Why’s Working From Home So Stressful Ah?

Why’s Working From Home So Stressful Ah?

4 min read

Discover how to manage your mental health better with the blurring of work-home boundaries.

When HR first announced we had to Work from Home (WFH) during the Covid lockdown last year, my first thought was, “Woohoo! Bo cheng hu, can even bo cheng kor in my room!” With nobody to jaga me, I can be as free as a bird.

online meetings contributing to wfh stress

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But aiyoh, I ended up being chained to my desk most of the time. Chionging non-stop until brain-dead. Then crawling back to bed still thinking about work. Even in my dreams and on weekends. No wonder some people are calling WFH “Work from Hell”. 

With WFH becoming a permanent thing or part of hybrid working in Singapore, how to tahan like that, day after day?

Home life and work life jumbled together like rojak

A typical WFO (Work from Office) day offers lots of “boundary-crossing activities” to transition us mentally between our personal and professional lives:

Like putting on work clothes. Zoning out as we ride on the bus. Picking up kopi before going into the office. Greeting colleagues along the corridor. Settling into our work spaces at the office. Heading out for lunch at midday. Talking rubbish with teammates while driving to the client’s office. Regrouping with a coffee afterwards. Unwinding slowly as we make our way home.

wfh stress and frustration

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On the other hand, a typical WFH day for most people offers few transitions or mental breaks:

Wake up. Answer multiple group chats. Check emails cc-ed to the whole world. Join managers’ meeting. Join status meeting. Join client meeting. Eat lunch at desk. Join vendor meeting. Join budget meeting. Join team-building meeting. Attend webinar. Eat dinner at desk. Get down to work. Shower. Sleep. 

Moreover, WFH days are so fragmented with excessive meetings and constant interruptions, with naggy parents, noisy renovations, and spotty Internet, it’s a miracle if we can get any real work done at all.

Time boundaries have also collapsed with technology

time boundaries to help with wfh stress

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Technology enables us to work round the clock. But we often feel like we can never switch off mentally. This constant anxiety turns workaholic Singaporeans into even bigger kan cheong spiders. Watch out for these common triggers:

  • You want to be seen as productive – so you work excessively long hours even though four hours of intellectual work per day maxes out your brain. 
  • You want to be seen as devoted – so you’re always “on” 24/7 to answer non-critical texts, emails and calls promptly even way outside office hours.
  • You want to be seen as efficient – so you squeeze work into your personal time, which is not only counterproductive, but also defeats the purpose of rest.

All of this is self-imposed stress which can lead to burnout in the long run.

Establish work boundaries to protect your sanity 

To keep yourself from going gila, I suggest setting up some WFH boundaries for a better work-life balance.

wfh stress and balance

Image source: Unsplash

  1. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS: Discuss with your manager on what to prioritise for tight deadlines, so you and your teammates don’t get overwhelmed. Adopt a system like “Do it. Defer it. Delegate it. Drop it.” Better to do a few things well than many things badly.

  2. CREATE STRUCTURE: Put work clothes on (though I don’t necessarily agree). Set aside a spot just for work. Make daily task lists. Fix working hours. Schedule regular check-ins. Block out lunch time and break times. Congratulate yourself for completing tasks. And quit working when the day is done!

  3. SET LIMITS: Don’t overschedule your calendar. Set up agendas and cut-off times for meetings so cheong hei colleagues don’t ramble on and on. Don’t be guilted into responding to non-critical work messages way outside business hours. A “Right To Disconnect” law has been floated in our Singapore Parliament. Yay to the day it gets implemented!

  4. GET OUT AND EXERCISE: Step out of your mental rut by stepping out to exercise. Develop a routine for the morning or evening or both. Exercising in the morning helps to oxygenate your entire body and prepares you for the day ahead. Evening exercises like a simple walk help you to de-stress and sort out the day’s thoughts.

Workers who are happiest and most productive are those who set boundaries. Remember, we gain respect because we show respect for ourselves. WFH Community, let’s stay mentally healthy!

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