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How to Work From Home During the Coronavirus Crisis Without Going Stir-Crazy

Self-isolation might actually help you produce your best work yet.

As Coronavirus spreads across the world, thousands of workers are facing the possibility of working from home for the first time. Since working from home isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, the adjustment period can be a challenge.

When my office announced that remote working might be necessary over the next few weeks, I was secretly thrilled. I’m at my most productive when I’m alone. I thrive in total peace and quiet. In essence, self-isolation is my natural state of being, and I’ve used it as a productivity tool for years.

Of course, that’s not the case for everybody.

While most workers are happy with flexible working arrangements, there’s no hiding that the transition can come as a bit of a shock. After all, the office environment is still quite rigid and constricting, and its primary aim is to maximise productivity.

This structure has its comforts. The modern office leaves little room for uncertainty. Meetings, lunch breaks and water-cooler moments divide the day up into manageable chunks. Plus, it’s social. Whether you like it or not, you’re never truly alone at the office.

I’m not going to compare the open-plan office to a dystopian panopticon here (McSweeney’s have done a great job of it though!) but I always feel monitored in an office environment. And as soon as those walls, cubicle stalls and firewalls come down, work is over and downtime begins.

At home, those walls are down all the time. It’s a sanctuary of freedom and comfort. And because of that, bringing work home might be the last thing you feel like doing.

So, how do you create a productive working environment within your own space? How do you rebuild the boundaries you need to feel productive, and then knock them down again when 5 pm rolls around? And how do you not go stir-crazy while self-isolating at home?

Here are some tips that have helped me to deal with workspace change during the coronavirus crisis.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means I make a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.

laptop and succulent basic minimalist workspace when working from home remotely

1 | Set up shop, and keep it neat

First things first: you’ve got to have a designated workspace. While working from bed might sound appealing, you know it’s not conducive to producing your best work. It doesn’t have to be a perfect Instagrammable home office — just a quiet space where you can feel productive for hours.

  1. If you’ve got a desk at home, you’re basically there. If you don’t, the kitchen table will do the trick — as long as it’s clear and empty of distractions.

  2. Be your own facilities manager, and make sure your new workspace is tidy and clean. Before you start working from home, do a mini spring clean — maybe during a designated reset day? Open the windows and let the fresh air in. Wipe down the surfaces, set up some proper desk lighting and snag the comfiest chair you’ve got. Your back will thank you for it.

  3. Clear away any visible clutter that will distract and take your attention away from the work at hand. If you’ve ever spontaneously cleaned your entire house to procrastinate finishing a task, you know why this is a must.

  4. As for distractions, that includes people. Loved ones can be just as distracting as co-workers. Make sure everyone knows your office hours and your designated workspace. Hopefully, they will be considerate and keep the noise down, leaving you to work in peace. (Of course, it might be difficult to keep curious kids at bay.)

focused and productive home office workspace for working from home during coronavirus outbreak

2 | Don’t fall off the grid

If you typically work in a collaborative environment, adjusting to working alone can be tough. Even I, a self-declared introvert, am a little worried about going stir-crazy when faced with the thought of self-isolating at home for weeks.

Thankfully, software bridges the gap. Now more than ever, we get to take advantage of that well-connected online world we constantly hear about.

Self-isolation doesn’t have to be isolating. Whether you use Microsoft Teams, Slack or Zoom to stay in touch with your colleagues, line managers and clients, there’s always a solution out there.

At first, it might be a little funny to see your boss’s kitchen in a video call, but the novelty soon wears off. Everyone is in the same boat here, just trying to get on with business as usual. The meeting must go on.

3 | The practical stuff: sort out your IT

If you’ve never worked remotely before, it’s understandable if you don’t know how to log onto the company VPN or set up a video conference call. But it is your responsibility to learn all about these things before you leave the office for good.

Don’t stay in the dark. Make sure you bring home all the equipment you need and find out all the processes you’ll need to follow. Chances are, the IT department has already put all the remote working guidelines in a handbook. Just make sure you consult it.

And if you’re not sure of anything, ask. It’s better to ask now than risk embarrassing yourself in an important client call down the line.

working from home during coronavirus pandemic 2020

4 | Identify your vices

Working from home is an exercise in self-discipline. It teaches you what your biggest distractions are, and trust me — it’s better to identify these sooner rather than later.

