Self-Care Is Essential When Working Remotely
Did you ever imagine that you could do your job remotely? I did not, but that’s what I’m doing right now. Working remotely has become the new normal for certain professional roles, including some in nursing. An estimated 31% (https://doi.org/10.21916/mlr.2020.14) of new hires since March 2020 work from home. In February 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released social distancing guidelines and recommended the use of telehealth for patient visits. In March 2020, telehealth visits increased (http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6943a3) 154% compared to March 2019. Working at home has affected both healthcare workers and patients.
What Research Tells Us
Self-care is essential because you are essential. We are told to care for ourselves so we can care for others, but that’s hard in our ever-busy lives. Nurses, whether working remotely or on site, often prioritize others’ needs over their own.
Working remotely has benefits like increased productivity, no commute, and cost savings, but it also has some downsides. It can lead (https://doi.org/10.1080/0960085X.2020.1841572) to feelings of isolation, diminished social connection, and longer working hours with no breaks. Burnout can result (https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/vnkwa) from extensive virtual meetings and consistently longer work hours. A study (https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=58440) conducted by Harvard Business School showed a 12.9% increase in the number of meetings and an 8.2% increase in the length of a workday (which translates to 48.5 minutes) since working from home (https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=58440) during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Implementing self-care measures can help nurses maximize the benefits and minimize the downsides of working remotely.
Taking care of physical and mental health during remote work is important. Research shows (https://doi.org/10.1177/2165079915596102) that practicing yoga can improve health and reduce emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and burnout. Watch the hours you work; set clear boundaries for starting and stopping, and disconnect from work when needed. Put away all electronic work devices and spend quality time doing what you love outside work. Finally, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is “being aware of and paying attention to what is occurring in the present moment without any judgment.” While working remotely, many people and activities compete for your time and attention. Practicing mindfulness helps (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2020.09.004) us sieve out all the noise, prioritize, and focus on what is important.
How to Practice
When working remotely:
- Plan out your day and set boundaries.
- Have a designated work area.
- Take breaks and eat your lunch away from the computer.
- Eat healthy meals.
- Stay connected with friends and family.
- Schedule your sleep.
- Host virtual parties.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Take a vacation or staycation.