self care tips

Looking forward to working remotely? These 21 self-care practices will help you be a productive remote worker without compromising your health and well-being.

Looking forward to working remotely? While finding remote employment may be your dream-come-true, virtual work comes with its own set of challenges because working in a geographically diverse team is not the same as working in an office environment.

If you’re new to the remote work culture, you’ll be required to learn new skills like remote team collaboration and communicating virtually with virtual team communication tools.

In addition to all the new skills you’ll be required to learn, another challenge for remote workers is managing work from home motivation and productivity, as well as learning how to prevent burnout.

Despite the challenges of remote working, the pandemic has forced many organisations to create a remote working policy for their remote employees who must now adapt to working as part of a dispersed workforce.

Many remote workers are now looking for tips on working remotely as part of geographically distributed teams.

As someone who’s worked from home for over 20 years, I’ve learned about the pitfalls of remote life, such as how easy it is to burnout when working from home because the concept of work-life integration makes it hard to draw boundaries between work and family life.

That said, I’ve also learned some essential remote workers’ best practices and self-care practices for managing my energy and productivity over the long haul.

So, whether you’re starting your remote career or looking for advice on supporting remote workers, this list of 21 self-care tips for remote workers will offer useful advice on how to work remotely effectively without compromising your health and well-being.

1. Know your personality type

One of the most important steps to improving your remote work productivity is to understand your personality type. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? You can do a free MBTI personality test and find out.

The difference between introverts and extroverts lies in how they manage their energy – introverts recharge their batteries when alone, while extroverts feel recharged when interacting with other people.

Once you know your personality type, you can do a free career test and figure out what type of remote job might work best for you. While remote work may seem like a natural fit for introverts, this is not always true.

Extroverts can learn to enjoy the advantages of virtual teams once they figure out how to get the social interaction they need to thrive. The free personality and career tests will also offer suggestions for the kind of work that is a natural fit for your personality type.

For instance, many introverts enjoy writing because it’s a solitary activity, while extroverts may enjoy podcasting or virtual conferences and virtual networking as these involve interacting with people, albeit virtually.

If you need additional career guidance to decide on a remote career path, you can get free career counselling from career professionals as well as remote work certification through MARS by SHEROES.

2. Get attuned to your biological clock

According to the National Safety Council, circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.

Individual circadian rhythms vary widely and disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle – such as with shift work – can cause health problems, such as depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Most of us would categorise ourselves as either a morning person (lark) or a night person (owl) and, in general, “larks” like to wake up early in the morning and hit the sack at a respectable evening hour while “owls” are most alert at night and typically turn in long after dark.

It’s clear that circadian rhythms and “chronotypes” matter when it comes to productivity and self-care, and as Chris Taylor writes in Mashable, companies that embrace flexible schedules could harness new productivity from a fifth of their workers.

This article on Raconteur notes that for a remote worker, working online throughout the day, as well as in the early morning and late evening, can not only impact on productivity and creativity but also trigger a higher level of burnout (which the World Health Organization has officially classified as an “occupational phenomenon”).

What this means for the remote worker is that the ideal remote job for you would be one that fits into your personal circadian rhythm or chronotype.

“As long as people are accessible when clients or team members need them, those who prefer to get non-client facing work such as research, planning or strategising done out of office hours can do so, playing to their own body clock and circadian rhythm to maximise personal productivity.”

Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder of JourneyHR

3. Find your Ikigai

The Japanese word, Ikigai, is used to denote your “reason for being” – what gets you out of bed in the morning or the work that helps you find purpose and passion.

The best way to find happiness and fulfilment in your remote career is to choose work that you’re passionate about or to find purpose in the work you do. One way to do that is to choose a job that helps you impact others in a positive way.

I have found that it’s the best way to love what you do in the long term – do the work you enjoy, but find a grander purpose – one that goes beyond your own needs and impacts the world in a bigger way.

Today, many millennials are choosing jobs that gives them a sense of purpose over jobs that make more money.

4. Create a remote work schedule or routine

Using the tips above on personality types, circadian rhythms and chronotypes, you can now work on creating a remote work schedule that works for you.

Most people benefit from having a remote work routine when working from home. Not only does it get your body and mind into a healthy working routine, but also makes it easier on your family, so they know how to plan their schedule around yours.

Having a working from home schedule will also make it easier when you need to set boundaries with co-workers or family members who make excessive demands on your time and energy.

5. Create a comfortable home office space

You don’t have to be a Feng Shui master to create a comfortable and nurturing home office space in which to work. You can implement some simple work from home office ideas and design tips below for designing a pleasant workplace.

Invest in ergonomic home office furniture

Sitting for long at a computer station that is not ergonomically designed can cause repetitive stress injuries and back pain – a common ailment in computer workers.

Contrary to the popular notion, ergonomics is not complicated, expensive or difficult to implement. This guide to setting up an ergonomic home office will help you choose home office furniture that will help you do your best work while preventing injury.

