How to Work From Home Without Going Stir-Crazy

By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter

March 17, 2020

As health experts continue to recommend people begin working from home over the next 14 days amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic, it's a big change for many Americans who are used to driving into the office every day. However, with more than 5,000 cases in the U.S. and more being confirmed every day, working from home may become the 'new normal' as we adjust to life in the time of COVID-19.

If your company has you working from home for the foreseeable future, we put together a list of tips that can help make life easier for you and your boss.

Keep a Regular Schedule and Maintain Your Morning Routine

At first, the idea working remotely sounds incredibly appealing. After all, there's no company dress code at your house (unless your work has a video conference call scheduled). Plus, you're left to your own devices on how you plan to accomplish your tasks for the day.

Most importantly, make sure you communicate to your bosses what your schedule will look like while you're working from home and stick to it. Just because you have a lot more flexibility for the foreseeable future doesn't mean that you should schedule calls or meetings beyond when you would normally have them scheduled. You can and should adjust your day if you find yourself staying late.

Another habit you'll want to maintain is your morning routine. Habits, especially new ones like working from home, are particularly effective when you stick to them on a daily basis for at least thirty days. There's no telling how long people might be asked to work from home, but setting up a morning routine that works with your schedule is a great way to keep you productive throughout the day.

Set Ground Rules

You're at work. You might be physically at home, but it's important that anyone who shares your space during the day (whether that's your roommates, your kids, or your spouse) know that while you're working, you might as well not be at the house (excluding emergencies obviously).

Working from home isn't an opportunity for them to ask you for favors or to help out around the house (unless you skipped your chores). Set those boundaries early and stick to them as much as possible. Let them know you're still available to help but that they should still considering you 'away' at work during your normal office hours.

Of course, some people might have more flexibility than others who work from home, but those boundaries will remain important if you want to maintain your productivity.

Schedule Breaks

If you're lucky enough to have your own place and don't have anyone there to interrupt - you may find yourself falling into a trap of just working nonstop all day. Working from home might 'feel easier' but that doesn't mean you're not entitled to a lunch break or the occasional 15-minute break.

Most full-time employees in the United States are allowed at least one hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. Use them! Get away from the computer screen, or phone, or however you're working from home and get away from work. Your productivity later on in the day will be much better.

Get Outside When You Can and Remain Active

Staying cooped up all day inside your home while wearing pajamas might sound appealing at first. However, as the days wear on, time can slow and even lose all meaning (What day is it? Is this a weekday?). Going outside and taking a short walk (while maintaining social distancing practices) is a great way to clear your head and stay active while you're working from home. Going outside has also been shown to encourage creativity, so it's especially beneficial when you feel blocked or unmotivated to work.

Gyms have been closed, but don't use that as an excuse to skip your workouts. People working from home can use a multitude of exercises at home to stay active and in shape.

Set Up a Dedicated Office Space

If you can, set aside a dedicated office space separate from the rest of your home. Even if it's just a corner on your dining room table, make it yours and set it up as if you were at work as best as you possibly can.

Organize your space in a way that will keep you from getting up every ten minutes to go fetch some random file. Organizing your tools and files early and keeping them that way, will help your productivity remain at your normal levels.

Make sure you're also locking up any important files or documents at the end of the day so they won't be disturbed (in case your dog gets hungry and goes looking for a snack).

Stay in Constant Communication With Your Colleagues And Boss

The beauty (or curse) of the modern era is that there are literally dozens of ways to stay in touch with your colleagues and boss. Whether that's through a group chat/email, or an app like Slack, or Microsoft Teams, use these apps to keep your team connected and productive while you all work from home.

Staying in touch with your boss also lets them know you aren't just hanging out, binge-watching BoJack Horseman on Netflix when you're supposed to be working. Some bosses may ask you for a progress report/update at the beginning and end of your day. Don't take offense to this, just keep a detailed log of what you worked on through the day so they can see you're remaining productive. Heck, if you do a great job while you're forced to work from home, they may allow you to do this more often once this pandemic is over.

Health experts say working from home is a great way for people to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Because it's incredibly difficult to predict how this outbreak will continue - even with all the social distancing - Americans could be working from home for the next few months.

But, remember most of all to stay calm, wash your hands and avoid spreading misinformation about the virus. We're all in this together.

To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

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