With COVID-19 earning itself the title of pandemic, many offices across the United States are recommending that their employees work from home in the coming month. Here's how you keep yourself from going stir-crazy.

By Andrea Wurzburger
March 13, 2020 01:40 PM

Working from home because of COVID-19? You’re not alone.

Offices throughout the United States have asked their employees to work from home to contain the spread of the virus. If you’re one of those employees gearing up to spend the rest of the month — and maybe beyond — working from home, the change can feel like a big one. Here are some tips from PEOPLE staffers to keep you sane as you learn to navigate — and embrace — the work from home experience.

For fun, go ahead and play Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home” to get yourself in a positive mood about it all while you read.

Keep up your routine.

Consistency is key while working from home for any period of time. If you’re an “I work out at 5 a.m.” person then you should still get up early and get a workout in (possibly outside or at home instead of at the gym, however, for social distancing purposes). If you shower before work, get dressed and drink a cup of coffee, do that too. Keeping your routine will make you feel like you’re getting into “work mode” instead of in a constant state of limbo.

That includes your workday routine.

It is easy to fall into the trap of working from the moment you open your eyes to the second you close them when you’re working from home.

That’s why it’s so important to create and stick to a schedule for the day, as well. Make some ground rules for yourself: Checking your phone as soon as you open your eyes? Not in this house! Answering e-mails after work? Not today, honey!

In this home, we respect our work-life boundaries so that we don’t get burnout! Do you hear me? Now put your phone down.

Don’t stay in your pajamas all day.

It’s tempting, we know. But doing this will only make your little brain think that it’s time for bed … All. Day. Long. Getting dressed and ready for work signals your brain, which is used to getting ready and getting out the door, that it’s time to get working.

Even if you’re just switching from daytime leggings to nighttime leggings or from your bedtime pajamas into new pajamas, a little change is better than no change at all.

Don’t forget to shower. And change your underwear, for that matter.

Again, this seems obvious but it needs to be said: build showering and changing your underwear into your routine. It’s easy to luxuriate in the extra time you now have because you don’t need to spend it on a commute, but doing so will set your day askew.

Become a meal prep pro.

If you’re someone who snacks when you’re bored, it’ll be important to prepare yourself for the days when you’re sitting around and you’re so very close to the kitchen. You may be quarantined, but Flavor Town is open for business, so make things you’ll actually enjoy.

By preparing snacks and meals as you would while getting ready for a week in the office, you reduce the risk that you’ll black out and come to in a pile of string cheese wrappers.

It’ll also save you from ordering a million meals out and paying approximately $1 million to have meals delivered, or from eating your entire grocery haul for the week in the span of a few hours.

Create a separate place for you to get your work done.

Sure, working from bed sounds like a blast, but if you’re too comfortable you might take that nap you always wish you could take right around 3 p.m. Better safe than sorry! Set up a workspace that is separate from your bedroom so that you can trick your mind into switching into work mode.

And own that space.

In the words of a wise scholar named Dr. Miley Cyrus, “It’s our party, we can do what we want to.” In other words, one of the luxuries of not sharing an office space is that you get to go headphone free. So listen to that podcast, girl! Blast some music. Take a 30-second dance break! The world (well, your home) is your oyster!

While you’re at it, have a full conversation at top volume with your pet. Work outside on your balcony or in your backyard. It’s a small luxury, having your very own space to do with as you please.

Keep your space clean.

If you’re not keeping your workspace clean, you’re going to do one of two things:

  1. You’ll turn around one day and realize that the room is suddenly more garbage than room.
  2. You’ll get distracted by the mess and, in an effort to procrastinate, will deep clean your space anyway.

By keeping your space clean, you remove any and all distractions and keep yourself motivated.

Talk on the phone with other humans.

Yeah, yeah, we are in the year of our lord 2020, who the hell uses a phone to call people? But hear us out: If you don’t have roommates or a significant other who’s also working from home, you’ll be itching for some human interaction. Hopping on the phone instead of e-mailing a co-worker can give you a little hit of attention that you need to get through the day. Or using your break to finally call your mom is another alternative.