The first day I worked from home, I couldn’t stop snacking. Every time I hit a slump or writer’s block, I took a walk to clear my head — and landed right in front of the fridge. On top of that, I found myself mindlessly scrolling through my phone. With no boss to watch over your shoulder, this can be an easy trap to fall into — especially during a global pandemic, when every scroll yields a fresh piece of news.

I quickly realised that by giving into these vices, I was getting no work done.

Recognising distractions is the key to overcoming them. In order to stay productive and keep up with your projects and deadlines, you have to learn to say no to the things that knock you off-course.

Once you’ve identified these distractions, get ready for them.

A couple of things might help here:

  1. Stay off your phone. Use an app like Forest to lock apps for a set chunk of time, or leave your phone in a drawer or in a different room altogether.

  2. Have water and healthy snacks on hand. That way, you don’t have to go looking for them. Set a timer for your next coffee break, and only leave the room when it rings.

  3. Make a list of priorities you need to tackle at the beginning of the day and check in with it every couple of hours.

  4. Do what it takes to feel professional. This could be as simple as getting dressed in office attire instead of sweatpants. For me, taking 5 minutes to do my makeup in the morning makes me feel polished, put together, and ready to get stuck into my work.

  5. Take breaks. Boundaries are crucial when working remotely, and knowing when to log off is just as important as logging on. You don’t want to slack off, but forfeiting breaks is a surefire way to burn out. When lunchtime comes, close your laptop. One of the only upsides to this pandemic is the opportunity to make proper meals and spend some time with your loved ones — so use it.

Remember that if you don’t stay disciplined, you’re wasting your own time.

black patent leather loafers and florals

5| Stay active

While staying fit is difficult if you’re stuck in a quarantine zone, you have to find ways to stay active while working remotely. Exercise in any form is crucial for both your mental and physical health and is especially important at times of heightened stress and anxiety. So, schedule in time to move your body.

If you’re able to go outside, be sure to walk, run or cycle around your local area. Take a drive to a remote place if you have to, or get up at the crack of dawn when most people aren’t around. Install a pedometer app, and try to get as close to the recommended 10k steps per day as you can.

While most gyms are closed, take advantage of the hundreds of fitness apps and YouTube channels offering free (or affordable) at-home fitness guides. Even a 30-minute yoga flow before work in the morning can work wonders for your mindset and wellbeing. I like using the Shreddy app for at-home workouts or Yoga With Adriene for free yoga guidance.

Whatever you decide to do, just don’t give in to the urge to become a couch potato. Nobody knows how long the coronavirus quarantine will last, so this isn’t the time to put your everyday health on the back burner.

Check out this post for more ways to reconnect with your body in an age of overstimulation.

6 | Get creative with it

It might sound a bit strange, but even during a pandemic, you can take advantage of all the benefits of working from home.

The biggest benefit, as cited by hundreds of freelancers and remote workers worldwide, is freedom. Working from home offers you the freedom to be creative, to take charge of your own schedule, find new hobbies and pursue ideas that have always bubbled under the surface.

If you’re stuck at home anyway, why not make the most of it? Use this time to branch out into activities that are usually hindered by your routine. Whether you squeeze in a lunchtime workout, read a few chapters before opening your inbox, or finally write that business plan that’s been on your mind for months, find ways to appreciate the time you’re given. You can learn a new language (I’ve listed some apps that might help here) or pick up a completely new skill. In fact, you can get 2 weeks free access to thousands of Skillshare classes by clicking here.

And taking it back to the basics: even a mid-day nap or cooking a proper meal is a change of pace you’ll appreciate.

what now nat website and bullet journal

While working remotely over the last few days, my goal has been finding a balance between enjoying the extra freedoms without getting lost in a world of distractions. And in the midst of a crisis, there are more distractions out there than ever.

While we look out for our own communities as well as those all around the world, working from home offers glimmers of hope and opportunity on a personal level. It allows you time to appreciate the positives in your life, and get a head start on the projects you’ll tackle once it’s all over.

Have you been working remotely over the last few days? Let me know how you’ve set up your workspace and stayed focused down in the comments or over on Instagram!

#howtofocuswhileworkingfromhome #workingfromhome #appsforproductivity #selfisolating #worklifebalance #coronavirus #tipstostayoffyourphone #covid19 #workingfromhometips #remotework #productivity


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