Place plants around your work area

Research has shown that plants boost productivity and that an office worker’s quality of life can be enriched by landscaping that involves the use of plants. Plants are also good for our well-being in other ways.

The NASA Clean Air Study found that certain common indoor plants, such as the common money plant or golden Pothos, may also provide a natural way of removing volatile organic pollutants.

Declutter your workplace

Besides making it easier to keep your work station clean, there’s something to be said for the KonMari rules of tidying up and getting rid of things that don’t bring you joy.

You can decorate your home office with things that are pleasing to you, such as paintings or a water fountain, that improve the energy flow in your workspace and make you feel good when you look at them.

6. Play music while you work

For most of us, listening to music we love can improve our mood, but research has shown that listening to some types of music can even make repetitive tasks more pleasurable, and increase your concentration with the task.

Listening to music in-between tasks can also boost your mental performance. Of course, our experience of music is very subjective, so what works for one person may not work for someone else.

However, studies have found that calming nature sounds have a restorative effect on cognitive abilities and music with 50 to 80 beats per minute can enhance and stimulate creativity and learning.

The best way to find out what sort of music works to boost your productivity is to experiment and try out your favourite instrumental tracks in different situations to learn what works best for you.

7. Start a mindfulness practice

Besides the immense benefits of mindfulness meditation for mental health and well-being, there’s a great deal of research showing that mindfulness can be a great productivity tool.

Setting aside some quiet time in the day to practice meditation or mindfulness can be one of the best mental health and self-care practices you can include in your remote work schedule.

Not only will starting a mindfulness practice teach you how to rid yourself of stress and anxiety, but help you become less susceptible to crippling stress or anxiety in the first place, and make you more mentally resilient.

8. Take lots of mini-breaks

One of the most tiring things for anyone who has to work at a computer station is having to sit for hours to get a task completed.

Many studies have shown a link between taking breaks and increased productivity, some of which resulted in a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo called The Pomodoro Technique.

This technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro (from the Italian word for tomato).

Recent studies also found that employees who were consistently more productive than their peers were the ones who took frequent breaks. Specifically, researchers found, the ideal work rhythm was 52 minutes of work time followed by a 17-minute break.

The reason for this is that the human brain naturally works in bursts of high activity that last about an hour, and then it switches to low activity for a while. When that happens, it’s in your best interest to take a break.

Breaks keep our brains healthy and play a key role in cognitive abilities such as reading comprehension and divergent thinking (the ability to generate and make sense of novel ideas).

In her article in Psychology Today, Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, offers some tips on how to balance work and breaks.

9. Move your body often

Most of us associate working from home with a sedentary lifestyle, which is not exactly the healthiest way to live.

Prolonged sitting leads to poor blood flow, while regular movement helps your body maintain optimal circulation to the brain, which is linked to improved cognitive function.

Studies have found that just getting up and out of your seat every 30 minutes could help to reduce the harms of sedentary behaviour and help you live longer. Regular exercise also improves mental sharpness, time management and work performance.

So, if you want to stay alert, focused, boost your energy levels, supercharge your personal productivity and improve your work day, it’s a good idea to move your body and find a mode of exercise that you enjoy.

Your preferred exercise could include yoga, Qigong, running, walking, strength training or dancing to an invigorating music video. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy and love to do so that you’re motivated to be consistent with it.

10. Eat a healthy diet

Snacking on junk food is one of the occupational hazards of working from home, mainly because the fridge is near at hand and it’s so easy to get up and snack whenever you get peckish.

But just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean you can’t eat a healthy diet. In fact, being at home, it should be even easier to eat healthy as long as you plan your meals, stock up on healthy groceries and avoid junk food.

According to the Harvard Medical School, you can improve your cognitive function with brain foods that are particularly rich in healthful components like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants (and even caffeine), which are known to support brain health.

Incorporating many of these foods into a healthy diet on a regular basis can improve the health of your brain, which could translate into better mental function.

11. Get enough sleep

Among all the self-care practices for remote workers, perhaps none are more important than getting an adequate amount of sleep, typically 7 to 9 hours each night.

In the long-term, sleep deprivation drains your mental abilities and puts you at risk for health issues ranging from weight gain to a weakened immune system, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.

Follow these tips for a healthy sleep schedule so you can get the shut-eye you need to maintain both good health and work performance.

12. Cultivate a hobby

Cultivating a hobby, such as baking, music, craft, art, photography, or even just watching movies in your downtime is a good way to disconnect from your workday and boost your creativity.

As a writer, I’ve often found that my most creative ideas come to me when I’m spending time away from my computer, watching a movie, listening to music, spending time in nature, or even while sleeping.

Expressing your creative side by exploring your hobbies and interests outside work can boost mental health, increase happiness and fulfilment and help you rediscover your creativity and passion.

13. Relax on the weekends

This should go without saying, but in our culture, we are so focused on the need to constantly achieve, our weekends have also become all about how much Instagrammable fun we can fit into those two days.

