Most Americans are no strangers to stress, especially when it comes to working. Work culture has changed in the last few decades, and more people than ever spend their free hours at home checking emails, making calls, or working on reports.
During the pandemic, work stress has gotten even worse for some people. Those who have to continue to work are facing long hours and stressful work environments, while people who are working from home are coping with work/life boundaries and often increased workloads.
Unfortunately, that stress doesn’t stay at work—it can also affect your family life. Here’s how work stress could be affecting your family.
Bringing Work Home Can Impact Family Dynamics
Going into the office creates some clear boundaries. Although you might check email at home and take care of some other minor tasks from time to time, commuting creates a definite shift from work life to family life. When you bring work home, though, it’s easy for that line to blur.
Many people are finding that they’re working more than ever during the pandemic. That’s not necessarily because there’s more work to do, though. The lack of boundaries, guilt over not feeling productive enough, and using work to fill the time are all reasons people work more when they work from home.
Additionally, people who already display signs of work addiction often find that the problem gets worse when they’re working from home. They often sacrifice quality time with the family to work, even if they should have more free time when they’re not commuting.
Families of people with an addiction to work often feel frustrated, concerned, and left out, which jeopardizes these key relationships. When a family member is consistently missing dinner or family movie night, it puts a strain on family dynamics.
Work Stress Can Slowly Build and Impact Mental Health
Work stress doesn’t usually pop up all at once. It’s a slow build that can impact mental health over time. If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed or unproductive, it takes a toll. Stress has many negative effects that can lead to mental health disorders.
Conditions like anxiety and depression can be influenced by chronic stress. Although men and women are both susceptible to mental illness, women are more likely to develop mental health conditions like panic disorder, anxiety, and depression. This is due to a number of different factors, including the stigma that prevents many women from seeking treatment.
It’s important to continually monitor your work stress levels and mental health so you can make healthy changes and reach out for help as needed. This is especially true during quarantine when stressors like working from home collide with additional responsibilities like the kids being home all the time.
Working From Home Can Send Signals of Not Prioritizing Family Time
Now that so many people are unexpectedly working from home, families have to define their own boundaries and figure out the right balance of work and family time. Unfortunately, working from home can send subtle negative signals to family members that work is the top priority.
For people suffering from work addiction, this a legitimate concern. But for most families, it comes down to finding a balance that allows the work to get done and for family time to be respected. Setting work hours, designating a childcare schedule, creating family routines, and putting devices in another room during family time are all good ways to create balance.
Being interrupted all the time isn’t good for your work or your family. You need to be able to “close the door” to your office, even if that just means sitting in the kitchen with noise-canceling headphones on. But you also need to know when to shut off the computer and put it away for dinner with the family. Those clear boundaries will help you to get your work done and demonstrate that family time is important to you.
Could Work Stress Be Signaling a Larger Problem?
Working from home is turning the camera directly onto the issue of work stress, but it’s something that most people struggle with even when they’re working in the office and it’s business as usual. Because of this, it might be time to consider that work stress is the sign of a larger problem.
American work culture is competitive, fast-paced, and demanding. Many people have difficulty switching “work mode” off. This seems to get worse the more “successful” a person is in the workplace. Maybe it’s time to reassess how we work—and get to a healthier place that doesn’t promote 24/7 work hours and chronic stress. Chances are, everyone would benefit.