Is working from home MORE stressful than life in the office?

It’s often said – not least within these pages – that working from home is a great way to take control of your work/life balance and can lead to greater productivity and better morale among workers.

However, new research has come to light that suggests home life could be more stressful than work life  – so could working from home actually be more stressful than life in the office?

Home is where the stress is?

A study from Pennsylvania State University has looked at whether home life is more stressful than work life by asking subjects to swab their cheeks three times a day to measure levels of cortisol – the key stress hormone –  and rate their moods at home and at work.

And in what was surely a surprise to everyone involved, scientists found cortisol levels were  much lower when subjects were at work rather than at home – a finding that spanned all socioeconomic statuses.

As far as people’s own perceptions of their stress levels went, there was an interesting, if depressingly predictable, gender gap – Men being happier at home, while women were happier at work.

This suggests there is still something of a gender gap when it comes to home life, with women taking on the majority of household tasks, which could go a long way to explaining the findings.

The therapeutic effects of work

However, gender roles within the home to one side, it could be there are actually some therapeutic effects of work – for instance, having a set task to do, with a clear goal and working with people to meet your target could be a welcome break from the more chaotic set-up at home.

The study also found that parents were less stressed at work than at home, which suggests those with children appreciate the relative sense of calm offered by the office environment.

Another interesting finding was that women were no more stressed at weekends than men – so it could be down to juggling the work and home life commitments from Monday to Friday.

In which case, could working from home be the answer or  would that just make life even more stressful if there’s a chance the work and home boundaries could become blurred?

5 top tips for stress-free working from home

Working from home can be a dream ticket for some, but the stuff of nightmares for others – if you’re struggling to adapt to life away from the office, check out these five top tips to make working from home:

  1. Structure your day – Working from home gets you away from the 9-to-5 to a certain degree, but this extra freedom can see you wasting away the hours with household chores or never being able to switching off  from work, so make sure you structure your day accordingly, setting aside designated hours for works and breaks.
  2. Don’t eat and drink too much – It’s not uncommon for home workers to constantly graze on snacks and drink copious amounts of coffee during the day – working in such close proximity to the kitchen clearly brings too much temptation. If you must snack, ditch the crisps and biscuits and replace them with fruit and veg, and buy in some caffeine-free tea and coffee to avoiding overdoing the stimulants.
  3. Get some vitamin D – There’s rarely an abundance of sunlight in the UK, but you should make the most of it when it does arrive by working outside or next to a window if possible. Even if it’s not sunny outside, try to work in a room that lets in as much natural light as possible, as this can be an instant mood booster.
  4. Make an office space – Being sat around the house all day can quickly turn you into a couch potato, and it can be all too tempting to sit on the sofa with your laptop and work from there. So try to set up a designated office space at home, preferably a place away from the living room that’s only used for work. This set-up can also help you switch off and is a place you can leave your work behind once the day is done.
  5. Keep your weekends free – It’s easy for the working week to stretch out over seven days when your work is always close to hand, so make sure weekends are kept completely work-free. Or, if you must take time on Sunday to check those spreadsheets, make sure you take the time back during the week.

What are your thoughts on stress around the home or at work? Is working at home more stressful than working in the office? Vote in our Twitter poll to let us know