Within a month of COVID-19 taking a hold within North American borders, Forbes
published Three Warning Signs That Your Remote Employees Are Starting To Crack
Under The Stress Of Working From Home. Now, the question remains as to whether
or not this article was a reflection upon what was occurring to date, or a heads up for
the wave of the increased workers who quickly were forced to create home offices.
Well, the writer of this article, her friends and her clients, all from various professions,
almost immediately discovered the following stressors: Grocery delivery orders arriving
too early, and in the middle of appointments. Extra time needed to set-up virtual
meetings. Kids and pets, though cute, demanding attention all day and at the most
interesting moments. Email exchanges having seemingly to go way past the typical
workday schedule. Workspaces being either too dark or too light, and uncomfortable.
Not one of these stressors politely immerged slowly. In fact, they all felt as if they
descended at the same time.
Research has supported this work-from-home-stress phenomenon. Trent, Smith and
Wood (1994) associated a lower level of social support with a higher level of stress for
those who worked at home, as opposed to employees at the workplace or
telecommuters. In addition, Voydanoff (2005) concluded that “the demands that were
positively related to work-to-family conflict and perceived stress were commuting time,
bringing work home, job contacts at home, and work-family multitasking.” It is obvious
that commuting time is null if one works from home. However, both researchers
revealed the other, unavoidable, remaining and common stressors.
Now, how can workers working from home reduce their stress load and achieve work-life balance?
Firstly, organizational leaders must be on board. In their article, Drew
and Dareth (2009) promoted that management and Human Resources need to:
a) Make sure that work-life balance policies are created and in place;
b) That these policies are known, including via training, to all employees;
c) Lead by example, including admonishing the idea that long hours are
the norm towards success and recognition.
At the employee level, this writer and counsellor recommend five areas on which to
focus, to reduce working-from-home-stress:
1) Implementing and continuing daily, self-care strategies, such as exercise,
healthy eating and mindfulness practices.
2) Sticking to a set work schedule, avoiding overtime and late hours, and
3) Making sure one is spending time with family and friends.
4) Avoid multi-tasking, with work or play.
5) Allow time for social and daily connection with work colleagues.
Above all and in conclusion, there is a sixth domain which is equally necessary to
include: Giving oneself grace, instead of grief, when trying to achieve a work-life
balance. In typical days, implementing any change can be challenging. In many cases,
people have practiced maladaptive habits for years, and these vices are not undone
easily. Now, with the added stress of a bigger, negative force called COVID-19, more
patience with oneself is paramount and primary. Remember the famous saying,
“Physician, heal thyself.”
Drew, E., & Daverth, G. (2009). Living to work…. Or working to live? The
role of managers in creating work life balance in Ireland. Irish Congress
of Trade Unions, 1-27.
Murphy, M. (2020). Three warning signs that your remote employees are starting to
crack under the stress of working from home. Forbes.
Trent, J.T., Smith, A.L., & Wood, D.L. (1994). Telecommuting: stress and social
support. Psychological Report (74), 1312-1314.
Voydanoff, P. (2005). Consequences of boundary-spanning demands and resources for
work-to-family conflict and perceived stress. Journal of Occupational Health
Psychology, 10(4), 491–503.