How to keep stress in check while working from home

Over the past year, the global pandemic has without a doubt, touched us all.

As offices and schools across the world have opened and closed, many of us have found ourselves having to juggle in ways we’ve never juggled before—managing work while sharing our new 'office' space with families, flatmates and partners. And this unique set of pressures can add to stress.

So here are some tips for maintaining a good work-life balance for a (hopefully) happier home in these challenging times.

Stay connected

If you’re not used to working remotely, it can feel isolating, especially at first. It’s easy to get caught up in worries about missing out—on essential conversations, meetings and making in-person connections. But it’s important to keep the momentum going: staying productive is an integral part of your resilience toolkit.

Regular meetings, via phone or videoconference, can also help combat feelings of isolation. If you or your colleagues live alone, this is especially important. Staying connected really matters when it comes to mental health. Conferencing tools such as Slack, Zoom, or Google Hangouts are all handy resources to keep your team communicating regularly.

We’re all individuals with our own unique circumstances and personal ways of dealing with them.

So it’s crucial that colleagues and managers be both perceptive and flexible, checking in with their teams so that every team member knows someone at work has their welfare in mind, especially during these difficult times.

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Balance work and family

Home and work life is always a balancing act. And the current situation with many people working from home (WFH) while their children distance-learn has many people trying to work and support their children as they learn. Adjusting is a process, and it takes as long as it takes.

Trying to do a good job at being a parent and contribute professionally may leave you feeling stressed (and worn out).

Your first order of business is carving out time in your day for both your home and your work obligations. If there are important meetings that you need to dial into, or you need some focus time for a big project, planning paves the way.

When it comes to meetings, review your notes in advance and arrange things for your kids to do ahead of time—double-check they have everything they need, too. But if they do end up popping up on camera during your call, don’t worry. No one will mind—after all, you won’t be the only one. And remember, it could always be worse— you could be on live t.v.

Problems with background noise from kids, pets or neighbors? Use headphones and make sure you know how to mute the call.

Keeping kids (and yourself) entertained while staying at home more is tricky at best—so use all the tools at your disposal. If you have screen time rules, consider relaxing them. Encourage your children to find exercise or dance routines on youtube and get moving with them when you can. And if you’re lucky enough to have access to outside space, send them outdoors to burn off some energy.

You can also keep them busy by having them help out with chores and clean up after themselves. This has the added benefit of taking some work off your plate. If your bunch isn’t enthused about doing their part, a reward chart (and the promise of something fun) may help keep attitudes in check.

And when it comes to food and household staples, while there’s no need to go overboard stocking up, it’s probably a good idea to have plenty of ingredients to make quick healthy meals, and have a tasty variety of snacks on hand for kids. For convenience’s sake, home delivery is something to consider, if you’ve got the option in your area.

Work with (not against) your partner

Whether or not you have children, WFH with a partner can create its own set of challenges. The most important thing to remember is to compromise and remember we’re all in this together. You may not have a designated home office space, and if you do, it may not be big enough for both of you to comfortably work.

If you’re in a shared space situation, try to work out something that’s practical for both of you.

Coordinate your days together so that you can both focus and dial into meetings as necessary. If you have small children to keep occupied, try to take turns so that each of you can manage your work responsibilities in a timely fashion.

And make communicating clearly and listening carefully a priority—putting in the extra effort to understand how the other person is feeling about the ongoing situation (at home, and in the world) can make a real difference in your relationship.

Deal with conflict effectively

Nevertheless, when you spend a lot of time with someone, disagreement is inevitable at some point. But when an argument occurs, you can get through conflict more effectively by avoiding some behaviours and adopting others.

What to avoid

Try not to blame your partner—it’ll probably only make them defensive. The same goes for overgeneralising. Statements with ‘always’ and ‘never’ are probably not entirely true, and best replaced with words like ‘frequently’ or ‘often’.

And don’t make your current quarrel about everything you’ve ever disagreed on, either. Keep the present discussion on the issue at hand and hold back on name-calling, eye-rolling and sarcastic remarks—they can be toxic to your relationship.

What to try

Before you respond or react, take a few deep breaths. Give yourself time to pause. Is what’s going on even worth arguing about? And if you decide the issue at hand’s worth the energy, start with a question, not a statement. Show your partner you’re actively listening by paraphrasing or summarising what they said in their words.

Do your best to see things from your partner’s perspective when you can, so that together you can work towards a solution that works for both of you. And if things get out of hand, take a time-out to cool off. When you do come to an understanding, focus on the change that needs to happen after the argument.

Be kind to yourself

Most importantly of all—look after yourself. There’s no way you’ll be able to manage all the moving parts and handle the extra stress of the work-life balancing act without time to yourself. Carve out time to relax in whatever way suits you. Take a long bath, watch your favorite show after the kids are in bed, or do yoga stretches.

And give yourself a break when it comes to your regularly high standards re: work and home. Compromises are going to be necessary—you probably won’t be able to work to your usual standards or spend as much quality time connecting with your children as you might like. Remind yourself that these measures are temporary, and patience and flexibility will help get you through.

What are some things you do to keep stress at a minimum while working from home? Let us know at foundations@koahealth.com​.