We're grateful to Scott for sharing his experience especially as we've spent the past two months connecting with our remote community about health and wellness challenges alongside solutions. Scott is passionate about remote communities; he runs the weekly #remotechat on Twitter and is a regular attendee at our Networkplaceless events. Any opinions expressed within this blog post are those of the author and not necessarily held by Workplaceless itself.
If you’ve worked in a traditional office, you may have felt the urge to stay at your desk to appear as productive as possible. Think about the reasons that you’d get up from that position of productivity: to get a drink, grab some food, head to a meeting, stretch your legs, or go to the bathroom.
When you’re working outside the confines of a traditional office, you might feel the same pull to appear as productive as possible. But really, nobody’s expecting that from you. Sacrificing breaks to appear productive can hurt more than it helps. As with the office scenario, you should make time for all of the above, without guilt. Hydrate. Eat. Move. Skimp on these and you’ll risk burning yourself out.
Take Yourself to Lunch
How many times each week do you eat lunch during a meeting, or at your desk while reading the news? How many times have you eaten lunch far beyond the time you’d ideally enjoy it? What about eating something you wish you hadn’t, simply because it was easy or cheap? You don’t have to do that if you’re intentional about what you eat, when you eat it, and how long a break you take.
Block out a full hour in your calendar and enjoy this midday break. Literally make an appointment with yourself to safeguard that time. I have a recurring meeting in my calendar titled “Lunch.” It lasts an hour. It’s marked as “busy” time so colleagues aren’t tempted to fill it with meetings. Make a plan to meet someone for lunch or prepare something for yourself if you’re alone. When it’s time to eat, sit somewhere other than your workspace so you’re not distracted.
It’s important that you eat well, too. When you’re away from the lure of restaurants and bars each day, you’re more likely to make healthier choices when you buy food. You’ll eat what you stock in your kitchen, so keep good, whole foods on hand. Minimize the processed stuff. Plan ahead and make healthy meals.
The entire hour doesn’t have to be for consumption, either. Take time to smell the roses, whatever they may be for you. I like to go for a walk, listen to a podcast, play my guitar, or read a book. Sometimes I watch thirty minutes of a series I’m into on Netflix. When it’s time to go back to work, I’ve taken a good break and am energized for a productive afternoon.
Get Your Sweat On
If you work in a traditional office, you’ve probably not enjoyed the luxury of exercising during your workday unless your office building has a fitness center or shower available. It can be easier for remote workers to be physically fit. Remember all that time you could be spending on a commute? It’s prime time to swap out for exercise. I typically use early morning or midday as an opportunity to work out. The most important thing you can do for yourself physically is to commit to a plan and execute it.
You might have fitness equipment in your home, but you can also head to the gym. Gyms can fulfill a social need, too, especially if you take in a group fitness class. Fitness apps on your phone or tablet also make home workouts a viable option. Les Mills on Demand is my personal favorite. Oh, and one additional enabler of fitness any time of day—you don’t need to look 100% presentable to return to work at home after your workout is over (unless, of course, a video conference call is up next on your calendar).
I usually go for a 20-minute walk after lunch in the summertime. It allows me to return to the office refreshed and recharged. As a bonus, if I’m spinning my wheels on a problem, stepping away and going for a walk, hike, or run forces my brain to think about something else. During the activity, a solution invariably pops in my head and I’m eager to return to work to try it out.
One of the common fitness-based breaks I read about in #remotechat is spending time with pets. Dogs love to walk, and the time spent doing that can benefit their humans, too!
Be Reasonable With Chores
Laundry. Dishes. Cleaning. Groceries. If you’re not careful, every day could look like a chore-filled Saturday! It helps to work in a space away from visual reminders of “things that need doing.” That’s why it can be so important to work in a dedicated home office or coworking space, instead of your kitchen or living room couch.
Once you get rid of visual reminders that can pull your focus from work, look into processes to help you manage your todo list. For example, I set up a recurring chore rotation. When a chore comes up in the rotation, I complete it and move on.
The chores are designed to be brief, too. It just takes 10 minutes to vacuum a few rooms. 20 minutes to clean a bathroom. I always feel like it should take longer than that! When I complete a chore before work or during a break, I feel a sense of accomplishment for keeping my place tidy. Then, I can re-focus my efforts on work, knowing that more chores are on the horizon … but not today.
About the Author
Scott Dawson lives in Trumansburg, New York. He has worked remotely for 21 years and moderates a weekly Twitter chat (#remotechat) for remote workers. His recently-published book, The Art of Working Remotely, is available at artofworkingremotely.com/book.