Stress is on the rise. A new ValuePenguin survey from just this month (April 2022) indicates that 84% of Americans feel stressed at least once a week, up from 78% in March 2021. And for those of us who work virtually, this probably isn’t surprising.
Working from anywhere with a wifi connection has a lot of positives to it, but it also has negatives. And those negative consequences often manifest as stress. Even worse, in a virtual environment, it can be difficult to feel supported when you hardly see or work with your team members.
So how do you start to feel better when you’re stressed out in a virtual workplace?
Start by identifying your sources of stress.
Working virtually means fewer in-person social interactions, less physical exertion, and always being “at the office,” all of which may contribute to overall stress. Before trying to deal with stress, try identifying where it’s coming from. Once you know that, you can start building a plan to tackle stress head-on.
To help you get started, the Vuepoint Team shared our favorite ways to decompress when you’re stressed from working in a virtual environment:
1. Monday Morning Meditation
Stress has a way of overwhelming our ability to think clearly, making everything seem worse than it actually is. One way to reclaim your mind from stressful thoughts is with regular meditation. Meditating is a sort of exercise for the mind. It teaches us to calm frantic thoughts by focusing on the here and now. And just like a muscle regularly exercised, you’ll find over time that your ability to calm the mind gets stronger and stronger.
The Vuepoint Team offers Monday morning meditations to any team member who’d like to join. We use a free app called Insight Timer to provide guided meditations that help our team start the week off on the right foot. Our sessions are usually 5-10 minutes long and happen right before the workday begins. You can find guided meditations as short as three or four minutes, or as long as an hour. Use whatever works best for you!
2. Change the Scenery
The nature of virtual work is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, you don’t need to go into an office to do your work! But on the other hand, you never really leave the office either.
If working from home is causing you stress, try changing your scenery! Maybe a couple of hours working from a coffee shop will provide a fresh perspective. Or perhaps a walk in nature will help clear your mind and give you a chance to enjoy the fresh air and wildlife. If you’re able, leave the house for lunch. Better yet, make plans to take your lunch break with friends or coworkers!
If leaving the house isn’t an option, try changing rooms. If you normally work in a home office, perhaps setting up shop in the kitchen will help (or the dining room, living room, or your porch if the weather is nice).
3. Let Music Set the Tone
Music has an incredible ability to affect our moods and has even been demonstrated to have restorative benefits when combined with other therapeutic tools. If you’re feeling stressed, sometimes simply playing music can help lower the cortisol and boost relaxation.
4. Worry Stones & Fidget Spinners
Feeling stressed? Keep your hands busy! Some of us have a hard time hiding signs of stress (I notoriously touch and rub spots on my face) and need an outlet for our nervous energy.
If you find yourself in this category, simply keeping your hands busy may help. Invest in worry stones or fidget spinners that you can hold to relieve tension. These are super useful when you’re stressed and on a Zoom meeting because other attendees can’t see them if you keep your hands below the camera line.
5. Get Organized
When your internal thoughts and external surroundings are chaotic, stress often develops. Get organized by using a planner to organize as much of your day as possible. Try listing out all of the tasks you need to complete that day, and then prioritize the most important tasks by carving out time in your schedule to tackle them. You can put every task but the one you’re tackling on the back burner knowing you’re going to get to them eventually because you’ve dedicated time to do just that.
Another way to organize chaos around you is by preparing for the next day. Sometimes just choosing tomorrow’s outfit or what you’re going to eat for breakfast will take a load of stress off your shoulders the next morning.
6. Create and Stick to a Routine
In a similar vein to getting organized, it may be helpful to create and stick to a routine that works for you. The structure that a routine offers takes some of the unknown out of the workday, helping you to focus on what needs to be done in the here and now.
Tips to build a routine:
- Create a ritual before work. This could be eating breakfast or letting the dog outside.
- Mark the beginning of your workday, perhaps with a cup of coffee.
- Set alarms to take regular breaks. Get up and walk around if you feel the need to stretch your legs.
- Take your lunch at the same time every day.
