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How to Deal With Ongoing Stress Caused by Working From Home

June 18, 2020

Routine and structure. For many people, these are two major keys to success in the professional world. Consistent schedules and deadlines, regular rules, and clear organization keep work on track and make coworkers, customers, and bosses happy.

These days, work-from-home arrangements made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it harder and harder for professionals to maintain routines and structure. This disruption of the regular working experience is causing increased, ongoing stress for many that are now working from home.

“There’s no doubt that the biggest stress for professionals working from home is this change in routine and structure,” according to Christopher M. Palmer, MD, director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital. “Whenever people’s routines change significantly or expectations change, it stresses people. That’s the way our bodies work.”


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Challenges facing professionals working from home during the coronavirus crisis include adapting to new technologies, like teleconferencing and Zoom. In addition to the stress of having to learn new skills, the move to virtual communication reduces much-needed personal contact and contributes to individual anxiety and depression.

Other challenges include spending the entire working day at home with spouses, children, or aging parents. Working in a house full of people means more distractions and disruptions. Also, many workers feel they are less productive, which leads to stress.

Causing more stress is the fact that many workers are forced to juggle the demands of their working lives with their parent and family responsibilities. This is worsened by many feeling that there is no end in sight.

That these factors lead to increased levels of stress for stay-at-home professionals is not surprising to Palmer. “If you have massive disruptions to your life, you should expect to experience some degree of stress,” he asserted. “This stress will persist until you reach a new equilibrium or comfort level.” Palmer described this comfort level as “a position where you’re getting the things done that you need to get done, and you feel like you’ve got some structure and a routine.”

Getting to this newfound level of routine and structure may not be easy for many. There will be setbacks and stressors along the way. To help, Palmer offered a few tips and techniques for stressed-out professionals.

Mom tries to work with kids by her side
Finding the balance of work and home responsibilities can be a challenge, especially for those new to working from home

Dealing With Changes in Routine

Some feel like they are stressed for good reasons, and the only way to manage it is to wait for things to go back to normal. If this is the case, first recognize that feeling stressed is not helping your situation and may make things worse. It prevents you from thinking clearly, which can keep you from being productive. It’s important to try to manage this feeling. Try deep breathing, taking short breaks to clear your mind, meditating, or practicing mindfulness. You can also try to distract yourself with another activity, like vigorous exercise.

Balancing Responsibilities

It is possible for work arrangements to be structured to allow individuals to be productive while also handling their important parenting and caregiving activities. It’s important to work as a team with everyone in the house. Set clear guidelines and basic rules. Set up a basic schedule. Be sure to include time to take care of the needs of your children and others who depend on you, but also schedule some time for you to focus exclusively on work. One general rule is that multitasking slows people down and makes them much less productive. So, do your best to engage fully in things you are doing, and stick with them until they are done.

Getting Support From Your Family

Spouses, children, and other loved ones can support those working from home. The team approach works just as well here. Encourage the person who is working remotely to share how others can help. Be mindful of anything that others are doing that has been disruptive or problematic, such as noise levels from television or video games. When everyone shows interest in being helpful and offering to help, this provides a fair amount of relief.

Talking to Your Boss and Colleagues

Many are worried about the economy and possibly losing their jobs, which makes it difficult to express vulnerability to coworkers or your boss. If you already know that some of your coworkers will be supportive, seek them out and talk with them to find out what they are doing to cope. For many, asking coworkers or the boss for help during this time may be difficult. But if bosses and coworkers look out for one another, we can all be compassionate allies during a difficult time.

If you or a loved one is struggling to manage anxiety or stress during these difficult times, McLean Hospital is here to help. Call us now at 877.646.5272 to learn more about treatment for depression, stress, or anxiety.

June 18, 2020