Six tips for keeping your sanity while working from home

It’s been a week since most of us started working from home full time to help protect ourselves, our teammates, and our families by social distancing for the next several weeks. 

I’m grateful that both Ryan and I were told to work from home indefinitely until this COVID-19 pandemic slows its roll. We’re holed up with Joey and making the most of things.

As an introvert, my first thought upon hearing I’d be stuck home for the foreseeable future was, “Great, no commute means more time for reading books.”

Alas, it’s been more of an adjustment than I expected.

By 11 a.m. on Monday, I’d already determined that our first workspace setup (a card table in the guest room) was not gonna work for me.

We ended the day with a very fast trip to Office Depot to do a drive-by deck pickup. Because who doesn’t want to kick off their social distancing by furniture building with their spouse? Would not recommend.

After that near-disaster, we finally settled into some semblance of a new “normal” routine. And it’s working pretty well for us. So,I’d like to share some strategies that have helped me adjust to working from home full-time, in case they help you too.

1. Get ready for the day ahead

I don’t always get as ready as I would if I were going into the office (who wants to wear jeans all day when yoga pants are an option?). But it’s important for me to have a fresh start for my day. 

Stick with the morning routine that has traditionally worked for you. Even if you modify it a little for your new work from home life, it feels nice to keep that consistency.

2. Make yourself take frequent breaks

When we’re in the office, we take breaks to chat with co-workers, grab coffee or lunch, etc. It’s okay to do that when we’re working from home, too.

Refill your water. Stand up and do a lap around the house. Let out the dog that’s been staring at you for the last ten minutes (his sign that he’d like to go outside, even if we both know he won’t do anything but stand on the deck). Check on your kids when needed. You get the idea.

Left: Joey’s face when he realized the humans would be home for days on end. Right: Joey’s face when he realized that doesn’t translate into more playing time with him.I call him my supervisor since he monitors our activity 24/7 when he’s not napping on the job.

3. Set boundaries for your workday

Set start and stop times for when you’ll be “in the office” each day. Even if some days look different than others, your workday when working from home can (and should) have some structure.

Stay as connected as you need to if your work is more fluid due to your personal situation or business priorities. But give yourself a clear separation of “work” time and “home” time.

And no matter how plugged in you’re staying, keep a reasonable (but firm) cut-off point. Give yourself enough time to take a break and unwind each evening. You’ll feel less burned out as time goes on. And ultimately, you’ll be more productive since you’ll give yourself the time you need to decompress each day.

4. Stay connected and find the fun

This one is super important – during your work day and your free time.

I’m grateful that my co-workers are truly awesome. We’re all dedicated to staying connected and keeping the fun even amidst the chaos of our current work environment.

We make time to check in on how everyone is doing during our daily team meetings, before we dive into the communications planning. We show off our cute pets if they’ve decided to also “join” our team meetings. We roll with any unexpected cat or kid interruptions, laugh them off, then re-focus. Next week, we’re trying a quick virtual happy hour. We’ll all have a beverage of our choice, chat, and take a quick break.

At home, I have a handful of group chats with friends to stay in touch.. My book club has already done one skype “meetup.” My sorority alumnae chapter is posting a series of Q&A threads to help us get to know each other and stay connected. Do what works for you and your people. But social distancing can feel very isolating, so staying connected–at work and in your personal life – is so important.

5. Don’t get caught up in the 24/7 news cycle

News about COVID-19 is everywhere – social media, TV, etc. It’s a lot to take in, especially since it’s not typically positive news.

I’ve made the choice to dedicate a couple times a day for a quick check of the latest headlines with my local news, national news, and international news sites that I trust. If there’s a key press conference, I’ll tune in. Otherwise, I force myself to disconnect from the headlines.

Reading every “breaking” update just makes me anxious, and this strategy still keeps me plenty informed.

6. Fill up your cup and prioritize your mental health

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed right now. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of resources that can help you through it. Schedule a therapy appointment if you need one (many have online or phone visit options right now. Your company might have an employee assistance program that gives you access to options, too). Making the choice to talk to a therapist is the single best thing I’ve done for myself in the last six months (a long story for another day). It may be a great thing for you, too–if you’re willing to give it a chance.

There are plenty of other little things you can do. Take time to exercise. I’ve never had a consistent workout routine, but I’m taking this found time to start one. I think it’ll be good for my mental health and my stress levels. So far, I’m a big fan of Pilates, Yoga, our elliptical, and hitting our boxing bag in the basement.

Make time for your favorite hobbies. Try a new one. Enjoy the extra time you have with your family. Play board games. Have a dance party in your living room.

Make good memories in spite of the weird and sometimes scary situation we’re all in.

And if you’re still stuck on what to do, here’s a list with a ton of ideas for you and your family.

I’ve found some of the best ideas come from others that are living this new “normal” too. 

What strategies have you found helpful for working from home? How are you keeping the fun in your day? Let’s help each other by sharing them in the comments below! 

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