- Mark the end of your workday with something as well, like a pre-dinner snack or a walk around the block.
At Vuepoint, we start each workday with a morning huddle, and we end our days with an afternoon huddle. It creates a structure and routine for all of our team members that help us “log on” and “log off” from work. If this isn’t something your employer does with their virtual teams, you may want to suggest it.
7. Keep a Tidy Workspace.
As mentioned above, chaotic surroundings do not bode well for mental health. Having a tidy workspace will help you focus on the tasks at hand. Some tips for tidying up:
- Keep items on your desk minimal. Limit the number of knick-knacks and photos.
- Put any random office supplies (like scotch tape, scissors, sticky notes, extra pens, etc.) in drawers.
- Make it a habit to wipe down your computer and desk at least once a week.
- Freshen up the air in your home office with an air purifier or scent disperser.
8. Take Care of Your Overall Health.
It goes without saying that staying healthy overall goes a long way toward reducing the amount of stress you may experience. Eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and getting a good night’s rest are all essential to feeling your best at work. Slack on any of those, and you’ll likely feel the negative consequences when you try to focus on a challenging project or task.
As much as I LOVE coffee, even I have to admit the artificial energy boost it offers wears off pretty quickly, leaving me feeling sluggish in the afternoon. Give your body actual energy—the healthy kind—by feeding it healthy foods and staying hydrated throughout the day.
Sleep hygiene is also very important! Bad sleep the night before can make even non-stressful situations feel stressful because you’re working on limited energy. The recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is 7-8 hours a night, but you may need more depending on your situation. On top of that, the quality of sleep is critical. Give yourself the best chance to get lots of healthy deep sleep by turning off blue light screens (TVs, phones) at least an hour before bedtime.
And lastly, make sure your body sees some movement. If you’re looking for workout ideas, a good place to start is with something like walking, biking, running, or doing gentle yoga. It doesn’t really matter which activity you choose. The important thing is just to move!
9. Come Together As A Team (Even if Only Virtually)
As stressful as virtual work can be, it doesn’t have to mean you work in a silo. Sometimes the best way to stave off stress is to come together as a team to provide reassurance and support for one another. Vuepoint schedules daily huddles and monthly strategy meetings as a means to work together and talk out issues and ideas we have. Even though we can’t meet in person, we take advantage of Zoom, Slack, and other digital platforms that allow for communication across our many geographic locations.
If you are feeling stressed, it may be helpful to acknowledge you’re not alone—a lot of people struggle with stress, and some of those people may be your coworkers. Reaching out to them may actually help both you and them feel better.
And if you need more proof that bringing the team together (even if only virtually) is good for mental health, look no further than recent studies. It turns out that true well-being is less about the individual and more about the collective. Teams that face adversity together thrive together. Everyone wins.
10. Make Time for Team Building
Team building is especially hard to do in a virtual environment but so worth it! A lot of the stress virtual workers feel is due to a disconnect with the rest of their team. When teammates come together in non-work environments, that’s where true friendships can start to bloom.
How do you team build virtually? Try finding ways to hang out with your team in non-work-related capacities. The Vuepoint team, for example, has weekly Friday “Wine Downs,” where we play virtual games, share weekend plans, and just hang out as coworkers. We also have a dedicated “non-work” Slack channel where we can share memes, videos, articles, and just about anything we feel like with each other. It’s such a small thing, but it makes a huge difference when you feel comfortable with the people you work with.
11. Most Importantly, Maintain Perspective
Life is so much more than work. It doesn’t always feel that way when you’re in the midst of overwhelming stress in a virtual work environment, but it’s still true. Without minimizing your problems or challenges, gently remind yourself of the bigger picture and simply let things be. Maintaining perspective—reminding yourself there’s more out there than just work—does wonders for a frantic mind.
Looking to Implement Some of These Stress Reduction Tips on a Virtual Team?
Vuepoint is always looking for teammates who can help our agency and clients grow. If you’re looking to join our virtual team, check out our latest job postings! Or contact us at (210) 858-7295.