can have a lot of advantages and benefit your mental health. At the same time, it also entails risk, which can negatively affect you when not dealt with. Let us first look at the risks to create better awareness and then move to some advantages you can benefit from.
Risks When Working Remotely
Blurred boundaries of work and life
The inability to disconnect from work is one of the main causes of burnout, next to missing a supportive environment and lack of inspiration at work.
Working from home makes it hard to take a break, finish the day and detach from work. The constant access to your work material at all times requires setting boundaries.
When you feel your stress levels rising, make sure to put your laptop away from where you live and rest, limit specific apps on your phone to a certain time of day, set your Slack status (Lunch, at the Gym, etc.), to take away the pressure from being a message away at all times. Let people know you are taking a break. You are absolutely allowed and encouraged to do so!
Need for higher self-discipline
Firstly, it is important to learn to take breaks, switch off, and detach from work when you are supposed to be off. On the other hand, working from home with lots of distractions easily sneak up on you.
Try to find ways and routines that work for you and that motivate you to get your work done, but simultaneously plan some time for other things. Reserving time for other things you need and like doing can help you get distracted and reduce stress.
The need to prove yourself to others
One of the reasons for the urge to constantly be available can be the anxiety that your manager or someone else would think you are not working or not getting the desired information in time. Many do still have that anxiety of not performing well enough or not delivering fast enough.
What should matter in the end are your work results and their quality, not how many messages you have replied and how fast, or at what times you were available.
One of the substantial risks of working from home is Isolation. We all still remember the peak times of Covid, when we were not allowed to see more than one person, and most companies, for the first time, switched to fully remote. This was a huge change from what we knew before, not just in our professional but also personal life.
Now, Covid is behind us, and we have all the possibilities in the world again. One thing that remained for many of us is that we are still working from home, and this makes it even harder to connect with your team. Having people at work you feel close to and comfortable with can contribute to your mental health and decrease stress levels and anxiety at work.
This can be hard in a remote environment where normal face-to-face interactions while getting a coffee or walking the hallway just don’t exist.
Try to find ways to connect in other ways. Some examples of remote options can be:
- having a call to catch up
- making stand-ups more fun and personal
- regular 1:1s with the ones you work closely with to give opportunities to chat openly
How Can Working Remotely Support Your Mental Fitness?
When understanding the risks and finding ways to avoid them negatively affecting your mental health and work, there is a lot to benefit from working remotely.
Work-Life-Balance is one of the terms we commonly hear when looking at our modern world. Considering the changes within the last centuries, work is not just work anymore. It’s not just about paying the bills, but a big part of our self-realisation. According to a survey by Deloitte 49% of Gen Zs and 62% of millennials say work is central to their identity. At the same time, work-life balance is what we all are striving for if we consider other aspects of our life a priority.
Working from home can actually support your work-life balance. When learning to deal with the risks, it can be a great way to better integrate both parts of your life. You can pick up your kids from school, have a coffee break with your partner, go to your dentist appointment, or just read a book on the balcony while on your break. These small and simple things of integrating parts of your personal life into your workday can support you in being balanced and detaching more often.
When you have mastered the art of not being distracted, productivity can actually be one of the benefits of remote work. It is easier to avoid people from walking into your room chatting or wanting to discuss a work topic while you just entered a flow working on your project, you can decide when to answer messages and requests. You can find your way of working best and stick to it while working from home with no one disturbing you. You can even find out when your brain functions best when you get most things done, and work during these times without being restricted by any lunch or opening hours of the office. And you can set up your workspace at home in a way it best suits your needs. Increase your productivity by finding your best home office setup and work schedule and go for it!
Increasing your productivity is closely connected to being more flexible when working from home. Most companies now offer flexible working hours so you can quickly adapt to your preferred schedule. You might be someone who is striving while working in the morning but getting drained in the afternoon. So why not get out for a bit, exercise, walk or lay in the sun or whatever helps you to recharge your batteries? When having a family, this kind of flexibility can also help a lot in arranging your and/or your partner's schedule around school pick-ups or other appointments. And this is just a small frame of what work flexibility can support you with.
Optimised time for (other) things you love
Especially when you don’t live close to the office, commuting can take up a lot of your time and at the same time be quite stressful when trains are packed with people. Think about what you could do with the time instead: you can spend more time with your partner, family, or kids in the morning before everybody goes their way, you can go for a resting walk, read your favorite book at the kitchen table or just sleep a little longer. And all that with the calm of your own routine and no one bumping against you on the train or honking at you in the car. Having a bit more time for the things you love and that give you energy can already have a big impact on your well-being.
Change of scenery - work from wherever you like
In addition to more flexible working hours, we are not bound to a specific location anymore. The extent can vary: while some companies already offer to work from anywhere for however long you like, others might have it restricted to certain areas and times. But even then just having the option to switch from the table to the couch, the balcony or the café next door, can give you a change of scenery or something different that you need in that moment.
For those lucky enough to be able to work from anywhere, it is an amazing opportunity to combine discovering new places by working without making any restrictions. If you are not used to this yet, just try smaller variations first - e.g. working from a café during one half of the day or having a long weekend at a place you enjoy spending time at before jumping into a 2-week experiment. Maybe this is your game-changer!
Keeping all of this in mind, let us not forget about the general things you can do in order to take care of your mental health. Think about your mental health as a muscle you want to train. We are exercising for physical health, but we should see our mental health equally as something we can - and should - train.
This article is a part of a series of mental health insights throughout the months of July and August and a shorter version of an Acelr8 Mental Health Playbook, coming out in the end of August.