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How to Take Care of Yourself When Working From Home

See the original post shared here from Wacom.

By CS Jones

French Twitter’s biggest art meme right now is #coronamaison, or “corona home.” Started by bestselling comic artist Pénélope Bagieu, the challenge is to take this template—

—And draw your dream room to ride out the quarantine in. So the illustrations today will be from this hashtag, to showcase their incredible work.

Anyway, this article was supposed to be part two of a series on working from home, with part one being on productivity. But since Patrick LaMontagne just released his article on that subject, and with lockdowns beginning stateside and anxiety escalating worldwide, I think this might be more useful right now.

Set your own hours, but watch them.

Those of us who naturally keep odd hours might find working from home to be a godsend. And scheduling when you’re only being paid for the finished product is less about setting rigid hours for when you’re on and when you’re off, than making sure you have enough time to get both your work and your personal stuff done, without:

  1. Letting your work go.
  2. Letting your personal life go.
  3. Suffering burnout or RSI’s from 12-hour stretches at the tablet.

Within those constraints, feel free to make your work times as buckwild as you want.

Try to avoid cramming, though. I’ve talked multiple times in past articles about the risk of repetitive strain injuries from uninterrupted computer time. “Make sure to include stretches/small exercises and emphasize taking a short break every couple of hours,” says illustrator Julia Lichty. “A lot of people who were only doing this recreationally or occasionally will overextend and hurt themselves in numerous ways.

Eyestrain is no joke either. Turn your screen brightness down to the minimum you need to see it at any given time, and if at any point you feel your eyes burning, take a break from laptop and smartphone use that second. Even reading a book will be better.

“Light is making your body later.”

Speaking of your eyes, I highly recommend f.lux, a simple and lightweight background program that tunes your color settings for the time of day. There are plenty of alternatives, but I’ve found this one has everything, and for free.

Color temperature and changing times are fully customizable, and most important functions can be done from the task bar: If you’re using a flat tablet, you’ll want to turn it off when painting to avoid losing color fidelity, but if you’re on the Wacom One or a Cintiq, you can permanently disable it for that monitor. But I recommend you use it for your primary display whenever you’re not arting—or if you’re drawing something black and white, even—and set your color temperature warmer. It’s the blue light that really gets you.

8 hours sleep a night; lay off the coffee.

Or however many you’d normally get. (Some people say they only need 5 or 6. Studies show they might be wrong, but it’s their life.) One of the biggest upsides to working from home is that you can sleep in odd patterns, or even keep a reverse schedule. A lot of articles advise against this, but especially now, no one’s judging you. Just make sure it adds up to the number you’d usually get and that you’re not feeling tired while you work. Burnout can become a problem if there’s no one to tell you when your shift is over.

It’s tempting to make a pot of coffee and consume it constantly throughout the day, but if you’re not the kind of person who does this normally, a time of high tension is absolutely not when you should start. Keep coffee consumption to what you need to stay awake and motivated. And now seriously isn’t the time to develop an energy drink habit either. Just don’t.

Make sure to get several non-caffeinated drinks to keep on hand as a backup, especially teas, juices, and water. You might not be as active as normal, so ease up on the soda.

Get outside for some exercise.

But just because you can’t go to the bar doesn’t mean you have to become a hikikomori. For the time being, at least, it’s possible to go outside while still maintaining social distancing.

If you’re not under lockdown (unlike the French), not sick, not immunocompromised or in close contact with those who are, and need exercise you can’t get at home, it’s fine to go for a walk around your neighborhood or to an uncrowded park. Just make sure you maintain the recommended distance of six feet from people, don’t go into stores unless you absolutely have to, and I know it’s hard, but try not to lick any sidewalks.

If you’re able to, get out in nature instead of hanging out in urban or suburban common areas. If you have access to woods or trails, you can still go hiking, just do it either alone or with a single trusted partner.

Or if you can’t, there’s this. By Gaelle HersentTweet.

Don’t neglect your hygiene, either.

Once you learn to enter flow while you work, time can lose all meaning. Under the misguided notion that you’re being super-productive, it can be easy to stop showering until you smell yourself and forget about brushing your teeth until sweets feel like they’re made of knives.

Work on your thing as well.

There’s literally no better time than now to start a personal project. Not only do you have all the free time in the world, your potential audience has more time to find and consume new forms of entertainment, especially on the internet.

Find the perfect Wacom tablet for your “working from home” style and space

Wacom Intuos Pro Small

Proven, compact pen tablet for drawing and photo editing. Perfect for small work surfaces.

Keep social through group chats.

It feels like I plug Discord in every article now, but group chats on artist channels really are the most fun way I’ve found to pass the time during long pieces. Drawing streams have often been great draws, and I’ve gotten just as much actual engagement—even if not a higher viewer count—through Discord Live than on Twitch some days.

Managing Anxiety

For much more information on this topic, see How to Beat Anxiety and Get Started Drawing.

As I extensively covered in that article, procrastination is overwhelmingly caused by fear, not laziness. In such extenuating circumstances, allow yourself some of it, and if you find you’re too anxious to focus on work, stop and practice detensing techniques.

Faced with the loss of senior-level jobs and businesses they’ve put tens of thousands of hours into, some people are saying that the lesson they’re taking from the economic crash is that work, productivity, and earning money are not the end all be all. I couldn’t agree more. By all means keep yourself afloat, yes, but allow yourself time to stay up on current events and process trauma. Time spent following the news is not wasted, because it both keeps you abreast on developments and can provide vital advice and even some reasons to be hopeful.

But if you find yourself outright crippled by fear, here are some things you can remind yourself to calm down.

3 things to keep in mind

It’s outside Wacom’s scope to be a news source or opinion column, but to finish off the article:
  1. The hysteria phase is temporary. Empty store shelves are a dramatic sight, but no one’s in danger of starving or never being able to… wipe again. Grocery stores are remaining open and restocking, food and medical supplies show no sign of being interrupted, and the initial wave of panic buying will pass.

2. Comparisons are often made to the Spanish flu, but the difference between this and that is a century. Medical science has come a long way since—

Being an old-timey doctor would rule, just drunk as hell like “yeah u got ghosts in your blood, you should do cocaine about it”

— eli yudin (@eliyudin) August 16, 2017

—And the combined efforts of the STEM fields are addressing this at amazing speed. Chinese virology institutes were able to isolate and study the illness right as it broke out and spread their findings through the internet. As you already know, vaccines are in development, but just today, the World Health Organization started a global mega-test of the four most promising medications for it. South Korea and Singapore are kicking the virus’s butt, showing that it’s at least possible. The news might be full of people breaking into fistfights at Costco and stockpiling guns, but like any disaster, this is also bringing out the best in people and strengthening social cohesion on the whole.

3. The reason this has the visual tropes of a disaster movie is that the world is taking drastic preventative measures instead of just waiting for the healthcare system to be crushed like a Dixie cup and just dealing with the effects, as it did during past pandemics. A lot of social media conspiracy theories focus on how “The flu never closed Disney World,” “Pneumonia never cancelled the sportsball,” and so on, despite those diseases killing far more people. Well yeah, that’s why they did. All this is happening because people care enough about each others’ lives to sacrifice normalcy.

Jun 25, 2020 | Blog, Wacom

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