As we come to the end of the year, you’ll be swamped with blog posts telling you what your New Year’s resolutions should be. While we hate to pile on, this is one of the few points in the year when most of us actually take time to think about what’s next. For that reason, we want to remind you that your health matters, and as a remote worker there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been neglecting it.
When we work from home, we can lose whatever habits or routines we used to build into our days when we had a “normal” work schedule. When you combine COVID-related working from home, disruptions to routine, the Holidays, and general existential dread, it’s understandable if you’ve let things slip a bit.
Now’s the time to do something about it. Not just because it’s a new year, (I am NOT a fan of NY resolutions in general) but because you have a moment to think about it. Without calling them resolutions, here are some things you probably should be thinking about in order to take better care of yourself:
Get more sleep.
This is easier said than done, but it’s critical. The American Medical Association calls sleep deprivation an epidemic, and it is. When we work remotely, we often are working from the moment our eyes open until we crash into bed, and that doesn’t give us a chance to really calm down and get what we need before we’re up for that call in another time zone at dawn. Among some of the simple things that can help:
- Stop checking your phone half an hour before bedtime. Blue spectrum light plays havoc with your brain and it can take a while to get back to normal. Because so many of our leisure activities involve screens now, it’s easy to keep playing video games or streaming The Queen’s Gambit right up til bed time. You’re actually disrupting your sleep.
- Get an old-fashioned alarm clock. Wait. What? Many of us use our phones as our alarm clocks now. The problem is that when you look to see what time it is, you’re on your phone. Not only are you exposing yourself to blue light which can make going back to sleep harder, but some of us are tempted to check messages. Knock it off! Get an alarm clock that you can see in the dark. (The old clock/radios used red-spectrum light which was easier on the eyes and brain.) Call it retro if you like. It works.
Take a nap.
About the only thing Thomas Edison and I have in common is a love of 20-minute catnaps. If you aren’t getting enough sleep during the week, taking a scheduled break can be beneficial. Even if you don’t sleep, you close your eyes and give your body a reason to slow down.
Many of us have full schedules, and we think we can take a break between conference calls, or later than usual when there’s a crack in our calendar. We won’t. Most of us are so hard-wired to fill every available minute (and lots beyond that) with work that we don’t take breaks. By scheduling breaks we are more likely to do what’s good for us, rather than what the nagging voice in our head tells us.
I’m lucky to live where even when it’s “cold,” it’s not too awful. You don’t have to go outside for long, but even a quick walk around the block, accompanying the dog on his ablutions, and breathing fresh air will help clear some of the mental fog from long hours indoors.
Work in a way that works for your body.
Many of us never planned to spend eight hours a day working in our homes. We may not have chairs that support our back, screens big enough to ease eye strain, or headsets for our phones. Many companies now reimburse or provide this equipment to employees, or will help you get it. It might mean raiding the office for used equipment but that’s fine. If they don’t, check out thrift stores. Neck and back problems, eye strain, and poor circulation are common complaints among those who work from home.
It seem strange that we take better care of ourselves when we venture out in the world to work than we do in our own homes, but there you have it. You may not have planned to work from home, but here you are, and it’s likely even when you can go back to work yo’ll be working from home more often than you did in the past. Don’t let it impact your health, productivity, and attitude.
Better health will make you a better teammate. If you want to resolve to be a great remote teammate next year, we can help you with this great learning program.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. You can pre-order Kevin and Wayne’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, now.