The coronavirus pandemic means a lot of us will be working from home over the coming weeks. For some people, it’s business as usual (I would normally split my time between home and the office). For others, it’s new territory. I’m lucky I work for a company who allow us to work from home when we want, which is a lifesaver for me because a) I can get bad fatigue as a side effect from my medication and b) it takes about an hour and a half to get to work if I do go in. I’m hoping one of the good things to come from the virus—I’m searching for any silver linings I can—is that more workplaces become flexible like this*, because it would help everyone find more balance, especially parents, people with illnesses, and people with disabilities.
Here are eight ways to stay happy and productive when working from home.
1. Dress comfortably
Some people believe in dressing as if you were going to the office when you’re at home. And if that works for you, then cool. But I’m all about the comfy clothes—leggings, oversized jumpers and T-shirts, the odd pair of pyjama bottoms. One of the joys of not being in an office space is that no one notices what you wear. You can walk around with a messy topknot and spot cream all over your face without judgment (unless you answer the door to the postman. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).
Of course, if we all end up having to self-isolate, the novelty of being extra comfy could wear off and you may well find me writing in a nice dress and a full face of make-up.
2. Have a separate space…
The line between your work and your personal life gets blurry when your space for both is the same, so it’s a good idea to dedicate an area to work if you can (even a room if you’re lucky enough to have one). I have a nook with a desk and I try to keep it tidy—keeping all my work paraphernalia stored there allows some kind of separation.
3. … but don’t feel like you have to stay there
Sometimes a change of scene is all it takes to breathe new life into your working day. I have a favourite armchair I like to sit in if I’m not getting much done while I’m at my desk, and sometimes I break the number-one rule by working in bed, though this is rare.
4. Figure out a routine
Lots of us, myself included, find having a routine to be very comforting and you can definitely create one for your time working from home. Set an alarm, make some time for breaks and lunch, and think about the way you work best. I tackle all my priority tasks in the morning because that’s when I’m most productive, but you might prefer saving them for the afternoon.
5. Take a break from work
Let’s face it, none of us are glued to our desks for the entirety of our working day. You get up and make a drink, you have a snack, you lapse into office chatter. Taking a break can revitalise you.
If I start to get restless then I’ll take a walk, read an article, listen to a podcast, or go down to the gym and take out my frustration there. Although at the moment I’m avoiding the gym, so I’ve got some home workouts planned instead. I may even take my yoga mat into the garden once the weather gets warmer.
6. Keep in touch
I’m really going to miss the social aspect of going to the office. I genuinely like my co-workers and I enjoy having conversations with them (I’m lucky, I know). This won’t stop completely of course, as we can still message and email, but we’re also looking at other ways to keep in touch, whether that’s daily video calls between departments, head office updates, or just checking in with people to make sure they’re okay.
If you’re freelance or work by yourself, consider joining an online community for people in the same situation. I’ve seen lots of people setting up groups or WhatsApp chats so everyone can support each other, so these are worth looking out for. And don’t forget to check up on your friends and family. My friend Sara and I are both working from home at the moment, so we’re trying to set up synchronised yoga sessions for our breaks.
7. Limit your news consumption
It’s easy to get locked into an endless routine of scrolling and hopping from news site to news site. But this can easily lead to panic and lack of concentration, understandably so. Everything is a bit surreal and overwhelming right now (my anxiety has been through the roof).
While it’s helpful to stay informed, being glued to a news feed is not. Some people will be able to deal with more news than others. I’ve been checking it once it the morning and once before dinner, but otherwise I’m just taking things one step at a time.
8. Know when to stop for the day
There comes a time when you start reading the same sentence repeatedly, or glazing over when you’re trying to take information in. Knowing when to push through this loss of concentration and when to call it a day is a skill you learn as working from home becomes more normal to you.
Ultimately, I think the key to working from home is figuring out what works for you and sticking with it. Some people might find these ideas useful; others might think I’m chatting rubbish. And that’s okay! Working from home can be a bit of an experiment at first, but you’ll soon get into the swing of it.
* I’m aware that working from home isn’t a possibility for everyone. So for those in medical professions, retail, hospitality and any other industries that are still working with the public or have been told not to come into work, I send you lots of love.
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Beth, 26, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travelling, and gin. Always thinking about my next meal.
I write about ethical & eco-friendly living, minimalism, and mental health, as I muddle through one step at a time. Enjoy!