Returning to Work: Tips From the Dining Room Office

I recently returned to work after years of living a self-employed, freelance life. During those months, I’ve learned a few things about myself and about surviving this new life.

My job is working in the corporate communications department of a large health care company. I get to be a storyteller, which is right up my alley. But there are things I’ve learned while getting adjusted to this new full-time routine.

I want to share some of the most prominent things that come to mind, which may help you as you face new challenges in your life, whether they be work-related or simply changes in routine.

Flexibility is important

Nobody at work needs to know that I live with multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. But it has been very helpful to have a leader who understands that health comes first. The members of our small team of communications professionals are encouraged to stop and take a walk during the day or go to their doctor’s appointments without worry of staying tied to the computer (or work-related phone applications). We live in different time zones and sometimes have to work outside of typical business hours, so flexibility is important.

Waking up at the same time each morning is not as hard as I expected it to be. Yes, I tend to hit the snooze button for up to 30 minutes sometimes, but I also give myself grace to skip the shower or take time to brew a pot of coffee – nectar of the gods – before logging into the work computer.

Schedule time for yourself on the calendar

Sitting all day is exhausting and can be very hard on the body – harder than I expected. I find it is vital to set reminders to get up and moving periodically. I’ve had too many days where the clock reaches 3 p.m. and I haven’t stopped for lunch or moved around much. These are the days where I pay for it later with a stiff back, swollen feet and ankles, pain, and general grumpiness that could have been avoided.

Fatigue rules the evenings, and getting routine exercise is harder than I expected. A body that was routinely getting 8+ hours of exercise each week and suddenly get none becomes sluggish and even more fatigued. Since I’m totally exhausted at the end of a work day, I try to keep an eye on the weather and take note in my schedule of good times to combine a “grab some lunch and take a walk outside” break during the day. It definitely helps the rest of the day go more smoothly.

Ergonomics and freedom of movement

Once I obtained a foot stool for my back and an external monitor for my eyes, I discovered that it was easier to do my job and to do it more comfortably. These were truly game-changers while still giving me the freedom to unplug my laptop and work from the recliner if I needed to. But all this comfort also meant that it’s even more important to follow the observations above. Make movement a part of the day.

Tips I repeat to myself

  • Have faith: you are more capable than you realize!
  • Respect fatigue: listen to your body and take time for yourself throughout the day. Regular breaks, feeding yourself, and drinking plenty of water can help a lot
  • Choose wisely: get more sleep at night, even if you must stop streaming your favorite show at 10 p.m. to transition to bed.

Fear, thrills, and thriving

The fear of none of this working out was very strong in the beginning. I had to be my own cheerleader, although my leader frequently told me just how much I was appreciated at work. I was worried that I would fail. But I’m very pleasantly thrilled that I’m thriving instead.

Thank you for reading. As always, I would love to hear your own stories about what you’ve learned about yourself when faced with a new routine or responsibilities in life. Please share in the comments.

Best wishes,
Lisa

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