Though initially a sudden shift, the transition to remote and hybrid work models has given many employees a newfound sense of freedom and flexibility. For others, adjusting to working outside of a traditional office has made it tough to get work done and maintain a sense of balance.
Human response to change can present itself in unexpected ways, including fatigue, loss of interest in regular activities, feelings of malaise, stress, and even burnout. Even more, people have always had stress-induced off days—with 40% of people in the U.S. saying they have an “off day” on the job at least once per week, according to data published by Otter.ai—and while work models are changing, challenges remain.
Now, as we settle back into old patterns and new rhythms, many of us may be navigating emotions that range from excitement and relief to worry and fear. From having access to valuable internal resources to understanding how to use external tools, here are a few tips for having a happier, healthier workday.
Make a plan
A recent survey showed that for 30% of remote workers, the biggest distractions are incoming messages and overflowing inboxes. Whether confronted with a full inbox or a jam-packed calendar of back-to-back meetings, feeling like the day is a singular heap of work can cause anxiety and dread.
Addressing tasks individually can make them feel more manageable, and planning how you’ll approach your workload can make a meaningful difference in how your day goes. Begin your week by looking ahead and scheduling as much as you can, including time to take breaks, time to prepare food and eat, and time needed for meetings and responding to email.
Know your external stressors
Everyone has things that come naturally to them and things that are more difficult and require extra energy. The latter group—external stressors—are a key culprit when it comes to feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, or burned out. For some, transitioning into a more long-term remote or hybrid work environment may present unexpected obstacles and feelings of stress.
Practicing self-awareness is key to combating stress. Once you identify your external stressors, you’ll be able to grant yourself permission to step away from situations for a moment of clarity, helping regulate your nervous system.
Do you need help identifying your stressors? A short mindfulness “workout” can help you become more aware of what’s happening to you in the present moment. Observing your breath and tuning into your thoughts and feelings can help you feel more connected. You’ll likely find that the thoughts that pull you away from your breath are the ones that need your attention. And you might be surprised: Maybe it’s not what you think! You may learn that you feel most stressed about something happening at home, but it’s surfacing at work.
Embrace time-saving tools
Telling yourself to simply “relax” may be a go-to tactic when you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or burned out, but it’s akin to telling a person having an asthma attack to breathe! Rather than trying to sit it out for a bit and dive right back in, tapping into mindfulness practice can help you process your emotions and get to the root of what’s happening.
To dig deeper, ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” and “How can I address these feelings today?” Once you’ve identified your emotions, allow yourself to experience them fully. This might be making time for a good cry or allowing yourself to feel frustration or anger. You may feel inspired to do something you’ve been putting off as well, like talking with a colleague or a manager about something that isn’t working. All feelings are valid, and you’ll feel naturally more relaxed and less stressed once you’ve completed the emotional cycle.
Just as adopting planning and mindfulness practices can help lighten your cognitive load, using the right technology and tools can help you streamline your workload and improve your efficiency. In fact, a recent study found that for every hour worked, good technology can save employees 23 minutes per hour.
Tools that help alleviate specific external stressors are a smart place to start. Pomodoro timers remind you to take breaks as often as you choose, and project management tools can keep you on track and make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Otter.ai and other AI assistants can take notes in meetings on your behalf, automatically transcribing audio so you can fully engage in conversation and remember what was said—or feel confident about stepping away when you’re having an off day.
Zoë Aston is a psychotherapist, mental health consultant, and speaker who has worked with brands like Lululemon and Barry’s Bootcamp on workplace mental health issues. She is the author of Your Mental Health Workout: A 5-Week Programme to a Healthier, Happier Mind.