What can Virtual Workers Do to Reduce their Stress Levels and Improve their Mental Health?

Modern day millennials are keener than ever on virtual work, seeing it as a way to find greater work-life balance and reduce time spent commuting. Virtual offices and remote work spaces are hailed by researchers like Zedeck and Moisier as shining exponents of workplace flexibility, but this does not mean that it removes the stress that can accompany any job. In research published in Human Resource Management, B Weisenfeld et al stated that virtual work can reduce tension on the one hand because of the flexibility it offers. Conversely, however, it can increase it by blurring the divide between work and non-work domains. In the case of virtual offices, the boundaries between work and non-work hours, and the physical designation of home as a place to completely unwind, can be lacking. This is the case, for instance, for virtual receptionists - who may work for someone in the opposite corner of the globe. It is therefore key for virtual workers to be aware that these can potentially add to their stress load, so they can take steps to set up important boundaries themselves.

Dividing Work and Non-Work Settings Physically

If you work from home, it is important to set up a physical office that you only enter during specific hours. This will help reduce the likelihood of non-work factors (e.g. children, other family members, friends in the home etc.) from interfering with work tasks. If you have limited space inside, consider how you can use your outdoor space to full avail. For instance, if you have an ample terrace or garden, a spacious garden shed can work well that is designed to specifications can work well provided it can comfortably house desks, lamps, computers, etc. Setting up a physical office will also reduce the opposite effect - that is, work seeping into your private or family life. Ideally, you should have different phones and even computer equipment for work, so that you can establish a strict schedule and end your working day as soon as you shut your virtual office.

Seeing Stress as Something that Should be Tackled Proactively

Because both traditional and virtual jobs can be stressful, it is important for workers to take steps to tackle stress before it manifests itself in ways that can be dangerous to their physical and mental health. There is an established link between chronically high cortisol levels and health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Taking steps before conditions like anxiety and depression (which can be triggered by stress) should also be seen as a way to avoid falling prey to the prescription medication epidemic that is hitting the U.S. Natural, proven methods of stress reduction can be incorporated into your working life - something that can be much easier to do when you don’t have to waste time commuting to and from work!

Finding Your Perfect Match

Recent studies on natural ways of reducing stress are centered around holistic activities as a whole. Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi, as well as spending time in nature, have been covered in study after study, with signs showing that all provide a significant drop in cortisol levels. However, if proactive stress control is to become part and parcel of your daily life, then it is important to find a method that best suits your interests, personality, and lifestyle. Art and music creation, for instance, are also able to lower stress, as is physical exercise - especially when it takes place outdoors. Find an activity you like and stick to it and if you don’t get enough time during the day, practice a little progressive muscle relaxation or have a warm bath prior to bedtime.

Work stress is reduced for many who opt to work virtually, but important steps need to be taken to ensure that tension does not unwittingly make its presence felt. Dividing one’s time and physical space into work and non-work zones is key, as is using free time to engage in stress-busting pursuits. Some of the most studied ways to reduce naturally involve mindfulness-based activities such as meditation and yoga. However, even taking the time to do something you enjoy - be it exercise, art, or playing a musical instrument - can go a long way towards keeping stress levels low on a regular basis


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