How to successfully manage challenges, and stresses of working from home
At some point in our lives, we all wished we could work from home so we won’t have to wake up early and go home late, endure long hours of commuting and sitting/standing in traffic, and long queues at the train stations, hoping we could spend more quality time with our family.
As one adage goes, “Be careful about what you wish for” because when the whole world was hit by the pandemic, we were all forced to stay at home and do practically everything online. Then it hit us, is working from home really working?
“Work from home is our ‘new’ reality,” according to Dr. Anna York Bondoc, a pulmonary and critical care specialist, who talked about the “Guidelines in the New Normal: How to Manage Stress While Working from Home”.
“Before, our desks are near each other. People work together and [offices] are usually crowded. A good point of working from home is no more commuting, and it’s safer at home. Work from home (WFH) is possible. It can be done [Puwede pala], which has been resisted before,” she said.
Apparently, since people are still adjusting to this “new” reality, it is expected that not too many people, including our family and kids, are aware that WFH is actually a job. It’s paid, and if we don’t work, we won’t get paid.
“Husbands expect more from their wives. They come home thinking we’re just at home all day how come we haven’t cooked yet or haven’t done the dishes, or our mother-in-law’s wondering how come we can’t manage our kids, but what they didn’t know is that we also have a full-time job…we’re just at home. It’s our job,” said Dr. Bondoc.
Unlike when we go to the office, commuting separates work from home life. If a person goes to work, he is leaving a restful environment and moving to a professional and stressful environment. Working at the office separates people from home.
“Home is a place where we can de-stress. But when a person works from home, work-life balance is gone. Work is happening in our homes. The 9-to-5 job is destroyed, WFH becomes 24/7,” revealed Dr. Bondoc.
Even before the pandemic, some employers call their employees even after office hours. But work calls after office hours worsened during this pandemic because some employers expect their employees are always connected.
“Some companies call their employees and expect them to respond immediately. Then there’s a loss of privacy. When you’re at the office, it’s a separate entity. You can be professional and leave all problems behind at home. But now, people can see your private life during video calls or Zoom meetings, etc.,” she emphasized.
Apart from the challenge of staying connected 24/7, there’s this pressure on the employee to learn a new set of skills (e.g. online), to be more independent and self-motivated.
“The motivation must come from you now, otherwise, nothing will happen. You have to manage work from home and it’s quite stressful. Online environment/meetings are very stressful, very choppy for both the listeners and the speakers. Connections are bad. Speakers giving the talk are having a hard time gauging the audience. If meetings are not structured, you’ll waste so much time. It must be well planned and well moderated. It’s very difficult. Then people tend to stress eat, they don’t exercise. Too much digital. People feel isolated and lonely,” she said.
Since WFH is becoming the “new” normal, people don’t really have a choice but to stick to it and adjust to it. Dr. Bondoc offered some tips to help successfully manage challenges and stress from WFH.
“There should be mutual communication between the boss and the employee. Bosses should explain the goals and outcomes so the employees know what to expect. Stick to a schedule. Designate a workplace,” said Dr. Bondoc.
She advised, however, for people to stop using their beds as their workplace. “Don’t do that! Don’t bring your work to your bed. It will disrupt your sleep. Separate working and sleeping place. That’s your workplace and you should be serious about it. Ask your kids/families to respect your workplace.”
Technology-wise, Dr. Bondoc disclosed that some older people are becoming worried that they are being left out by technology.
“Technology is only a tool. What’s important is your knowledge about the job and you know what you do with the subject matter. Technology will always be there, but it won’t give us brains. What to do with it, depends on us,” she said.
While it may seem that being ‘techie’ (a person who is expert in or enthusiastic about technology) gives young people an edge these days, Dr. Bondoc said otherwise. “For younger people, it doesn’t make you a genius if you know Zoom or technology. You still have to put in time and effort into what you’re doing.”
Your health matters
One of the downsides of WFH is the tendency to sit all day while facing computers or laptops. According to studies, sitting or lying down for too long increases one’s risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, some cancers, and heart diseases. It can also be bad for one’s mental health. In fact, health experts tag sitting for too long as the “new smoking”.
“Set aside time for yourselves. Exercise! Try to exercise twice a week. Set proper meal times. Primary immunity will come from your diet. What are you eating? Lasagna, ube pandesal? Eat a balanced diet: Proteins, carbs, fruits, and veggies. Vitamins for immunity are D, E, Zinc. One multivitamin a day is more than enough. Good diet, proper exercise, and enough sleep. Try to normalize your sleeping time,” she said.
Apart from taking care of one’s physical health, Dr. Bondoc also reminded everyone to set aside “quality” leisure time for family. “Talk to your husband. Play with your kids. Reach out to your friends or colleagues, sisters, cousins, boss. Try to talk to someone. Physical distancing, not social distancing.”
She also warned everyone to be aware of using too much social media as it can also be the source of anxiety. “Social media is a form of advertisement. Whatever we are posting, it’s the best version of ourselves. They tweak it to make it look better than it actually is.”
Dr. Bondoc affirmed that feeling sad, depressed, anxious, and hopeless in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is normal. “If you don’t feel anything, your heart is made of stone. Everyone’s depressed and a little anxious. You’re going to go through ups and downs during this pandemic. There are times you will counsel, other times, you will need counseling. Practice patience and kindness. Be thankful. Look for strength in other people.”
Lastly, coronavirus is a new disease. While none is documented of contracting COVID twice, Dr. Bondoc said it’s still best to take care of oneself. “Everyone can get COVID. If you have to go out, please wear masks, sanitize, and practice social distancing. Please show compassion and respect. Change to house clothes and slippers once you go home.”