Working remotely can seem ideal for many people. What could be better than working from home, not having to worry about commuting, or even sticking to your pajamas the whole day?
When I started working for Automattic almost five years ago, I was quite new to the concept of working remotely. I thought that bringing my laptop to bed to continue working on pending items was normal. I tended to mix my personal and work time. It wasn’t until some months later I realized that in order to have a healthy, consistent performance as a Happiness Engineer, I had to start setting boundaries between my work and personal time and make sure that I devoted priority and time to self-care.
Fortunately, Automattic is the type of company that promotes well-being in many ways, and it was easy to find not only helpful resources, but also colleagues on the same path, encouraging each other, and even organized in Slack groups.
The following is only a brief personal look at what I try to do daily to make sure I get a balanced work-personal life:
If you haven’t heard of the Calm app, I highly suggest it. At Automattic, we can expense subscriptions to this wonderful app. I usually meditate for 15 minutes every morning and try to do it on a daily basis. I don’t fret if I don’t get to do it one day. The key to building a habit is not being hard on yourself when you fail. If you miss a day, that is okay. Acknowledge what you’ve done so far and continue the next day.
I was a late Yoga starter. I had heard from so many friends and colleagues about the benefits of Yoga, but it wasn’t until I found virtual Zoom classes that I decided to give it a go. Most people who have experimented with it will agree that it can be a bit hard at the beginning. We are not meant to stay still in such difficult and awkward positions. But with time, you get better. And the best thing is that you start feeling the effects of Yoga, especially for those sitting in front of a computer all day. Since I started Yoga, all neck, shoulder, and wrist pain that came from long hours at the computer have disappeared.
Being at home means that you have easy access to your kitchen and refrigerator. Standing up with the purpose to stretch your legs and get a snack happens more often than if you were working at an office (unless it is an office with a well-stocked kitchen). This is not about weight and diet. In order to keep your energy constant during your workday, it is important to eat the right food. Therefore, keeping the right kind of snacks is important. I try to have fruit, yogurt, dried fruit, and all types of nuts on hand. I also enjoy a piece of dark chocolate from time to time. This is not meant to be health advice; I’m far from a nutrition expert, but this is what works for me, and helps me go through the day.
Yes, drink even more water. I don’t have to tell you about the benefits. But one good tip is to drink at least one full glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning. Your brain is 70% water. When you sleep at night, your brain goes for a long time without any liquid intake. Think of it as your brain being dehydrated when you get up. The water will help you jump-start the day. Then later, a cup of coffee can come.
And this is not because napping is usual in Latin America (I’m from Bolivia) but because your brain needs time to reset to start fresh in the afternoon. If you can’t sleep, at least lay down and rest your eyes while you listen to some nice music. Sleeping for 15 to 20 minutes (no more than that) can do wonders, and help you reset your brain and energy for the afternoon.
This can happen at any time of the day. I sometimes go for a quick walk or run in between chat shifts. Our bodies are meant to move, and sitting all day is not a natural position. You will find that you actually burn stress when exercising. You will return fresh and worry-free. If you cannot run, walk. Make sure to stretch your arms and breathe in and out deeply while you walk. The Calm app and other similar apps have very good examples of breathing exercises.
Set Up a Designated Workspace
Make sure to have a specific place to work at your home. That will help you define the boundaries between work and personal hours. When you are out of this space, then it is time for your personal activities. Once you get back to it, it is time to put on the mental work suit.
Disconnect when you are AFK (Away From Keyboard). Although it might sound like a good idea to have notifications from Slack and other work tools on your phone, I highly suggest against it. People nowadays are too attached to their phones. That is not a healthy way of staying in the present moment, to enjoy the people and places around you. Do yourself a favor and disconnect as much as possible once you have stepped away from your desk.
Even if some of these suggestions don’t sound like a good idea for you, the goal should be to make sure that you take care of yourself, and carry on a healthy and productive work routine that happens when you are not enjoying your personal life, and not at the same time.