Working from Home During COVID-19
While working from home is a luxury not everyone has, those who can work from home may have trouble transitioning to this modality. Here are some quick tips for staying sane and being productive while you work from your home office or coffee table during social distancing.
1. Create boundaries around your work hours. This may be the most important tip, because it gives your brain structure and clear expectations. Knowing when you are “at work” mentally can help you stay focused, be productive, and pass the time. Whether you are very busy or very bored, creating this structure for yourself is paramount because it can help you track what day it is and what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time. When it’s “after work” time, you can relax! For most jobs, this means you can turn off your work devices and spend time doing things you enjoy until it’s time to do it all again tomorrow.
2. Get dressed for work. This may sound silly, but changing your clothes can help your brain switch from its “lounging at home” mentality to its “professional person” mentality. Not only that, but it can make you feel good to take care of yourself as if your life has not changed drastically, even though no one may see you from the chest down for a while.
3. Take a morning break, full lunch break, and an afternoon break. It’s easy to sink into work and never look up, or on the other hand, be so bored that you’re constantly getting distracted. Similar to Tip #1, this tip helps you put boundaries in place so that you do not burn yourself out. On the other end of the continuum, if you have very little to do, taking breaks can help you stay focused on the catching up, organizing, or mundane work that you are supposed to be focusing on. It can also help pass the time.
4. Eat meals and drink water, even though grazing on snacks may be tempting. So many people on social media have described pandemonium in the snack aisle at the grocery stores! At a time like this, it’s more important than ever to provide your body with nourishment, including fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, and water! Not only do you need to be healthy in case you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, but it will also help your mental health if your physical body is well taken care of. So, shelve the Smartfood for a snack or after-work movie, and make yourself a full, healthy lunch instead. Your body and brain will thank you.
5. Move your body & get some headspace. Some of my clients have reported feeling very anxious and trapped as they work from home during social distancing. Though it’s no longer a good idea to go to the gym, there are ways you can move your body and get some mental calm as well. For starters, Headspace is offering free meditations and moving meditations to help people feel calm and equipped for the challenges we are facing (https://www.headspace.com/covid-19). In addition, whether you are interested in yoga, quick and easy body movements, or full-blown at-home sweat sessions, there are resources for you including this free Youtube channel called Yoga with Adriene (https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene/videos) and this comprehensive list of online fitness offerings where you can support local fitness studios https://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2020/03/16/online-workouts-philadelphia/. Whatever you do, try to make at least 15-30 minutes to move your body and 10-30 minutes to meditate to maintain your physical and mental fitness.
6. Change your environment. If you are lucky enough to have an office space, or even just a desk, make sure that you are working from that space and relaxing in the other spaces in your home. If you do not have this spatial separation, perhaps because you live in a studio apartment, there are still ways you can make your space work-from-home-friendly. For instance, reserve your bed for sleeping and relaxing, and do your work from the couch and coffee table. Also, you can change something in your space to transition it from a work space to home space, like lighting a candle when it is time to relax, or putting your computer away out of sight when you’re not using it. These simple changes signal your brain that it’s time to work or time to relax, which can do wonders to help you keep a mental routine and keep your space feeling like a home rather than a jumble of home and office.
7. Talk to people! Social distancing does not have to mean isolation (I’m looking at you, extroverts!). It may not be as satisfying as having meetings in person or seeing your friends, but using video chat options and making phone calls gives you much-needed exposure to human contact. Humans are social animals, and we do not need to stop socializing just because we are physically distant. Arrange a FaceTime happy hour, book club meeting, craft circle, or cooking event where everyone is participating in the same activity and talking via their screens. Get creative! This can be a fun way to connect.
In the end, we may be experiencing some tough days and weeks ahead. But with these tips, working from home during social distancing may not be so bad. Who knows, you might even get to enjoy it!