Self-care tips if you work from home

Smiling young woman sat at wooden desk with laptop

Lockdowns are long over and the global pandemic has shifted (thank goodness) but let’s face it, working from home is here to stay. Whilst this way of working isn’t exactly new, it can still be challenging, even for the most experienced remote workers! Many of us are now seeing our work and personal lives merging in the same space and over longer periods of time. So, to help you maintain your wellbeing and create more work-life balance, I’ve put together five tips to help reduce loneliness, isolation and anxiety whilst working from home.

Updated April 2022. 

5 Ways To Practice Self-Care When Working From Home

1. Put video calls on hold

It seems as if virtual meetings and video calls have now become the norm – it’s practically a working way of life! I fully appreciate that they’ve been (and will continue to be) an anchor to keep people connected however face-to-face will always be my first love. But this isn’t just about the way we communicate in our personal lives. Many workplaces (including my own) are now fully remote so video calls are now a regular, if not daily, occurrence.

Zoom fatigue IS real

In her book, Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind), author, journalist and editor Rebecca Seal talks about how exhausting working from home can be and why. She specifically touches on communication and video calls in this podcast episode with Emma Gannon. What Rebecca said really struck a chord with me. She said (and I paraphrase):

“Your brain thinks it’s in the presence of a 3D person but the data is only 2D. You don’t see the majority of the person so you miss out on almost all of the sub-conscious messaging you get in a real conversation. (…) Our brains are constantly trying to make sense of these flat, delayed and fuzzy versions [of people.]”

She suggests tackling Zoom fatigue by simply talking on the phone instead. And it’s a great point! On the phone, there’s no pressure to be on camera worrying about how many chins you have on show or the fact you haven’t got dressed that day. You’re not chained to a desk trying to read someone else’s facial expressions (made harder by connection delays) or look them in the eye(s) as you talk. Most importantly, you’re able to focus on one element of communication.

I used to think that being able to see someone on a video call was way better than a phone conversation (ah the pre-covid naivety!) But actually the pandemic has taught me that I enjoy a balance of different kinds of communication. Some days I switch my camera off and prefer messaging. Other days I love sending voice notes on WhatsApp (I know, I know, don’t you just love me?)

So next time a virtual meeting request or group chat comes your way, try suggesting a phone call (or voice note convo!) instead of a Zoom. You might find your friends/colleagues are pleasantly surprised.

2. Create a routine and stick to it

Working from home can be different for everyone, some love it and find it easier than others. Some find it challenging and distracting. The important thing to note is that there’s no right or wrong way to work remotely (within reason) but routines can be a big help in providing focus and motivation.

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After working from home for over two years, I believe setting routines and daily practices for myself has helped to decrease my feelings of loneliness and procrastination. Although I still have bad days, I’ve found when my brain is focused on small, manageable tasks, I’m not letting negative feelings completely overwhelm me.

Try creating a weekly schedule or time block your days in your calendar (even if it’s for activities like walking the dog or getting in the shower.) And it doesn’t have to be complicated either – grab some coloured pens and create yourself a weekly plan if that works for you. Where possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time during the working week (weekends don’t count in my opinion!)

3. Keep your bed (and bedroom) a work-free space

I cannot stress how important it is to keep your bed (and bedroom) a work-free space. I know how tempting it can be to grab your laptop and crawl back into the warm safety of the duvet but believe me, it doesn’t help with motivation.

Despite all the lovely Instagram shots of people cosied up in bed with their PJs and a laptop, working in this way (even with the best laptop stand) can trigger a lot of physical issues too.

If you’re working from your bed, you’re essentially blurring the lines of where you work and rest which in turn can affect your sleep quality. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, keeping your work away from the bed will help your brain establish a stronger association to your bedroom and sleep. So it’s actually beneficial for our wellbeing to keep the two separate!

4. Fresh air and moving your body

This may sound like trivial advice because you’ve probably heard it a million times by now. Going for walks is all anyone has really been doing during the pandemic and believe me, I know it can get boring! I personally have daily walks as one of my non-negotiables. I believe that going for a walk or just sitting out in the fresh air works because it takes you away from the same four walls and gives your brain a break.

I’m a fan of regular breaks like this because I often find some of my most creative ideas have come to me when I’m walking or doing something on auto-pilot (like hanging out the washing!)

And moving your body doesn’t have to mean jumping around your living room to a Youtube vid or running half a marathon. It can be something relaxing (like stretching or yoga) or even just a 15 minute stroll in your lunch break. However you choose to move your body, it’s still positive if it feels good to you (don’t let social media or glossy magazines tell you otherwise!)

5. Dedicate one hour of every day to you

When you’re feeling lonely or isolated, it’s important to recognise that these emotions alone can easily lead to burnout. Being aware of the signs isn’t always easy (i’m still working on recognising them in myself) but burnout is definitely not something to brush under the carpet.

I repeat, do not reach burnout and carry on.

We talk to ourselves more than anyone else every single day. When you think of it that way, it highlights just how much you can end up in your own head, inner critics and all. Would you be harsh and cruel to a friend who was feeling lonely? God no. Would you tell them to take some time out to rest, or better yet, spend some time in good company? I believe you would, oh lovely reader.

It’s no different for ourselves. Flip that care and attention onto yourself and appreciate that working from home (especially on your own) is bloody hard at times.

So whether you’re up before sunrise or you come to life in the evening, take one hour to fit in something that you love and make it a non-negotiable. It could be reading a book, yoga, going for a walk or painting. Whatever it is, make that time about you and I can guarantee it will make a difference to how you feel, and your day overall.

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And there you are, my working from home tips! Have you got any top tips you’d like to share?

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