Working from home used to be either the prerogative of only the top execs or a less-than-exciting rendezvous with Les the plumber. For almost the entire world however, it has become an everyday reality and one that could, if you let it, start to wear thin at any moment.
It’s been everywhere, hasn’t it? Take care of yourself during this time, reach out if you need to, don’t forget to take care of yourself. But, it’s true – we need to do all these things. Especially if we live alone or segregated.
So, how can we ensure that we are just as productive at home as we are at work and keep ourselves happy, healthy and motivated? In order to keep being the best you at home, here are our top self-care tips to guide you in your wellness while working from home:
You are at your clearest the moment you wake up. This is the time of day that is completely your own, so maximise it. Do something for you first and get your day off to a great start.
Perhaps this starts with a cup of coffee and your book? Maybe a walk around the block with the dog or some meditation? It may require you to get up a little earlier or shuffle your workday, but allowing for this me-time will help you to focus when you need to.
Turning up to ‘work’ in your soft, cosy dressing gown is supposed to be the main perk of WFH, no? Well, yes, and girl if you want to treat yourself, nobody is stopping you.
What we do recommend, however, is not making a habit of it. Make sure you still follow your morning skincare routine, perhaps pull a brush through your hair and whack on a little mascara just to feel like you have arrived for your day. The process of getting ready subconsciously prepares us for our work day, it’s part of the routine that lets our brains know what the plan is. It helps keep a structureless WFH feel like there is an element of structure; a beginning, middle and end of the day.
If you have video meetings then of course, this goes without saying, but even on those days where it’s just you and the dog, it’s still worth making some effort. Turn up for yourself and it may just shine through your keyboard. You still want to catch yourself in the mirror and think “DAYUM!”, not “damn…”
In order to practice self-care while working from home, you need to feel a tangible difference between work life and home life. You need to be able to leave work at work – somehow.
Author of Love It or Leave It: How to be Happy at Work, Samantha Clarke, explains why it is important to have a proper workplace set up at home; “Make sure that you are actually creating a space or environment that is productive and conducive to work so it isn’t having an adverse impact on your body.” Not supporting your body properly will likely lead to physical issues as well as a difficulty in emotionally switching off from work.
If you are going to be spending significant time working from home, sitting on the sofa with your laptop will not do your joints any favours. Take a step back and check yourself before you wreck yourself; is your chair giving you appropriate support, are you craning your neck over your computer, are you experiencing any repetitive strain or that you can’t escape your work?
Pick an area in your home that can be solely a workspace. Consider your chair, desk, computer placement, the lighting, any foot or arm rests. Once it is set up to support comfortable working, everything related to your job should stay here. This will allow you to walk away from the area and leave your work behind.
Pick something that signals the start of your workday. Perhaps it’s writing your to-do list.
Gemma Leigh Roberts, founder of Career Compass Club and organizational and performance psychologist says that we often fall into the trap of multitasking at home, when this often makes us less efficient: “When working from home, it may be tempting to be all over the company chat and emails to show that you are just as present when remote.
“But to be productive and use this time to get some work done, you need to move away from multitasking. Compartmentalise tasks and block out times in your calendar for them to create structure and focus.”
Don’t be afraid to appear busy! You probably are. Emails do not need to be replied to instantly in the office so same goes for at home. Plan your day out according to your priorities and try to stick to it.
As a physiotherapist friend likes to say, ‘your best movement is your next movement.’ Give yourself breaks throughout the day, both to move and to stay sane!
Let your attention wander every now and again, give yourself a little distraction if you need it so that when you need to focus again, you can.
Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and host of the Wellness Unwrapped podcast, Suzy Glaskie, recommends taking a movement break every 45 minutes or so. A few gentle stretches are all it takes to avoid those common working from home, end of day aches that come as a result of molding your back into the shape of your chair.
“It’s easy to become chained to your laptop, promising you’ll take a break ‘just after I’ve replied to this email’ but make yourself go for a walk, preferably in nature – try a local park. You’ll come back feeling infinitely calmer, more clear-headed, more positive and ready to tackle your work.”
Studies suggest that it can take you 20 minutes to regain focus on a task once you have lost it, so rather than forcing your brain to play ball, try hitting pause to realign and come back when you have had a breather. It will likely make you more productive and feel better about your day.
Another mixed blessing – being close to the fridge. When planning your day, consider factoring in set mealtimes that you try to stick to, as if you are in an office.
This might be one of the biggest hurdles to master because, let’s face it, many of us like to eat either when we’re bored or to procrastinate. If you exhibit this more than you care to admit and are convinced you can’t quit, try to swap out what it is you’re eating as a start point. Love crunch? Try carrots instead of chips. Want something sweet? Honey and yoghurt instead of chocolate.
Another fun trick our bodies like to play is to make us think we’re hungry when we’re dehydrated. Try drinking water first and see if you feel a little less peckish.
Start small and then perhaps, over time, you’ll be able to wean yourself off snacks altogether. Your mind, body and possibly spirit will thank you for it!
Just like when you start work with a routine, finish work with a clear boundary too. Once you have decided to stop for the evening, where possible, stick to it and move away from your workspace.
Having these different zones in your home will help train your brain over time to associate them with different mental requirements. It should become easier to switch on and off more naturally.
Having trouble relaxing after a busy day? Consider transforming your home into a new environment for chill mode. Perhaps light some candles, get some aromatherapy oils going, run a bath, do a face mask? Like at the beginning of your day when you started with you, finish with you – you deserve it!
In the End, You Got This
The best guide for self-care while you’re working from home is ultimately, you. You know what makes you tick, how you operate best and the conditions you need to support that. The key is not feeling guilty or less than for taking the time out to ensure you feel good, look good and keep motivated.
Adjust your environment to make you happy, make the time for your favourite things along the way and if you need help, ask for it. We will all need support navigating this strange new world for a while…