Self care in the
Home Office

Self care – why it is especially important at this time to be mindful of yourself and take good care of yourself in the home office!

For months I have been working exclusively in my home office. My workday consists of phone calls, video calls, online teaching, emails, and short messages. My husband sits next door, also a home office. Sometimes we forget the time and work late into the evening. When I am not mindful, I have less free time and less quality time with myself and my partner. Do you also feel that work and private life are becoming more and more intermingled and that the end of the working day is perhaps being pushed back further and further?
 
It was closing time when my husband or I got home. And now this natural borderline is missing. Larger video calls with colleagues are increasingly scheduled for 7 PM because that’s when everyone ‘can’ do it. During the day, you are busy with all the other calls or childcare. The other day, I saw one of those many funny clips that are being sent around at the moment (Corona crisis): An Italian was desperately looking in his calendar for a free date for the next video call, because he was so busy with Skype calls, virtual yoga and other sports, cultural and training offers – more than in the ‘real’ everyday life. I laughed and felt caught.
 
I have a lot of home office experience. But I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve worked exclusively in a home office, with no other outside social contacts. And except for vacations, I never spend that much time with my husband, and what’s brand new about that is he’s pretty much my only tangible social contact right now. It also brings new challenges. These challenges are worse for many families in my environment because they also have to reconcile childcare with work (and their partner). A friend who earns well from online courses and is very busy at work recently told me that she had trouble concentrating on her work since her husband was also in the home office! Why? Because she had ceded the study to him and now had to work in the open living, dining, and kitchen area where the children also play. Yes, are you still there? Relationship management needs to be optimized!
 
As a mindfulness coach, I am trained, and yet I realize right now I need to be especially mindful. It’s important right now to take good care of myself! It just takes good self-management coupled with self-care. And when you have people around you, your workday has new relationship management requirements. I want to share with them a few tips that help me stay centered during these challenging days:
 

Self-care

‘Self-care’ stands for the ability to consider one’s own needs, assess stresses, not overexert oneself, handle oneself well and protect oneself. In application, self-care requires mindfulness of one’s own needs and sources of strength, and involves both physical care and health-promoting mental techniques and emotion regulation, i.e. nutrition, exercise, relaxation, enjoyment, positive thinking, paying attention to one’s own limits, and stress management. So I would like to invite you here to take care of your physical, mental and emotional well-being in times of Corona crisis, when new burdens and stress factors appear, some of which we did not know before. This ranges from healthy nutrition, good daily structure and physical balance to creating (time) spaces for oneself and the care of the ‘self’.

 

Self and time management

Mindful and wise use of time is vital for this. I don’t know about you but I feel that I lose much more time than before to phone calls and video conferences and don’t get to my actual work. The conferences are often close together, and I don’t have a break in between. Today, forty of us listened to a colleague who talked for surely 10 minutes about her problems and failed attempts to solve them using Skype For Business on her PC. 40 highly paid forces! Makes 400 minutes! Here one should ask oneself whether one has to be present at every conference, and also clarify with colleagues whether -zig people have to listen in on every topic. It also includes the courage to opt-out of the one or other conversation or to ask for brevity.
 
We are now also constantly reachable in the home office with Skype or Teams. You can see who is currently online, which allows you to give the person a quick radio call. But the fact is that any interruption to a task reduces your performance! Studies show that you can only pick up where you just left off after a certain warm-up period. In the technical literature, this is also called ‘power guzzler’. Of course, this includes smartphones that are always ready to hand, on which work e-mails can be called up (even when eating, before sleeping). Experts point out that there must be clear rules for the use of mobile devices, for which there are the following recommendations:
 

1. define for yourself or in consultation with your employer or colleagues, from when to when you can be reached by phone or text messages.

2. avoid checking the news outside of these times.

3. define living or home areas where the smartphone is taboo (e.g. bedroom, when eating etc.)

4. do not retrieve messages continuously, but at certain intervals.

Performance hogs include not only interruptions caused by multimedia communication, but also a whole range of aspects. Here, we will only mention those that are particularly susceptible to home office:
 

– unstructured daily schedule

– cluttered desk

– Unclear filing systems

– Distractions from others (partner, children, pets).

– Low self motivation

– Too little collusion

Here it is important to be mindful and reduce such performance guzzlers. Maybe step by step so that it doesn’t become too much at once? What are their plans for the next few days?

 

Relationship Management

If you have other people around you during your home office hours, relationship management is necessary to structure your daily routine and clarify responsibilities. Especially during the home office, it is vital to create clarity about the rules, and responsibilities. That is, you have to negotiate the following:
 

– who works where?

– who is responsible for which aspects of everyday organization and when? (shopping, cooking, childcare, etc.)

– when are working hours, when is free time?

One last word about time management. Depending on the type, we also have a particular tendency to overwork ourselves now in the home office. A study of 140 freelance journalists at the end of the 1990s brought to light that there are different patterns of dealing with time. These patterns differed markedly between men and women: rigid time structures (‘controllers’) and quite spontaneous lifestyles (‘confidants’) worked well for men who could delegate domestic tasks and were financially secure, while the majority of women as ‘disciplinarians’ either tried to keep a certain rhythm in organizing their working hours (in balance with domestic duties) or, as ‘jugglers’, tried to juggle everything but often came up short. What type do you think you are? You can reflect on whether you correspond to one of the patterns formulated here (regardless of your gender) and check whether you have found a fair arrangement in the domestic distribution of tasks?
 

Last but not least, I would like to advise you the following: Schedule ‘quiet hours’ for yourself in which you tackle important, challenging or highly beneficial tasks!

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