• Sheila Adkins, MS, CPLP

Working Remote? Remember to Hit Pause

Hitting pause is essential to reducing stress. The self-discipline to hit pause before responding or reacting to a person or situation is critical in today's changing world. We are facing the challenges of change due to social distancing, quarantines, and the illness and loss of loved ones. Stress levels are elevated due to increased health and financial concerns, loss of freedom with stay at home orders, loss of jobs, and fear of an unknown future.

What is Stress?

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but it is the relentless stress that continues for days and weeks that significantly impacts well-being and work performance. In our brain is a tiny control tower called the hypothalamus, which controls stress hormones. When the stress response that releases those hormones continue day after day, it impacts health and may result in headaches, insomnia, stomachache, tense muscles, and a weakened immune system. The physical and mental reactions to stress can then impact how people approach their roles at home and work, solve problems, and interact with each other. This may eventually lead to tension and poor work performance.

Stress is also transmittable; it's called the stress contagion effect. People have mirror neurons in their brain, which let them simulate the action of others, including the intention and emotion behind that action. The neurons draw us toward the actions and emotions of others, whether it is to laugh, yawn, or show stressful behavior, and tells us to copy the behavior of the person we are near.

Working Remote

For remote workers, there is a new meaning to the work-life balance. There is no longer an opportunity to relieve stress while driving home or to leave the stress outside the door before walking into your home. You are already home!

Being home does mean that families are spending more time together, which is resulting in quality moments but there are also times of increased stress. When working remotely there can be 'cross-over' stress to family members, adults and children alike.

So how can you reduce the chance of the stress contagion effect? First, consider these thought-provoking questions if you are balancing work and family life in a home environment.

  • Have you clearly defined your role at home during work hours?

  • Do you have a separate work space, or are you sharing the dining room table with your children who are engaged in schoolwork?

  • Do you have adequate internet bandwidth for everyone, or are you living in a rural community where the internet is inconsistent?

  • Have you established family guidelines, so that everyone understands the new behavioral expectations?

Hit Pause

The second thing you can do to reduce the chance of the stress contagion effect is to hit pause.

  • Do you know what stresses you at work and at home?

  • Are you aware of how you are contributing to the stress?

  • Do you know how to gain control before responding or reacting to family and team members?

Let people know what stresses you and work together to alleviate it before it escalates. The mere fact that you are openly aware of and sharing with your family and team members will reduce some stress.

Gain control by creating a space between yourself and the stressful stimulus before it escalates. Your 'pause space' can be anywhere you want. Consider going for a walk, sitting on a porch, swinging in a hammock, or relaxing in a quiet room. The important point is that you are aware of the stress and gain control before responding or reacting to family and team members.

Pausing resets your brain. It calms your mind and body and reduces the chance of the stress contagion effect. Pausing also has positive benefits on your physical and mental well-being. It carries a profound impact on people's lives. By mindfully taking a moment to pause, people give themselves, their family, their team and organization the best chance to be well and succeed.

Stay safe and be well!


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