Yes, it is a very real thing. Who would have thought that we would have to deal with stress while working from home. Availability of the employee at home coupled with the anxiety due to closed markets and drooping economy has pushed everyone to slog more, thus leading to more stress while working from home than working in an office setup.
There are 10 reasons why working from home is turning out to be more stressful:
1. Drooping economy and closed markets: Covid-19 has brought a lot of economic turmoil the world over. Global economy is slated to increase at a negative rate in FY21. Shut markets everywhere proved to be a curse for many industries and this situation made the corporates anxious. Thus, the trickledown effect came onto the employees along with the fear of facing a salary cut, or losing the job.
2. Anxiety due to physical absence of staff: No, you cannot get physical signature of the manager in-charge on that invoice or that agreement. I mean, Courts of Law are allowing digital hearings now so corporates are obviously expected to do the same too. But it does become a hassle in more cases than one. You don’t have the liberty to physically summon the IT guy to look into an out-of-sync Outlook or a bad internet connection. You cannot rely on a smooth and hassle-free group Presentation if the guy who is supposed to take over form you suddenly goes offline. You cannot have a smooth Quarterly appraisal session with your manager if you don’t have high-speed internet.
3. Assumed availability of the employee 24x7: “Well, you are just sitting at home, right? So why don’t we connect at 10:30 pm tonight to discuss the POA for Q3?”
“Well, we cannot because I am sitting at home, but my army of maids clearly isn’t! My spouse and kids have turned ravenous. I have been working for 16 hours non-stop now. And moreover, today is Sunday.”
If you have had such a conversation, even if the response given to your manager was only in your head, you can be rest assured that you are not alone. Being home bound has made everyone assumed available 24x7. And you cannot even apply for a leave to go on your annual vacation. Things have turned so awry that many of my friends have been applying for a leave just to get a breather from work since there are no weekends away from work now.
4. The Act of a Vanishing Weekend: Is it Sunday or Monday today? I and my husband end up asking each other this question a lot of times. The boundaries have vanished, and we seldom look forward to the Friyay! now.
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5. Staying glued to the screen: Laptop, mobile or TV, we have multiple screens around the house that are addictive and, surprisingly, together cause more stress than our office workload. With nowhere to go, we obviously have lesser options for entertainment too.
6. Lonely, I am So Lonely!: So your part-time homemakers (read maids) aren’t in your life and so are your parents away in your home town. Surviving on 2-minute noodles twice daily has made you hate the dish which was once the love-of-your-life. Restrictions on ordering food from outside, which probably are also mental in nature, is making the current situation more difficult for you.
7. Which fire to put out first?: In this forced home-bound life, absence of fixed guidelines on which fires to put out first troubles more than the long list of to-do’s. Attend to the kids first, prepare an edible meal (other than 2-minute noodles) first, or before anything else, work on your Q3 Sales projection due today?
8. Disconnect with Family due to WFH: Who would have thought, but when stress steps into our lives, staying at home or in office converges into one result: less time for family. Ever since lockdown kicked in, I have lesser been able to connect with my family over phone than before. This was never the case when I was spending 75% of my weekly time in office. Just being home doesn’t count as family time if you never look over your laptop, or put down the phone.
9. Gone are the Meals and Chai breaks: You get up 10 minutes before your 10 am concall, wash up and sit down with a badly (or hurriedly) prepared cup of tea. At 12 when the call finishes, you realise the rumbling sound isn’t your neighbour upstairs, but your stomach. You need to eat. You have your breakfast (if you can call that a breakfast) at 12:30, your lunch at 5 pm and dinner in your bed just before you are about to doze off. And who remembers what chai breaks were? Meals have become just another task to be done to keep our stomachs filled.
10. Your New Friends — Headache, Backache and Sleep Disorders: Expected. With the kind of lifestyle we have plunged into, our healthy habits have gone for a toss. With screens as our new constant companions and breaks shrunk to zilch, peace of mind cannot co-exist. And did I mention weight gain?
So life at home is far from easy these days, but there is always a solution. It might need some work to become a part of our fatigued lives, but will be worth the effort. And I will be back very soon with the list of solutions!