THE BLOG

Don't Believe The Myth, Working From Home Can Actually Elevate Your Stress Levels

The lack of boundaries around housework, kids, deadlines and getting work done ‘in between’ can result in more stress than working in an office.

15/02/2017 04:56 SAST | Updated 15/02/2017 04:56 SAST
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Dr. Mammekwa Mokgoro

There is a grand myth that working from home is dreamy.

You can work in your pyjamas if you want to! You can make your own tea, coffee, snacks, you can look out your window, stretch, not have to talk to colleagues you might not really like anyway. You can get things done because people aren't troubling you every five minutes with additional requests across your desk.

You control your time! How dreamy.

You work when you want, how long you want, and sit on the floor, couch, bed, under the kitchen table if you like. As long as you get the job done, or meet the deadline. Lovely!

The truth about working from home, however, is that the lack of boundaries around housework, kids, deadlines and getting work done 'in between', actually can result in higher levels of stress.

A study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, carefully tracked and examined cortisol levels in people who worked from home versus people who worked at the office. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and is trackable via the saliva. Throughout the day saliva samples were taken to compare and contrast stress levels in participants – the results were surprising. Working from home was far more stressful than working out of the home – largely due to one mitigating factor: juggling.

The adverse effects of this feeling of juggling can be many: frustration results in raised stress levels which in turn result in lowered immune system, mood strain, mental fatigue and physiological strain. Prolonged elevation of hormones like cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer.

The keys then, to creating a less stressful 'work-from-home' environment? Notice the Self... And Set Boundaries.

Notice The Self

Learn to identify when you are feeling stress and strain. In this moment, ask yourself, 'How can I do this better?' Maybe it's a change of mind - the way you think about something - maybe it's rearranging circumstances and schedules to create more fluidity. Maybe it's to set better boundaries. You'd be surprised how setting boundaries can at times, be the key to peace.

Find strength in your discipline. Working Mothers (and all mothers) give and give. And give. And give. And rarely put themselves first.

Set Boundaries And Find your Happy Place

Choose a spot, create a desk, create a comfortable corner space, face a window, kitchen countertop – whatever and wherever it is – create a work space in which you feel happy and able to concentrate.

Bring Out Your Skills

Impress upon yourself the importance of dividing your time into pockets – commit to those pockets of time. Multi-tasking is, generally, not really finishing anything whereas tackling pockets of time with one focused task at a time, will bring greater degrees of satisfaction, focus, and feelings of achievement because you can focus.

Discipline

Flexi-time really is wonderful! But multi-tasking is not (yes, I've said it again). Complete tasks when and as often as you can. Set a timer (1 hour of work, quickly fold washing, 1 hour of work, put supper on, 1 hour of work, fetch kids from school). Do not cross your boundaries or you will feel like you are failing instead of getting things done.

Also, as part of this process, most importantly:

Exhale

Breathe in deeply.

Exhale.

And find strength in your discipline. Working mothers (and all mothers) give and give. And give. And give. And rarely put themselves first – in this regard I want to say, I see you. I see how hard you are trying. How hard you are working. And it is with a compassionately realistic heart that I say, it is important to value yourself as part of the home health equation. If you are not meeting your own goals (which also include being an attentive parent or meeting a deadline), then you are suffering in the long run.

Suffering and stress lead to illness.

Everything is connected. This process does not require perfection, it simply requires cognisance – awareness. We all want to succeed – empower yourself to be empowered. This commitment to boundaries and flexible but determinate discipline will help you achieve your goals and result in lowered stress levels.

And of course, to help keep yourself level – Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins (feel good hormones!) like nobody's business. Doing one minute of exercise is better than doing none – doing 20 minutes is wonderful! But don't allow yourself to forget yourself. Manage the stress through preventative methods, and you are on a road to better health.