Evidence suggests that we’re more productive when we work from home. That’s great news for employers but, unfortunately, it takes its toll on us as individuals. There’s no longer any separation between work and family. It’s all wrapped up together, which inevitably affects how we relate to the people around us.
What Makes Working From Home So Stressful?
Before the pandemic, most people considered working from home as something cushy and desirable. After all, who doesn’t want to roll out of bed and start working immediately without having to get dressed or commute to an office?
However, the reality, as many of us have discovered over the last two years, is quite different from that. Working from home comes with multiple stressors, including those that relate to our personal and intimate relationships.
Evidence suggests, for instance, that people who work from home actually report higher levels of stress than those who go to the office – 41 percent for the former versus 25 percent for the latter. Moreover, 42 percent of people who work from home experience night waking compared to just 29 percent of office workers.
The chief reason for this is something that you can probably guess: working from home extends the working day beyond regular hours. Under a traditional workplace setup, you can bookend your stress for particular hours of the day – say 9 am to 5 pm. But when working from home, that ceases to be an option. Working hours can easily bleed into evenings and weekends, and you never really get a chance to switch off and focus on something non-work-related.
There are other factors that cause stress, too. For instance, work-from-home employees often find it difficult to set boundaries. Telling their boss that they won’t be available after, say, 5 pm, isn’t a conversation that they want to have.
Noise and distractions can also be an issue. Working from home often means that there are spouses, partners, children and pets in the background, disrupting flow. It’s a million miles away from the office environment where everything is carefully controlled and calm.
Each of these factors can generate stress or negative emotions in their own way. For instance, constantly being interrupted by your spouse is stressful and frustrating, leading to arguments. Likewise, the stress of working longer hours drains your energy and gives you less time to focus on your relationships. You begin feeling like you can’t serve them in the way that you would like.
Just being around your partner all the time might also be a source of stress. You may find it hard to manage their various foibles, ticks and habits, causing tension in your relationship.
How To Reduce Relationship Stress While Working From Home
The good news is that there are strategies that you can adopt to reduce the amount of stress you experience while working from home. These tactics are by no means guaranteed, but they may be able to grease the wheels, so to speak, improving the quality of your relationship over time.
Become A Team With Your Partner
When misunderstandings and tensions arise between couples, it is easy for each party to come to the conclusion that the other person is trying to irritate them, leading to arguments that spin out of control.
The trick here is never to let yourself believe that the other person is trying to deliberately harm you. Always give them the benefit of the doubt. Recognize that they are a fundamentally different person from you and have a different perspective on the world.
Once you see that your partner is not the same as you, you can begin to operate more as a team, playing on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Learning about their natural tendencies and highlighting their unique contributions allows you to conduct your relationship more gracefully and prevent conflict. Each person plays to their strengths, not their weaknesses.
Create A Routine
The next step is to create a routine that works for you, your partner, and your children. Having a set order in which you do things during the day makes your life more predictable and reduces the number of expected things that happen.
Start by creating rituals that mark the start of the working day. Make your bed, stretch, meditate, pray or just drink a cup of coffee – anything that signifies that it is time to work. Then mark the end of your working day with an activity of some sort, whether it’s a bike ride, walking, or just putting your notebook and work papers out of sight.
Creating a routine could also involve setting a morning alarm, making time for lunch, or moving around more. Spending time outside during the middle of the day is particularly important, since bright sunshine helps to normalize your body clock, making it easier to sleep at night.
To avoid stress running into the late afternoons and evenings, prioritize to get all your most difficult tasks done in the morning. Don’t put them off until later in the day when you feel more tired and anxious.
Boost Your Communication And Conflict Resolution Skills
Once you improve communication with your partner, you’ll discover that many of the conflicts in your relationship simply fade away. Having an understanding of where the other person is coming from is paramount. It prevents you from creating stories in your head about their motivations and attitudes.
To improve conflict resolution, both parties must commit to the process. It won’t work, otherwise. Each person needs to let go of the narrative in their own mind and simply pay attention to the other person to understand their needs. They must avoid projecting their own fears and motivations onto the other person and simply absorb their true intentions, impulses and feelings.
Once you have this understanding, it becomes significantly easier to resolve issues. Getting your own ego out of the way and just seeing the other person for who they are gives you a clearer picture of where they are coming from.
If you are struggling with boundaries, remind your partner that working from home means work, so they cannot interrupt you during the day, unless it is an emergency. Tell them why you have to focus so hard and the consequences of not doing so. Let them know that it has nothing to do with them personally or a desire to be separate from them. It’s just necessary for getting work done.
Create A Dedicated Work Space
While it might be tempting to work from your bed or the kitchen table, that’s not advised. Ideally, you want a dedicated space that avoids constant distractions and noise.
If you have a spare room or home office you can use, go there each morning. If not, rearrange the furniture in your living room to create an enclave that is separate from the rest of the household.
Dedicated workspaces are helpful because they help you mentally shift from “home mode” to “work mode.” Sitting down at your desk in the morning should feel like you’re at the office for real.
Connect With Friends
You love your partner, but sometimes you need a little time out. Connecting with friends can be a great way to get out of the house, beat loneliness and share the difficulties of working from home with other people, aside from your significant other. Set up regular times to chat, video call or meet up according to each of your schedules.
Be Honest With Your Boss And Teammates
While working from home is a good compromise for pandemics, it’s not entirely practical. Children often require a lot of your personal attention during the day, even if your spouse or partner is at home.
It’s a good idea, therefore, to have a candid conversation with your boss and teammates about the reality of your life. Tell them that you’re committed to completing projects on time but that you are also managing a family in the background. Make sure that everyone understands the impact that working from home is having on you personally. Do your best, but avoid over-promising if you can’t deliver.
Give Yourself A Reward
Lastly, reward yourself regularly for all your hard work that you do. You might want to:
- Take time out of work during the day to do some exercise
- Check off items on your to-do list
- Meditate and let go of the pressures that you are feeling
- Go on a weekend break or take a vacation
Managing your relationships with your partner and children can be challenging when you are working from home, but it is doable. Like most relationship-based issues, the key is communication. If you and your partner can see eye-to-eye, you’re much less likely to experience stress. Just be clear about your needs and give other people the benefit-of-the-doubt: they’re not deliberately trying to make your life miserable.
Getting Started with Couples Therapy or Marriage Counseling in the Denver Area
If you need help with WFH issues that are affecting your relationship, we are here for you. We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a marriage specialist. You can learn more about our Couples therapy & Marriage Counseling Services by clicking here:
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