Working From Home During COVID-19: How To Keep Your Cool

For many folks, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first time they’re working from home for an extended period of time (or maybe ever!). And as this new reality and public health necessity of social distancing sets in, many workers will be cooped up until the virus is contained.

As someone who worked remotely for many years (including in an apartment with roommates and an apartment with a partner), I’ve faced a range of challenges of working from home (WFH). While friends were generally jealous of my flexible working arrangement, I found myself missing the camaraderie of colleagues and the daily rhythm of getting out of the house and into an office that was my designated work space.

For those who are finding their coronavirus WFH situation to be less than ideal, below are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to keep from getting too antsy when you’re working from home:

1. Build in a fake commute

Some of the most challenging parts of working from home are the lack of variation in scenery, difficulty separating work and home life, and decrease in physical activity. To combat all three, consider replicating your typical commute, but in a way that allows you to maintain social distance:

If there is not a practical way for you to walk and practice social distancing, consider building in another form of at-home movement before and after working hours that can mimic a commute. Because commutes don’t just get you from point A to point B: they also offer an important time to plan out what you want to accomplish each day, and reflect on the progress you’ve made. Fake commuting will allow you to preserve this part of your routine and set your intention for the day ahead!

2. Keep your lifestyle consistent

Whenever you’re faced with a major transition, including a change in working style, it’s easy to lose sight of things that ground you. In this moment of uncertainty, keeping pieces of your life consistent can help you feel a bit more in control.

Here are some ways to keep your lifestyle consistent:

3. Set and stick to work boundaries

With the omnipresence of smartphones and laptops, it’s easy to get trapped in the cycle of being online all the time, and this is especially true when all your work comes (and stays!) home with you.

Make a plan that delineates when and where you’re working, and try to keep the boundaries clear, such that you work when you’re working and not when you’re not.

Here are some examples:

4. Buddy work

For many folks, working from home can mean working alone, and the lack of casual social interactions really add up.

To decrease some of that isolation, consider a few options for coworking:

5. Make time to tidy your space

A good rule of thumb is to not do any tasks during the work-from-home day that you wouldn’t do if you were at the office. For example, it might be tempting to run  a quick load of laundry or cook a hot lunch, but these small breaks add up, and blur the line between work time and home time.

Still, especially if multiple household members are working from home, dishes in the sink can pile up quickly, and shared spaces may need a deeper clean more frequently. Schedule extra time for these chores before or after work, or on the weekend so that you can face your work hours in a space that is clean, organized, and free of distractions.

6. Introduce fun activities at home

Outside of your working hours, schedule time for fun activities so that your home remains a place associated with more than just work duties. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

7. Be kind to yourself!

If you’re finding your routine has been flipped on its head and your creativity and productivity are suffering as a result, that’s ok! Try to communicate openly with your team members and employers about the challenges you’re facing; chances are, you’re not alone in them.

If that’s not an option for you though, consider seeking therapy for a bit of extra support. Many therapists offer the option for remote therapy via phone or video call, so you can telecommute straight to session.

The most important thing in the coming weeks is to keep yourself – and those around you – healthy and safe. Practice smart social habits, get plenty of rest, and if you're experiencing anxiety about the virus, know that you can access support from the comfort of your home by connecting with a therapist remotely.