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, midday 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 the sweatpants and snacks crew, 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 three to five of your most important tasks and tackle them right away. Then, when your energy is waning in the midafternoon, 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 jump-starting your day while working from home, try sticking to whatever routine you used to get prepped for the office as much as possible, suggests Jessie Sarkar, 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.
“My greatest challenge has been not working too much,” says Christen Pollo, 28, a non-profit director from Michigan. “It’s hard to separate work and play when you do both at home, which makes healthy boundaries incredibly important.”
7. Know when to put work away
When you’ve closed up shop for the day, take a minute to stash your work tools, like your laptop or notes, away for the night. I even go so far to put my work computer in a cupboard in my office so it is, quite literally, out of sight and out of mind.
Kelly Burch, 31, a work-from-home writer with two young daughters, finds that having a separate workspace that she can shut the door on helps her mentally clock in and out for the day. “If I don’t have separate space, I’m spending work time worrying about things that need to be done around the house and off-hours feeling like work is staring me down from my desk,” she says.
8. Embrace the sweatpants and snacks.
Listen, if getting dressed like you’re going to the office makes you more productive, then go for it. But sometimes, the reality of working at home is that you’re going to look gross, your house or apartment is going to be a total disaster, and yes, you’re going to wear the same sweatpants two days in a row.
It is what it is, but as long as your work gets done, who cares? And as far as those trips to the fridge go, Jackie Prutsman, 32, a live-events expert and mentor in Tennessee, has some great advice: “Feed yourself as much and as often as you need to,” she says. “Empty bellies lead to foggy brains.”
Chaunie Brusie is a writer in Michigan covering parenting, health, and finances. Follow her @chauniebrusie.
Originally Appeared on Glamour