The world has changed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most states in the US—and many other parts of the world—are under “Shelter at Home” orders. Which means that millions of people who used to go to an office every day are now working at home. Most of them for the first time.
If you’re one of them, you may be struggling with this sudden—and massive—transition. As someone who has worked from home for more than two decades, I can attest that it’s not as easy as some people believe it is. But it’s not an insurmountable challenge either. Here are 23 tips, tricks, and strategies for staying productive while staying at home.
1. Work in one place if you can
Whether it’s a spare bedroom or your dining room table, try to keep your work area in place, rather than working all over the house. That will make it easier to find what you need and will help prevent your work life and home life from blurring together.
2. Maintain regular work hours
Similarly, try to work the same hours you do at the office. Don’t let your work time bleed into your family or personal time.
3. Set ground rules with family or roommates
To help achieve items 1 and 2, talk with the people you live with to set and manage expectations. When do you—and others—need quiet time? When can you be available during the day? Who will take care of the kids?
4. Create and stick with a morning routine
The transition between home and work is tougher when they’re the same physical location. So create a routine that gets you into work mode each morning.
5. Use the best chair you have
A good chair makes all the difference.
6. Ask for what you need
What if you don’t have a good chair? Or a decent printer? Or a second monitor? Or something else you need to be effective? Ask your company. And if they can’t provide it, ask your friends and your network if you can rent, buy, or borrow it from them.
Since some of the usual communication channels have been interrupted, it’s important to ensure good communication continues. In this situation, more is better. And to make communication easier and more effective, let people know your preferred communication tools and find out theirs as well. Also, be sure to share documents frequently via your sharing services.
8. It’s okay to work in your PJs
A lot of people recommend dressing professionally every day, but I say to hell with that. Wear whatever you want. Be comfortable. If you’re not going to be on a video call, who cares if you’re wearing a suit? Or dress shoes? Or pantyhose? (I haven’t worn pantyhose in YEARS.)
9. Exercise regularly
With gyms, yoga studios, and martial arts dojos closed indefinitely, this is harder than before. But you still can—and should—get some kind of exercise in on a daily basis. Even if it’s just going for a walk.
10. Eat healthy snacks
As best you can, resist the siren call of donuts, chips, and cookies. To help, keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand—fruit, vegetables, whole wheat crackers, hummus, protein bars, beef jerky, nuts, cheese, and yogurt. (Oh, and by the way, I consider dark chocolate to be healthy!)
11. Take plenty of breaks
You’re dealing with more challenges and higher stress levels than normal. Take frequent breaks.
12. Get outside
Fresh air and sunshine are crucial for your physical and mental well-being.
13. Listen to music
Music can be relaxing or energizing. It can elevate your mood and enhance your creativity. Also, it can block out background noises from elsewhere in your home.
14. Socialize virtually
Let’s be honest—It sucks not being able to meet people for lunch or coffee. Or happy hour. Or ice cream. Especially if—like me—you live alone. Human beings are social animals (even us introverts) and we crave connection. Fortunately, many people are creating virtual gatherings and events, which give you a chance to meet and talk with people online. I’ve been doing this a lot and trust me, it helps.
15. Use social media wisely
Social media can also help with the isolation, but it can be a rabbit hole that’s easy to fall into. And before you know it, hours have passed. Regulate how much time you spend on social media each day and be strategic about it.
16. Make the most of online meetings
Workers who have never been part of an online meeting are now attending them on a regular basis. A few tips:
a. Learn your platform. Whether it’s Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Microsoft Teams, or something else, learn the ins and outs of it. There are plenty of tutorials online.
b. Get on group calls early. Punctuality is just as important as with a physical meeting.
c. Use video. If people can’t see you, they assume you aren’t actually there. (And by the way, it’s typically okay for your kids or pets to be on video with you.)
d. Get a decent microphone and headset if necessary.
e. Mute your mic when you’re not talking.
f. Dress and groom as best you can. But don’t stress about it. With all the salons closed, everyone’s hair is getting crazier by the day. And on video calls, no one can tell if you’re wearing sweatpants.
17. Check in on people’s mental health
Whether it’s your clients, your colleagues, your employees, or your friends and family, check on them regularly. Just hearing from you and knowing you care can be a huge boost for them.
18. Take advantage of online training
I’ve been conducting and participating in online training since 2000. I can tell you it’s come a long way since the time of dial-up connections. And there’s more of it than ever before, much of it free! To get you started, here’s a great online resource with both live and recorded sales training programs, all free of charge: The Sales Experts Channel.
19. Enjoy your former commute time
That time in the morning and evening you used to spend in the car or on the train? Use it! Spend it with your spouse, kids, or pets. Utilize it for that hobby you haven’t done it years. Or start work a little early and use that time for additional—or longer—breaks during the day.
20. Take sick days and personal days
If you actually get sick—whether with coronavirus, the flu, a cold, or anything else—by all means use your sick days! And even if you’re not sick, this may be an ideal time to take some personal days or some of those unused vacation days that have been sitting there. (One recent study found that 75% of Americans don’t take all of their paid vacation days.)
21. Stay positive
With all the negative news out there—not to mention all the disruption in our lives—our psyches are under assault. Fear, anxiety, grief, frustration, and uncertainty threaten to shut down our ability to function effectively. Counter it by finding the good, both out in the world and within your own life. Appreciate everything and everyone. And if you’re really feeling down, reach out to someone.
22. Take advantage of your new perks
One of the positives to focus on is the perks of working from home. What can you do now that you couldn’t do when you were stuck in an office? Perhaps cook or bake? (I have a friend who has been baking bread almost every day, something she loves.) Have lunch with the family? Spend more time with your dogs or cats?
23. Cut yourself some slack
We have all been thrust into this new reality and we’re all struggling with it. Nobody expects you to be perfect. So don’t expect it from yourself. At various times you may feel lonely, scared, unmotivated, angry, frustrated, anxious, or stressed. That’s okay. It’s perfectly normal. (I’ve felt all those things in the course of an hour.) If you’re a salesperson, you’re probably not selling a whole lot right now. That’s understandable. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, practice self-care. Do what you need to in order to feel better. Watch a movie. Eat a donut. Take a nap. Hug your spouse or your kids. We’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s all right to not be at your best. Just do what you can with what you have.
By the way, if you’re a manager or other leader, cut your team some slack. And let them know. Your people need your support now more than ever. Do everything you can for them. Take care of them and they’ll take care of your customers. The only way we’re all getting though this is together.