Self-care for telecommuters during the COVID-19 pandemic

As King County responds to the coronavirus (COVID-19), employees who can telecommute have been mandated to do so to reduce the community risk of coronavirus transmission. Furthermore, the CDC has issued guidance that everyone practice social distancing.  While this strategy has many benefits, the sudden switch can throw off your routine.

Balanced You wants to support you in rethinking self-care during this time. Up-to-date information on how to protect yourself from the coronavirus can be found here. Tips on how to keep your mind and body well while you respond to the coronavirus professionally and personally can be found below.

Maintain boundaries between work and home life                   

As work and home environments merge, boundaries between work and life can become blurred. Unplugging is an important strategy for reducing burnout. To unplug as a remote worker:

  • Set up a physical office space that you can sit in when the workday begins and leave when the workday ends. Close your laptop at the end of the workday and leave it in your workspace.
  • Remember to take scheduled breaks, including meals, away from your home office space.
  • If you still struggle with turning off work at the end of the day, try walking into your home’s front door when the day begins and out when it ends, or dressing in work clothes during work hours.

Focus on your physical health

A sudden switch to a telecommuting schedule can throw off your food and exercise routine. Additionally, many people are now staying inside to reduce their risk of exposure to the coronavirus. To support your physical health:

  • Try an at-home yoga or exercise video. For inspiration, Balanced You has partnered with Vivecorp to develop a website of easy desk stretches and exercises that can be done whether you’re working at home, in the field, or in the office.
  • If you are able, make some of your meetings walking meetings so you can get outside in your neighborhood while you are on conference calls. 
  • Remember posture and ergonomics. Couches may feel comfortable at first, but will take their toll after several hours. 
  • Plan mealtimes, have healthy food available, and hydrate often. This will keep you from mindlessly snacking.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Set a regular sleep schedule, 7-9 hours per night.   

Take time to socialize

When you work remotely, you miss out on the social interaction that happens in the office. Now is the time to intentionally create a plan for continued socializing. To stay connected:

  • Spend time at home with family. Try a new game, build a puzzle, share a meal, or watch a movie.
  • Talk on the phone or video chat with friends and loved ones.
  • Transition work meetings from phone to video chat.
  • If you have a pet, take time to play with and care for them. 

Nurture your mental health

A virus outbreak can increase everyone’s stress levels. It is important that you are mindful of supporting your mental health during this time. To reduce stress:

  • Take a break from the news cycle. Consider journaling, reading, or watching something funny instead.
  • Maximize your focus. Regular telecommuters often cite focus as a major source of stress when they are first getting started. Pay attention to when your focus is strong during the day and plan your work accordingly.
  • Login to King County’s Making Life Easier’s online Stress Center to practice a short meditation, listen to soothing music, or learn Desk Yoga stretches you can do almost anywhere. (Username: king county)
  • Try therapy via telehealth. Many therapists offer therapy sessions over-the-phone if you are unable to attend in-person. If you already have a regular therapist, ask if this option is available. If you don’t have a therapist yet and would like one, check with Making Life Easier, or your insurance provider.

Do you have other healthy practices while telecommuting? We’d love to hear them! Please contact us at balancedyou@kingcounty.gov or (206) 263-9626

For more information and tips on teleworking for King County employees, please visit this site.

2 thoughts on “Self-care for telecommuters during the COVID-19 pandemic

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  1. How do you keep the 6ft rule while driving a transit bus, opening the front door dealing with a wheelchair and people sitting behind the driver or across from the driver?

    1. Hi Karen,

      We recognize the critical importance of the tasks being undertaken by essential service personnel like bus operators, and that these tasks sometimes involve contact as drivers help secure passengers using wheelchairs. Public Health’s recommendations in response to COVID-19 include preventing prolonged close contact, defined as being within six feet of someone for about 10 minutes or more. Metro has adhered to Public Health’s guidance and introduced steps to minimize driver-to-passenger interaction by directing riders to board at rear doors if they are able, eliminating fares, and installing safety straps; by regularly sanitizing and deep cleaning vehicles and facilities; and by providing hand sanitizer and gloves to drivers. For more information on the steps Metro is taking to combat the virus, visit their blog at https://kingcountymetro.blog/tag/coronavirus/

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