Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, more employees are working from their homes than ever before, myself included.
Most friends and colleagues I’ve checked in with over the past month are coping with the new landscape, while a few others, not so much. Sure, we’re all thankful to still be working during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for some there are challenges.
For instance, one friend revealed to me that he’s been struggling with a “worlds colliding” syndrome, if you will, and that his production is low. Work should be work and home should be home, he says, and combining work with home is about as effective as pairing water with oil and as appealing as combining peanut butter with tuna fish—his words, not mine.
While I consider his analogies a tad dramatic, I can empathize. Writing this blog from my “home office,” aka my former “man cave” is a bit surreal, frankly. This room had been, up until mid-March, where I escaped from my daily work routine. This is where I’d watch a ballgame while drinking a beer, or play Words with Friends, or chat with buddies and relatives on the phone, or, most importantly, where I hid from doing yard work. Now it’s where I do my work–40 hours per week, and I spend very little free time within these four walls these days, even on the weekend!
Yes, working from home has been an adjustment, but one I’ve learned can be managed using these very basic strategies:
1. Maintain personal hygiene
If you retain nothing else from reading this blog, please remember this: Shower every day, brush your teeth and hair, and get dressed as if you were physically going to work. And by get dressed, that means put on clothes you’d actually wear proudly in public—save the sweatpants with holes and t-shirts with stains for Saturday and Sunday.Heck, I’ve even started wearing my corporate badge around the house to better set the mood for a day of work. That’s not a joke. Don’t judge!
2. Create a work environment
As tempting as it may be, don’t work from the couch or a La-Z-Boy chair with the TV on in the background. Doing so is just asking to be distracted—and you may even end up buying a product you see on TV that you don’t really need. (Google nasal irrigation machine.)
Also, respectfully create boundaries with others who, like you, are working or going to school from home at the same time.
My spouse and I have developed an effective new language we’re using to communicate without words. For instance, going into a room and closing the door, something we didn’t do in the past, is now a pleasant and accepted way of saying “I need a little space.” Locking the door means “See ya at dinner.”
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3. Plan each workday
There are a lot of distractions around the home including spouses, children, pets, TVs—and for me, a pesky mole creating a miniature golf course in my front yard—so it’s imperative to map out each day’s goals on a list, stay on track and check them off as you accomplish them. (Start by noting what day of the week it is and the date. I think we all can agree the days are starting to run together during this crisis.)
I recommend putting the smaller, less time-consuming stuff at the top of the list so you can build momentum.
Of course, this is what I normally do when working at the office so it’s been an easy habit for me to maintain from within my home. Not surprisingly, “Find yesterday’s list” is always at the top of each new list.
If this approach is simply too regimented for your DNA, take a less formal approach—and a page from the Michael Scott Paper Company—and make it a goal to accomplish one thing by the end of each day.
4. Take breaks, exercise
Just because you’re in the comfort of your home doesn’t mean it’s wrong to take time away from the work you’re doing. Sure, you’re in a cozy place, but it’s critical to stop and recharge for an hour or so at some point in the middle of the work day. And turn your phone off when you do!
I often pack a lunch and drive to a temporarily deserted dog park near my home for a makeshift picnic for one under a tree. Or sometimes I just explore my neighborhood for 60 minutes, marveling at the lack of traffic on the streets and the sinking gas prices. Just yesterday I saw $2.39 per gallon!
Exercising every day, especially on work days, has become a no-brainer. I’ve found taking walks or bike rides are great ways to clear my mind before work, during lunch or after work, and to get into, I mean, to stay in shape. Friends are raving about yoga, meditation, and dancing in their living rooms before starting their work days, too. I’m not on those trains just yet but who knows? We’ll see how long this lasts.
Bonus tip: Set an alarm in another room of the house every 90 minutes so you have to get up, stretch your legs and turn it off. Your pet may give you a look of confusion for a day or two but they’ll get used to it.
5. Limit news consumption
Don’t read, watch or listen to the news while you’re working.
By now, you should realize we’re all in this crisis for the long haul and life as we knew it won’t be returning any time soon. Sure, check in with a reputable news source once, maybe twice, per day for a few minutes, but don’t obsess over the latest statistics or over who’s blaming who for this mess. Doing so will only fuel anxiety, fear and/or depression in a time when you need to be productive.
The All Clear signal will come eventually, but not for a while. Don’t waste time and energy tracking its arrival, especially when you’re on the clock.
Be sure to #takebreaks from news and social media about #COVID19. Too much news about the pandemic can be upsetting. When you do need information, get the latest from your local or state health department and CDC. https://t.co/Xf3wah2G31 pic.twitter.com/zYEQ8kaSZv— CDC (@CDCgov) April 12, 2020
6. Be grateful
More than 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks.
If you’re feeling inconvenienced or put out by having to work from home instead of from the workplace, let that number sink in for a while, and just be thankful that you still have a job.