How to Work From Home Without Losing It

Coronavirus COVID-19 and its ensuing toilet paper panic has taken over the country. For some people, that means working from home for the first time.

A near future where all meetings become phone calls and office attire becomes sweatpants, has triggered its own wave of panic. But for some, like myself, who have been happily working from home for the majority of our adult lives, mid-day trips to the fridge and less-than-flattering attire are just another day on the job.

Working from home may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re temporarily joining the ranks of sweatpants and snacks, welcome. Here’s how to work from home without losing your mind.

1. Start your work day off right

First things first, working at home might make you tempted to take a leisurely start to your day—you’re probably envisioning slowly sipping on a cup of coffee while you half-heartedly check your email but actually just scroll social media, right?

Well, take it from a lady who knows—if you waste the part of the day when you are the most fresh and energetic, it’s all downhill from there.

When you work from home, it can be hard to stay focused and not get pulled into doing other things, like switching the laundry or taking the dog out, so to make sure you are as productive as possible, make a list of 3-5 of your most important tasks and tackle them right away. Then, when your energy is waning by mid-afternoon, you can indulge in some less energy-intensive tasks, like that leisurely email/social media check.

2. Stick to your normal routine

If you’re having trouble jumpstarting your day while working from home, try sticking to whatever routine that you used to get prepped for the office as much as possible, suggests Jessie S., 34, CEO of a company that makes homemade bath and body products. “Create a routine for starting work. This can include getting a drink, going over a motivational mantra in your mind, turning the radio on, or anything that will get you into the right frame of mind,” she says.

3. Do not—I repeat—do not work with Netflix on for “background noise”

Trust me, I get the temptation. When you spend your days alone at home with only your thoughts and the occasional dust bunny to keep you company, you start to crave the sound of another voice besides the one in your head.

But for any time that you really, really need to concentrate, keep the screens off. That background noise will only distract you.

If you really need some human connection, take a break to chat with a friend. Working from home does not mean you have to isolate yourself completely, and staying connected is important to help you stay motivated and mentally healthy too.

4. Get comfortable with working anywhere

Unless there’s a complete lockdown where you are at, you may still have to leave your house—so that means taking work with you.

I’ve worked in my car (shout out to my minivan “office” I’m sitting in right now), in a doctor’s office, in parking lots, restaurants, in my daughter’s school’s hallway during volleyball practice, in bleachers, and once, in a moment I’m not particularly proud of, in a hospital bed during labor. And sure, the lines between work and life might get blurred a little, but on the plus side, working in school hallways has allowed me to witness some pretty sweet middle school Tik Toking in the wild, which I think kind of makes me a pioneer.

5. Mix up where you work

If you’re quarantined at home, it helps to change scenery every few hours or so to give yourself a fresh burst of energy. I generally will rotate where I work, from my office, to the living room, to standing at my kitchen counter. Anytime you start to feel your energy slump, get up, get moving, and change your position.

6. Let yourself take a break

When you’re working at home, it can be incredibly easy to just want to keep powering through, but taking breaks can actually make you more productive. Let yourself take time for a real screen-free break to eat lunch, get some fresh air, or do something that’s actually fun or relaxing instead of forcing yourself to sit your butt in the chair all day because you think you’ll get your work done faster that way.

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