Instead of using the weekend to prove to everyone what a fun life you have, just do something that rejuvenates you. For extroverts that may mean spending time with friends and family, while introverts like me love our Netflix and chill.

Give up the need to constantly prove to your social media friends how great your life is and just enjoy living it for a change.

14. Make use of your vacation days

If you have a remote job that entitles you to take a vacation, don’t miss out on the opportunity to do so. Use them to enjoy a digital detox and travel somewhere fun, as soon as it’s safe to do so.

During the pandemic, the safest vacations are ones that involve a road trip or spending time outdoors, which is relatively safe. For now, avoid air travel and sightseeing in crowded places as far as possible.

15. Take a mental health day

All of us have days that are less than optimal, when we feel fatigued or stressed out or burnt out. Perhaps you’ve had some personal issues to deal with or a death in the family.

Don’t hesitate to take a mental health day when you need it, and don’t feel bad or guilty about doing so. After all your mental health is every bit as important as your physical health and you can’t function properly at work until you’re in the right frame of mind.

16. Get your family to pitch in

If you’re a mom who works from home, you’ll understand what it means to feel the burden of the second shift – having to deal with housework and childcare duties after your workday or during your work hours as a remote worker.

In order to manage the burden of housework and childcare, you need to get your spouse and family to pitch in. Don’t run yourself ragged trying to do it all by yourself.

It helps if you can get your spouse, parents or in-laws to take over the childcare duties while you’re working or if you can hire a maid to help with the household duties.

17. Find ways to stave off loneliness

As I wrote in my article on loneliness, one of the downsides of being a remote worker is the solitude and loneliness that often accompanies it.

Remote workers often miss the lack of contact with one’s co-workers, the water-cooler banter, sharing a cup of coffee with a colleague at work, and most of all, hanging out with work friends after work.

As neuroscientist, John Cacioppo, put it, humans are wired for intimacy and have a biological need to be in social groups, so loneliness tells us that we have a physical need for human contact.

Social distancing is causing and exacerbating loneliness for people of all demographics. However, there are a number of ways you can manage loneliness and the feeling of isolation that often accompanies remote work.

Reframe what loneliness means to you

Personally, I’ve found that one of the best ways to mitigate loneliness is to learn to be a friend to yourself, a concept the Buddhists call Maitri.

Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön, recommends the middle way and meditation as a way to stop resisting and struggling against our desire to make things work out one way or the other, and discover a fresh, unbiased state of being instead.

Instead of regarding loneliness as an enemy, when we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

Spend more time with loved ones

If your loneliness is caused by a lack of interaction with other people, simply spending more time with your loved ones, like family and friends, will help you manage it better.

Organise virtual team activities

Many companies organise virtual team bonding and virtual team building activities for virtual teams, with the aim of motivating remote teams by building morale and camaraderie.

If you miss interacting with your work colleagues, participate in these virtual team activities wholeheartedly or offer to help organise them for your company on Zoom or other video conferencing applications.

Adopt a rescue pet

Visit your local shelter and adopt an animal no one else wants. The unconditional love of a pet can transform even the loneliest hearts, and rescue pets are most grateful for the love and attention they receive from their caregivers.

18. Be gentle with yourself

The best self-care practice that has helped me build resilience and overcome many of life’s challenges is the realization that we’re all voyagers navigating uncharted waters and that it’s ok to not be perfect.

The practices of self-acceptance and self-compassion teach us to be gentle with ourselves and accept ourselves the way we are, warts and all.

Accept mistakes and failures as part of your learning process on this great life adventure and treat yourself the way you’d treat a toddler learning to take her first steps – with love and compassion.

19. Focus on solutions, not problems

When facing a problem that is getting you down, turn your focus away from the problem itself and look for a solution instead.

The problem is always at a different vibration than the solution, so you need to put yourself in the right frame of mind to receive the solution.

20. Start writing a journal

Journaling is a therapeutic process that can help you get clarity and clear your mind of stressful thoughts. If you find yourself obsessing about events and people, start writing a journal just before you sleep.

You could turn it into a Book Of Positive Aspects or just put down the thoughts that are stressing you out and get them out of your mind.

Once you’re able to stop obsessing and focus on better-feeling thoughts, you’ll find you have more peace and clarity in your life.  

21. Create a vision board

A vision board or a dream board is a powerful tool to help you visualize your best life and bring your dreams into reality. It is a collection of images that represent your ideal life and the goals you want to achieve.

Put your vision board up in the space above your computer where you can see it every morning. Just looking at your vision board every day can put you in a positive frame of mind and activate your subconscious mind into helping you notice opportunities that will bring you closer to achieving your dreams.

It takes more than just having the tools for working remotely to become a successful remote work professional. Your attitude, mindset and habits also play a significant role in the success of your remote career.

These self-care practices will put you on the path of success by helping you work productively from home without compromising your mental, emotional and physical health.