Recruit Ireland spoke with Dr. Stella Vlachou, Assistant Professor in Psychology in the School of Psychology and Chairperson of the BSc in Psychology Programme at DCU on working from home, the stresses it can cause, and what can help to relieve it.

Why is working from home stressful?

Each individual deals differently with stress and with working from home. Depending on the circumstances, for some individuals, working from home is more relaxing, although the vast majority report higher levels of stress. Many factors, big and small, can trigger anxiety. Some of those factors that can cause stress when working remotely are as follows:

Whether or not you have worked from home before

It’s nearly been a year now but a lot of us might still be getting used to the idea –or the intense reality!- of remote work. Waking up with no commute, working in your boffice (bedroom/office) or if you’ve started a new job and have never worked from home before- this can be quite daunting.

What type of job a person has

Naturally, all jobs differ, meaning the intensity of each job is different, too. If you’re a team player and working against the clock, working from home can feel uncomfortable for some people; except for your phone and laptop connecting you with the rest of the world, you are completely alone. Asking a colleague that’s sitting beside you an urgent question will never be taken for granted again!

Social interactions

As humans, we crave social interaction. Whether it’s a little or a lot, it’s been completely taken away. The sense of isolation and loneliness is strong for everyone, especially during the repeated lockdowns, now for the third time! This is even more pronounced for particular age groups, such as elderly people.

Separating time

“Work time and family time have come together almost in an inseparable manner”, Dr. Vlachou said. A major factor of increased anxiety according to her is the balance between work and life, which have been intertwined “and this can be more challenging for women, especially when homeschooling or other home responsibilities need to be taken care of at the same time”, said Dr. Vlachou. What we need to do for work and what we need to do for the family have been combined, increasing our workload throughout the day.

How we can relieve this stress?

“Under normal circumstances, we are in working environments and interact with each other face to face. We have the opportunity to take a break, move around and chat for a while, and share a coffee. If we don’t have the social interactions that we were used to, this can contribute to higher levels of stress,” said Dr. Vlachou.

Connect with colleagues

Given these current circumstances, we feel more isolated and we feel more lonely. “We are all experiencing the same circumstances and we can all support each other in this manner”. One way to relieve this stress is to remind each other that we have to go through this to keep each other safe and to remember that it will be over hopefully soon”.

Knowing that our managers and workplace understand our particular circumstances, for example of having children at home, and that a task may take longer than anticipated to be completed is very helpful nowadays. For the most part, “people are understanding of this and know that there has to be some level of flexibility”, Dr. Vlachou said.

Whilst we may miss human interaction, for now making the most of what we have can help with the feeling of social isolation. Dr. Vlachou suggests virtual meetings with friends and family when possible or an afternoon break or a chat with workmates outside work tasks.

Hobbies, Walks, Exercising

Identifying hobbies, Listening to music, going for walks or some form of exercise is another way of relieving stress. Dr. Vlachou says that if you get any sort of break during the day, you should get out for a walk or a run, to get some fresh air, anywhere that gets you away from your computer screen and into a natural environment. What could be more wonderful than getting out, breathing some fresh air, and resetting for the day, “if possible, even for a few minutes, take a break from any sort of responsibilities, family- or work-related”, Dr. Vlachou said.

Connecting with friends and/or family

Although virtually “meeting” them, when this is possible, “is not the same as seeing them in person, it’s the best compensation for not being able to actually meet with them and give them a hug”.

Webinars

Attending any informative or wellbeing webinars offered by specialists can give us good insight and advice from experts into techniques or ways to help ourselves when we feel stressed nowadays. Whether it involves a webinar on sleep, time management, or healthy eating, the world is your oyster in the sea of webinars that are out there.

Fake a commute

Whether it’s a long walk to and from work or only a 3-minute drive. Getting out and onto a journey to begin your day can give you that feeling of switching on and off for work.