Those of us who are lucky enough to have jobs that we can successfully perform from home have surely figured out that it is not easy to make the switch from a commute of 20 minutes to one of 5 seconds, from in-person meetings to Zoom conference calls, from the constant background hum of keyboards and phone calls to….silence. When your living room becomes your office in the midst of a global pandemic, how can you focus on being productive, and not on what snacks are waiting for you 10 feet away in the kitchen, or on constantly checking the news for the latest COVID-19 updates?
There is a lot of impractical work-from-home advice out there — we all know you are probably not going to wear real pants when no one’s watching — and a lot of it is especially irrelevant during a major health crisis. So, here are some realistic tips and tricks for how to work from home during the pandemic without going insane, getting fired or both.
1. It’s okay to not dress like you’re going to work. But at least change out of your pajamas.
You may start your first few days with high expectations for your work-from-home sartorial choices. After all, you want to look good for all those virtual meetings, right? But it’s likely that you’re going to end up in sweats. That’s okay — no one wants to be constantly adjusting their blazer or yanking on their tie all day. But at least change when you wake up, even if it’s just from your night pajamas to your day pajamas. You’ll feel better wearing fresh, clean clothes — and the softer and looser, the better.
2. Set the mood.
Embrace the sheer coziness of working from home — we could all use some small comforts right about now. Light a couple of candles and put on your fairy lights. Wear your favorite fuzzy socks. Put on some background music. Make yourself a great cup of tea or coffee. When you actively try to make working from home enjoyable, you’ll find the hours — and stress — slipping away faster than you expected.
3. Create a work area — but don’t stay there all day.
You should have a designated workspace in your home. If you don’t have a desk, a dining room table or even a coffee table will do. You just need a place to set up your computer and any extra monitors if you have them. However, it’s likely that when you’re at the office, you don’t spend the entire day sitting at your desk, so why should you at home? Every couple of hours, bring your computer to another part of the house to work for a while. Switching up your scenery will help you keep your brain fresh, even during the post-lunch slump.
4. Speaking of lunch — take your lunch break.
It’s easy to get into a working rhythm and find that it’s 4:00 p.m. and you haven’t eaten since breakfast. It’s perhaps even more important to take a lunch break right now, even if it’s just to get your eyes away from your computer for half an hour. Take advantage of the ability to make yourself a delicious lunch you wouldn’t normally have at the office. Microwave your tuna in peace. Eat as many hard-boiled eggs as you want. No one will hate you for it. Except for the people you live with, who are — for better or worse — stuck with you for the time being anyway.
5. Take micro-breaks.
When you’re at the office, you’re up and moving around to go to the bathroom, meetings, fill up your coffee mug or water, etc. At home, it’s easy to sit for hours on end. And, if you’re anything like me, your neck and back are already pretty mad about it. Every couple of hours, try to get that blood flowing by taking a lap around the house or stepping outside to breathe some fresh air. You’ll find that some short mental breaks will actually help reduce stress or anxiety while improving your ability to focus.
6. Take the night off.
Working from home doesn’t have to also mean working 24/7. When possible, set a time that you’re going to turn off your computer for the night. That also means resisting the urge to check emails, slacks and other digital communications unless it is absolutely urgent. Work-life balance still needs to exist — and is perhaps even more important — when work and life are happening in the same place.
7. Try to make the best of this weird time.
Remote work can feel isolating and lonely, especially during a time of intense global anxiety. But it helps to have so many digital and virtual communications tools available to us. Slack, email and call your coworkers and other remote friends and family throughout the day. Check in on those working in healthcare and other essential industries. Embrace the ability to wear what you want, eat what you want, and spend more time with those you live with, both animal and human. And most importantly, take care of yourself. Whether that means going for walks every day, meditating, doing yoga or simply disconnecting from the internet, nothing is more important right now than your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Do what you need to do to nurture your spirit — while maintaining social distancing, of course.