For many people — myself included — working from home is a dream.
Often, you get to set your own hours, forgo a dress code, and work in the comfort of your own home. For those of us who prefer working alone, the ability to do this is yet another plus.
But it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Work is work, and work can be difficult sometimes.
This strain, and the strain that comes with dealing with the difficulties of everyday life, means that self-care is of absolute importance.
Working from home means your self-care might look a bit different from that employed by folks who work outside the home, but it definitely doesn’t mean you should forgo self-care altogether.
With a few simple strategies, you can vastly improve your productivity, your mental state, and your physical wellness:
1. Set specific work hours and stick to them.
You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.
When I started doing full-time freelancing, other freelancers offered me this same advice. I always thought it was because people had a tendency to slack off and procrastinate while they were meant to be working.
But setting strict work hours also ensures that we don’t overwork ourselves.
If you have an office or workshop, its way easier to go home and stop working. But when you work from home, it’s hard to stop yourself from working that extra hour or answering emails well into the early hours of the morning.
For people with a tendency to overwork, like me, setting work hours can be an important part of self-care.
Sometimes it’s really difficult to stick to specific hours when you’re in a creative field. Inspiration can strike at any time, and you might feel the need to take advantage of those bursts of creative energy.
If this is the case for you, track the number of hours you work to ensure you’re not overworking yourself. If you’re suddenly feeling productive at 4 am, follow that feeling — but make sure your body is getting the rest it needs and deserves!
2) Join (or make!) a co-working space.
In many ways, I’m not a “people person.” I enjoy solitude, and I prefer working alone.
When I was at university, I was surrounded by people. I was able to sit alone in my room and work, but I also lived with 80 other students in my residence and I saw hundreds of people in my dining hall and classes each day.
I had to transition really quickly from this very social environment to working alone — which was really tricky. Like many others who work from home, I started feeling very lonely.
Co-working spaces can help fend off the loneliness.
If you don’t have a co-working space in your area, make one. Try to connect with other locals who work from home, and meet up with them to work in their presence.
If you’re not keen on a co-working space, but you want to avoid cabin fever, try working in a coffee shop or spending more time with friends during your off-hours.
3) Take sick days and use them properly.
I swear by sick days, especially for those of us who have chronic illnesses.
Taking days off work is a great way to prevent illnesses and mental health difficulties from getting worse. If you feel the flu coming on, chilling for a day prevents it from worsening. If you’re feeling particularly triggered, taking the day off to take care of yourself can improve your mental state.
When you have a traditional office job, taking a sick day and staying at home usually means you can’t work — even if you want to.
But when you work from home, it’s tempting to work throughout your sickness unless you physically can’t work.
Remember that taking a sick day doesn’t simply mean you get to work from your bed rather than your dining table. It means you actually need to stop working for a certain period of time. Productivity monsters might struggle with this, but it’s incredibly important that you give your brain and body a break.
4) Make your workspace comfortable and beautiful.
Something awesome about working from home is that you can control how your workplace looks and feels — at least to an extent.
“Comfortable” means something different to each person. Some of us prefer a messy workspace. Others like it to be neat and orderly. For others, their preferences change every day.
If you sit at a desk often, make sure your chair is at the correct height to prevent backache. If you use a computer, avoid headaches by dimming the brightness of your screen and drinking plenty of water to keep your eyes moist. Make your workspace more comfortable by using blankets in the winter and keeping it light and well-ventilated.
Personally, bright colors are essential to my workspace. I can spend hours looking at beautiful workspaces and studyspo on Tumblr. I color-code all my work, use hundreds of Post-Its, and buy an excessive amount of stationery.
Like, seriously, I even dream about Sharpies and Mildliners.
Having an aesthetically pleasing workspace is essential to my self-care because it motivates me to be productive. I recommend putting effort into decorating your space to make it feel like your own.
Think about what you’d like to be surrounded by when you work: muted colors? Succulents? Photographs of your family and friends? A collage of inspiring images and phrases? A pantry of ready-to-grab snacks? If you have the resources to make it happen, make it happen.
By dedicating time to ensure your body is comfortable and your brain is stimulated while you work, you’re preventing future aches, pains, and illnesses — and creating a joyful and inspiring environment.
5) Track your goals and reward yourself.
Working from home often means you don’t have constant, face-to-face contact with a boss or co-workers. This means you don’t get a chance to reflect on your career goals and performance with others.
So take some time out of your workday to do a bit of reflection. Set yourself some attainable goals and, when you reach them, reward yourself accordingly. Be your own cheerleader!
Effective rewards for long-term goals include buying something special for your snack cupboard (which is essential when working from home), redecorating your workspace with a new plant or new stationery, taking an extra-long break to visit the park, or buying an exorbitantly-priced-but-delicious coffee from your favorite café.
Rewards for short-term goals can also be a great motivator. As a writer, I sometimes struggle to finish up articles. So, I promise myself that I can watch an episode of Game of Thrones or Pretty Little Liars for each article I submit.
And remember: rewarding yourself for doing a good job doesn’t mean you should punish yourself if you don’t reach your goals. Perfectionism is totally overrated — be gentle on yourself!
You don’t only have to reward yourself for making more money or signing on with new clients. Reward yourself for taking breaks. Reward yourself for practicing self-care. Reward yourself for working even when you feel a bit unmotivated and bored.
Reward yourself for everything, because you totally deserve it.