[This blog post is based on a presentation given at the SENSE2020 Jubilee Conference on June 4, 2020]
While preparing my presentation for the SENSE2020 Jubilee Conference, I planned to talk about what I do to preserve my mental and physical health as someone without a dedicated home office who often spends time away from her home base. Of course, the era of Covid-19 put an abrupt end to the era of digital nomadism and forced us into the era of do-everything-digitally-from-your-home. However, I realized that there are still plenty of things that I can say about preserving your mental and physical health in this challenging time.
Exercise is important, and as a digital nomad (but also during the Covid-19 era) it is often not possible to attend in-person classes. My main tip is to find a way of exercising that is not dependent on location. Running and walking come to mind most readily here (which I realize is not inclusive of everyone’s abilities).
When pools reopen, swimming is another option, because a swimming pool can be found in most cities and is usually affordable.
An ergonomic workspace is important as well. Some tips:
- If you have a laptop, get a laptop stand, a keyboard, and a mouse, or a separate, large screen. Ensure that the top of your screen is roughly at eye level, your arms are at a 90-degree angle, and your feet rest comfortably on the ground or on a footrest at the same angle.
- Invest in a good desk chair or a standing desk. A footrest can also be beneficial.
- If you do not have a dedicated workspace at home, try to vary where and how you sit.
- Once the corona crisis ends and we are free to leave our houses again, I recommend joining a coworking space that offers good seating arrangements and variation.
One of the biggest problems you encounter as a business owner who is free to work from anywhere at any time is that you may be tempted to actually work from everywhere all the time. This is a recipe for burn-out. Therefore, establishing some boundaries between work and life is essential.
Let’s start with things you can do at home. Blocking or switching off certain distractions or work-related things can be beneficial:
- Block access to your email on your phone after working hours. I use an app called Stay Focused for this.
- Switch off your computer when you are done with work.
- Block distracting websites or the internet while you work. I use an app called Freedom for this.
- Take weekends off. You cannot be productive if you’re exhausted!
Once we can leave our houses again, consider the following:
- Join a coworking space. You can fully focus on work while you are there, without getting distracted by the traps of working at home (eg, cleaning, grocery shopping).
- Of course, you can work in the library or a café
- Get a hobby that requires you to leave the house.
Besides establishing a work-life balance, digital nomads or professionals working from home benefit from a sense of community and connection. Let us begin with what you can do from home:
- Join digital support communities. I am an editor and a member of a number of editing-related groups.
- On Facebook, the Editors’ Association of Earth (EAE) is a public group where you can talk about editing-related matters and which has several subgroups.
- You can follow other editors on Twitter and check what editors are tweeting about by following the hashtag #AmEditing. You can also follow editing-related chats (#ACESChat, #EditorsChat).
- You can join the CE-L mailing list, where various copyediting topics are discussed. These places function like a digital water cooler. They provide a space to talk about anything work and often also life-related.
- Join a professional association for training and the opportunity to meet other professionals.
- Besides being a member of SENSE, I am also a member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). An overview of other organizations can be found here.
- These organizations often offer forums for members, where you can ask questions and socialize with fellow members, or webinars where you can learn new skills.
- The CIEP normally hosts in-person meetings for members in different locations across the globe, and has a monthly ‘Cloud Club’ for members who cannot attend in-person meetings.
- If you can’t attend a certain meeting or conference, follow its hashtag on Twitter to see what is being said and engage.
Away from home, when things return to normal, I strongly recommend the following:
- Attend conferences related to your profession – conferences are not only super fun but they also help build your network and professional reputation.
- Find a group of freelancers who cowork in cafés in your location. In the past, I have joined Shut Up and Write meetings via Meetup.com and Facebook, and I have hosted my own meetings, where I connected with other freelance professionals.
A final note
It’s totally normal and understandable if all of this is too much right now. I haven’t been able to follow most of my own guidelines over these past months. Don’t fret – give yourself a break, remember to take showers, try to have a weekend, and explore your surroundings if you can!