Remote Work Environments & Self Care
This is the fourth in a series of posts written collaboratively by Dr. Michele Andorfer and Mike Haynes.
In previous posts, we explored ways to ensure productivity doesn't suffer because of a remote work environment. We also shared strategies that we learned from others regarding ways to build and nurture relationships when working remotely. In this post, we are going to discuss the last of the three priority considerations--self-care.
When working in a remote environment, it is very easy to overlook physical needs. In a traditional work environment, most of us will periodically get up, walk around, engage with colleagues, fill our coffee cup (or water bottle), and so on. However, when working remotely it is easy to get so caught up in the task at hand that we forget that our body needs to move and when we finally do, it is often stiff and sore.
While we decided to address self-care last, it is arguably the most important of the three priorities. It really comes down to taking care of yourself so that your productivity can remain steady or increase and so that you have the energy to build and nurture relationships. As in the previous posts, we have come up with a few strategies that work for us and the people we have consulted as we studied the topic of remote work.
First, it is important to take breaks. Our minds and muscles need a change of pace. Get up and move around. Watch or listen to something that makes you laugh. Identify activities that are not work-related that can be accessed in small chunks--like reading, snipping the dead stuff off the geraniums, finding a recipe for dinner, or whatever. Sometimes just a brief change of pace will be enough to help you recharge, relieve stress and get you back and ready to focus on the task at hand.
Second, set your schedule and try to stick to it. It’s really easy to get in the habit of working 24/7 when you don’t have a clear start and stop time. One of the most important self-care strategies is to determine when you are going to quit working for the day. In fact, according to everyone we spoke to about this topic, establishing a schedule and setting boundaries is the number one contributor to maintaining balance, being fulfilled and happy. And while most of us cannot ignore calls or messages simply because the work day is over, it is not unreasonable to at least take a break.
Finally, remember to include tasks and activities that feed your passions and nurture your purpose. The same reasons that make it easy to forget to take breaks or work non-stop can also prevent us from allocating time to be creative, to explore the synergies that exist with people or shared projects and to have fun with the work. Just as it is critical to be intentional with regard to your physical needs, it is probably more important to be intentional about including activities that feed your purpose.
We all have years of experience working in a traditional environment and tools to draw upon in order to balance our personal and professional needs. Those things don’t have to fall by the wayside in a remote environment; however, until we have more experience, we need to be deliberate about the behaviors that will ensure our physical and mental selves survive and thrive.