Flexibility, having the freedom to work whenever you want, skipping the commute, and work/life balance. Remote working has more perks than you’d think. However, remote workers go through phases of exhaustion and stress as a result of this lifestyle. A new report found that 40% of employees practicing this sort of work are experiencing high levels of stress, compared to 25% among those always working at the office.
Working remotely from home could add levels of stress to employees because of the distractions they have to deal with and the inability to unplug from work. Employees feeling disconnected or demotivated should pay attention to their mental well-being by engaging in activities to combat the negative outcomes of demotivation and depression.
If you’ve just started a remote job or thinking to go remote, be sure that it’s an experience that is definitely worth all the stress and it’s good to know that all types of work come with different forms of stress. Based on my experience, I will walk you through the challenges you might face and will provide actionable solutions to end this epidemic.
1. Lack of social interaction
According to Buffer state of remote work 2018, loneliness appears to be the biggest struggle with working remotely.
The lack of social interactions and isolation can have a negative impact on remote employees’ productivity and mental health. It was found that 62% of remote employees suffer from the isolation which leads to as much as a 21% drop in performance.
The problem is that when everyone is working remotely, it’s hard to notice that there’s a problem.
Ways to overcome isolation:
- Talk to your employer about the challenges you’re facing and encourage your remote colleagues to share their challenges as well. An environment that encourages open conversations can help you combat loneliness.
- Go to meetup.com to search for active meet-ups in your local town focused on your interests. You can also join workshops, conferences, and seminars held in your city. This will help you socialize and at the same time build a professional network with like-minded individuals.
- Because nothing beats the face to face interactions, employers can help by organizing regular physical in-person meetings, as well as free counseling sessions as part of a benefits package to their remote employees.
According to Jason Fried from Basecamp: “the real challenge of managing remote employees is people who overwork”.
In remote work, when people can’t see you working, you feel more obliged to show your commitment. This puts a lot of stress on employees and urges them to work a lot more than if they were in the office. A study by Harvard Business Review explains why remote employees experience burnout “employees respond to the ability to work flexibly by exerting additional effort, in order to return benefit to their employer”.
Reaching the point of burnout often happens slowly and gradually, therefore, employees don’t often recognize that there’s something wrong.
How to tell that you’ve reached the stage of burnout?
- Lack of motivation and poor performance at work
- Chronic stress
How to avoid burnout when working remotely?
- Establish a routine
As simple as it sounds, establish a routine and stick to it. This includes anything that will help you start your day with fresh vibes. To accomplish that, I have started to follow this routine and it’s yielding good results so far:
- Read for 30 minutes
- Practice journaling (10 minutes)
- Exercise ( 15 minutes)
- Start working
One thing we learned at Remoteplatz, is that establishing a well-defined workday parameters helps us maintain work/life balance and set clear boundaries between work and life.
- Take breaks
Leverage the opportunity to take breaks whenever you feel the need to.
Customer Champion at Zapier once said that “No matter how much we work, there is always work to be done and you have to accept that it’s not possible to finish all of it”.
- Change your scenery
Working entirely from home can be depressing. Moving your workspace to new and interesting surroundings can make you less likely to feel the effects of burnout. Instead of working from home, try out coffee shops, libraries, beaches or coworking spaces.
3. Cultural difference
Although cultural diversity is one of the strengths of remote workplaces, it introduces additional stress to employees. The more diverse your team is, the more miscommunication is likely to occur. This increases the stress level among employees who exert a lot more effort to understand and make themselves understood.
How to be mindful about cultural diversity in the workplace?
- Practice active listening
Active listening means being fully concentrating on what’s being said. When dealing with coworkers from different cultures, give it a shot to:
- Initiate conversation
- Ask questions to clarify
- Show comprehension by repeating what the speaker said
- Understand different communication styles
Different cultures have different communication styles and different ways of delivering information. For example, this is the difference between two of the most common communication styles in workplaces:
Direct versus indirect: Direct communicators give their opinions directly to the people involved. Indirect communicators, on the other hand, tend to avoid confrontation by giving suggestions, implications, and other cues, instead of direct feedback.
Developing the skills and ability to understand and communicate effectively with all your employees or co-workers is critical to lowering your stress level and succeeding in your own career.
4. Lack of resources
One of the main causes of stress in remote workplaces is lack of resources. Remote developers who are left with limited or no access to information, discussions, or specific documents, may find it stressful to meet deadlines.
How to avoid?
- When you’re given a project, ask your seniors to clarify all project specifications you may need. Never leave anything to chance and make sure you have all the documents needed in place.
5. Being always on
The evolution of technology has made it easier for remote employees to take their work everywhere with them. Through apps like Slack, Google Drive, and Trello, employees can still communicate, respond to emails, and messages even after the workday. This is another factor that causes remote employees to feel stressed, and make them more vulnerable to feeling burned out.
How to avoid?
- Avoid sending or responding to work-related emails or messages after work hours.
- Be mindful of time zones by prioritizing the request that comes from your remote colleagues’ with big time zone differences.
6. Lack of experience
Remote workers who lack experience may find themselves more stressed when they work remotely. This is because they don’t receive the same support as their office counterparts. Experienced remote employees will definitely find it easier to set their own pace and manage their workday wherever they are. According to research by TINYpulse, it takes about three years for remote employees to reach peak happiness in their roles.
How to manage your workday as a beginner remote employee?
- Prioritize tasks
- Start your day early
- Don’t be afraid to ask for support
- Don’t be shy to say no to work overload
- Over communicate with remote team members
- Separate your work and living space
- Utilize project and time management tools such as Trello and Todoist.
Final note: How to end the epidemic stress of remote work?
We all go through hectic and stressful phases at work. It’s normal to experience fatigue or lack of motivation every once in a while. Participating in stress reducing activities will help you cope with the common challenges of working remotely. Such activities may include exercising regularly, Yoga classes, mindfulness trainings, or volunteering with community organizations. What I found is that asking for support and engaging in community engagement helps a lot when it comes to combating stress. Set clear expectations and resist the urge to be perfect.