Set ground rules with your co-workers.

Just because you’re not dealing with your coworkers face-to-face does not mean that they’re not going to get on your nerves. Make sure that you set some ground rules with them while working from home. For example: “Hey, Pam. I know you love your cat, but we can hear you talking to her because you forgot to mute your phone on this conference call.” Or even, “Hey, Karen. Please stop sending me your kid’s TikTok videos, it’s distracting me.”

And ground rules with your partner or roommates who are now unexpectedly your co-workers.

If you are working from home, chances are that your roommate is, too. Have a chat about the spots in the home you each would like to designate as workspaces, the volume you’re okay with in the home during “business hours” and whether or not small talk throughout the day is cool with you. Being upfront about this is crucial to not, you know, murdering the person you live with.

Don’t have children. (We kid.)

Sure, they’re a lasting reminder of your legacy and hard work, but will you really be happy when you’re working from home and listening to “The Wheels on the Bus” for eight hours? We’re kidding of course. But for parents of kids who are now also home with small children, suddenly you’re working a full-time job and trying to care for your kid. It can feel impossible.

If you already have children, then you may want to invest in a babysitter or nanny to lend you a helping hand, if possible. With so many businesses closing, you can ask around your building, your community or your network about people you know who may be struggling now that their hours have been cut. If hiring a babysitter or nanny is not in your budget, call your employer and talk about developing a plan that gives you flexibility.

Do get a pet.

If you don’t have a dog or cat, but always wanted one, this could be your excuse. Working from home has its perks, but it can also be a little isolating. If talking to people on the phone every now and then just isn’t cutting it, getting a pet to keep you company may be the solution. Not into adopting full-time? Becoming a temporary foster may be a happy medium for you and a cat or dog in need.

For perhaps the first time in your working adult life, you’ll have the time to hang out with an animal, and they’ll serve as a tiny co-furker. Get it? Because they’re co-workers but with fur? I’ll see myself out.

Get off of Twitter. No, really. Get off.

It is easy to get caught up on the Internet while you’re working from home, so set an alarm for yourself allowing five minutes of social media usage per hour and then GTFO.

Actually take your lunch break.

Don’t take a working lunch while you’re working from home. Break up your day with a sandwich. Hell, make yourself a fancy meal. You deserve it!

In fact, don’t feel guilty about taking any kind of break.

Work From Home Anxiety is a real thing, people! When you’re in the office, it is obvious you’re working. This, on the other hand, is what you think everyone else thinks you’re doing when you work from home:

When there’s not a direct line of sight between you and your supervisor, it’s easy to assume that they’ll think you’re slacking off if you’re not online every waking second of the day, contributing to conversations on Slack, sending e-mails or, you know, just working. If you’re the boss, you may wonder what your employees think you’re doing, too. It happens whether you’re at the top of the food chain or the bottom.

Ease your own anxiety by fielding requests as they come, but also by being super clear about when you’re going to step out for a coffee or take a 22-minute break to watch an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to clear your head before diving into another task.

Take a walk or do an at-home workout.

So, technically the CDC recommends that you do not gather in crowds and exercise “social distancing,” but they said nothing about walking down the street, taking in 10 minutes of fresh air and calmly returning to your home to resume work. Just exercise caution and try to keep yourself a safe distance from others.

If you’re feeling sedentary but don’t want to risk going to the gym or to a fitness class, try an at-home workout. YouTube has plenty of videos for free that do the trick, or you could try an app like Tone It Up or Openfit.

Take advantage of the alone time and work on your skincare routine.

Have a stash of face masks, lotions and potions you’ve been meaning to try? If you’re working alone and not on video calls all day long, now’s the time to test them out. Heck, do that hair mask, nail treatment and DIY pedicure while you’re at it. A bonus: it might relieve a little of your anxiety.

Good luck and stay safe out there. Well, in there. You know what we mean.

Advertisement