Stress isn’t something to take lightly. If you’re exceptionally stressed, or stressed on a chronic basis, it can lead to a variety of negative outcomes. In the short term, you may find it harder to concentrate and your productivity will suffer. In the long term, it can lead to serious mental and physical health consequences, from burnout to a greater risk of heart disease.
Some sources of stress are easy to identify. If you’re going through a major life change, or if you have a troublesome client at work, it’s natural to feel more stress than usual. But oftentimes, stress can creep up and affect us in ways almost beneath our notice.
If you work from home, for example, your home office setup could be adding undue stress to your life. How is this possible, and what can you do about it?
For starters, there may be problems with your office furniture. If it’s not comfortable or conducive to productive work, it’s going to add unnecessary stress to your life.
These are some of the possible problems:
- Uncomfortable materials. If you bought shoddy furniture, or if you’re still using a folding chair, you’re going to be uncomfortable. You may feel like it’s tolerable, but over time, it’s going to get to you.
- Incorrect sizing. Furniture that’s too tall, too short, or awkward can force you into uncomfortable positions – or add muscular strain where it’s not necessary, resulting in additional stress.
- Personal distaste. Don’t underestimate the value of subjectively liking your own furniture. If you dislike your furniture for any reason, including aesthetic issues, it could take its toll on your mental health.
Fortunately, the solution here is simple. It’s important to buy better furniture for yourself. Review what you dislike about your current setup, establish a budget, and start shopping for something better.
Noise and Lack of Privacy
You could also be suffering from an excess of noise, or a feeling that you lack privacy. If this is the case, every interrupted or distracted moment of your workday could leave you feeling on edge.
These are some easy solutions:
- Close the door. If you have a door, keep it closed while you’re working. If you don’t have a door, consider installing one – or at least invest in a curtain. It can help block out noise and prevent people from popping in to interrupt you.
- Invest in sound absorption. If you’re persistently bothered by external noise, you can invest in sound absorption. Depending on your house and current needs, that could mean adding more insulation to the walls, hanging sound-absorbing panels, or caulking around doors and windows.
- Play background music. If there’s still an excess of noise, or if you don’t want to make major changes to your home, consider playing some background music. Even a bit of background noise can help you filter out the distracting sounds around you.
- Set expectations. If you live with roommates or family members, set firm expectations for how they’re supposed to interact with you while you’re working. For example, you can tell them that while your door is closed, you expect not to be interrupted.
Lack of Relief
Every home office needs an outlet for stress relief, such as:
- Windows. Gazing out the window for even a moment can help you relax and destress.
- Music. Get some good speakers and play your favorite music in the background to chill out.
- Plants. Some people find plants to be therapeutic and relaxing – plus, they add beauty to your environment.
- Art. Invest in some abstract art or in pieces you enjoy for other reasons.
- Toys. Small toys and objects that allow your hands to fidget can be a mindless and quick source of stress relief as well.
If you don’t have anything, you’ll find it harder to manage stress when it does arise.
Ambiguity Between Personal and Professional Life
There’s also a possibility that the line between your personal and professional lives has blurred. Your home office is a part of your home, after all. If you seamlessly blend from relaxing to working and vice versa, or if you keep answering emails well into the night and into the weekend, it could take its toll on your psychological wellbeing. If you want to stave off stress, it’s important to make both physical and psychological boundaries; close off your office when you’re not using it, and don’t allow work to invade your personal life.
With these strategies, you should be able to identify and rectify the elements of your home office setup that are causing you undue stress. Stress is unavoidable, and a necessary part of human life, but it’s important to manage it properly if you want to stay healthy and feel better overall.