Working remotely has risen across all sectors since the start of the pandemic
Remote working can lead to higher stress levels
Tips for stress management in the workplace include exercising, breathwork and ambient noise
In the past few years, almost everyone has been forced to change the way they work. In most employment sectors, workers have moved away from the hubbub of busy offices, with coworkers and the opportunity to pop out for a coffee, to working solo on a laptop balanced on their kitchen table. At first, the novelty of having to commute just a few steps away meant everyone quickly settled into the new routine. However, for many remote workers, cracks are now beginning to show due to challenges with managing stress while working from home.
Often, working remotely involves days in the bedroom, working on a desk a few feet from where you sleep, with little-to-no social interaction. Employers' expectations have risen, with anticipated increases in productivity due to less distraction at home. A study found working from home unfavorably affected work-life balance as many employees find it harder to switch off due to struggles with "boundary management." This has led to employees working through lunch breaks and evenings As a result, many people are experiencing signs of burnout.
It's never been more important to learn how to manage stress at work. Let's walk through some stress management tips for working from home so you can stay happy and healthy.
1. Exercise Regularly
Often easier said than done, but there are huge advantages to getting away from your desk at lunch. Force yourself to do your sport of choice for 30 minutes. Indoors or outdoors, exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, even after a single session.
And if you're missing the social interaction of working in an office, solo workouts are becoming increasingly social, whether it's taking part in a live, virtual exercise class on an indoor bike with people across the world or logging your run on a training app where you can receive motivational kudos from friends. Or how about setting a virtual walking date with a co-worker? Not only does this help get you out of the house for fresh air, but you are also helping other's to stay healthy.
Plus, a recent study found that exercising boosts cognitive function, so there's one more reason for getting those endorphins flowing.
"And breathe …" It's a popular phrase when stressed, but have you ever taken it seriously? Breathwork is a stress management technique many people have read about but few have tried. Those who have given it a go are usually converted.
It's all about deep breathing: Inhale oxygen into your lower belly, stretching your diaphragm to its limit. Breathe in as much as possible, and exhale slowly. This, in turn, can lower your heart rate, helping feelings of stress dissipate. Try to focus your mind on the count of the inhale or exhale, or a word or mantra, to help keep your mind from wandering. This can provide additional health benefits from your breathwork.
Practice this as a ritual for around 10 minutes daily, and you may soon begin to feel like you can handle anything your boss sends your way.
3. Invest in a Stand-Up Desk
We all know sitting hunched in an office chair is doing our body no favors. Our sloping shoulders and curved back take time and effort to rectify, not to mention the increased toll on your body sitting for long periods of time can cause.
A standing desk can have positive effects, and not just on your posture and health. Users are found to have increased energy levels as well as lower levels of stress and fatigue than those who remain sitting all day. Aim to vary standing and sitting throughout the day. Not only may you begin to feel physically better, but your stress levels may also decrease. If a standing desk is not an option, consider varying your day by standing at a tall table or countertop. This can provide similar benefits as a standing desk without the need for special furniture.
4. Listen to White Noise
In the office, there's usually background noise, from the printer spooling out copies to your coworker cursing the printer for not printing out the right copies. Working from home, meanwhile, can be largely silent.
However, white noise might help reduce stress and has even been used in some office settings. White noise is made up of a mixture of different tones of sound at frequencies between 20Hz and 20,000Hz. Your brain transforms these sounds into the hissing noise you hear and shuts out all other distracting sounds, calming your busy mind and making it easier for you to focus.
5. Add Some Greenery to Your Room
As well as introducing color, focal points, and nature to your workspace, plants and flowers have also been shown to help reduce physiological and psychological stress.
This occurs via a combination of suppressing the sympathetic nervous system and diastolic blood pressure and promoting comfortable, soothed feelings.
Some doctors in the UK have even started prescribing gardening to patients who are under a lot of stress. Plus, if you're working in a room on your own in need of something to talk to, turn to your plant. Don't worry, we won't judge you—after all, everyone from Prince Charles to Judi Dench has admitted to chatting with flora and fauna.
The Bottom Line
Stress management at work has never been more important. To avoid burnout and stay on top of your mental health, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the stress of working from home, from regular exercise to working at a standing desk. Take time to manage your stress, and your mental and physical health can improve.
Preventing Chronic Disease. "Reducing occupational sitting time and improving worker health: the Take-a-Stand Project, 2011." 2012. Accessed on: December 14, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23057991/
Journal of Physiological Anthropology. "Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study." April 28, 2015. Accessed on: December 14, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4419447/
Senior Manager, Medical and Scientific Communications
Melissa is a Registered Dietitian and provides leadership to Pharmavite’s Medical and Scientific Education team. She has over 20 years of experience educating consumers, healthcare professionals, retailers and employees about nutrition, dietary supplements, and overall wellness. Prior to joining the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Melissa launched and managed Pharmavite’s Consumer Affairs department and worked as a clinical dietitian throughout Southern California. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and completed her dietetic internship at Veteran’s Hospital in East Orange New Jersey.