5 Tips for Working From Home During The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak


5 Tips for Working From Home During The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

Ilima Loomis
By Ilima Loomis
Mar 24, 2020
Man who is working from home during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has closed many offices, causing more and more Americans to work from home. In some cities, residents have been ordered to shelter in place, a measure that can help slow down the virus. Sheltering in place means that people must stay in their homes except for essential activities like seeing a doctor, getting necessary supplies, caring for a family member, or performing key jobs like working in health care, public utilities, and banks.

Even if you haven’t been ordered to shelter in place, your employer may have asked you to work remotely, or you may be choosing to work from home to protect your health or because someone in your family is high-risk.

If you’re new to working from home, you may be worried about being productive, staying connected, and managing stress. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make working from home a success.

1. Define Your Workspace

You may already have a home office or guest room where you can set up shop. Dedicating a separate area for work where you can close the door and separate yourself from the rest of the household is ideal for minimizing distractions.

If that’s not possible, pick another area of the house you can designate as your new “office.” Look for a space that’s relatively quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of family activities if possible, where you’ll have room to set up your computer, papers, and any other tools you’ll need. If you don’t have a desk, and the kitchen table is being used for board games and family meals, consider setting up a folding table and chair in a quiet part of the house.

Even if you don’t have walls, keeping all of your work in one designated space will help you make the mental shift into “work” mode, and over time will also help train your family to give you space when they see you working.

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2. Set a Routine For Working at Home

It’s easy to lose momentum when you’re constantly switching gears between work and family activities. Commit yourself to keeping up your regular working hours, and clearly communicate that plan to your family. 

If you have trouble starting work on time or tearing yourself away from your lunch break with your kids, consider using an alarm on your phone to remind you when it’s time to work. Getting into a consistent routine will help you transition to work in the morning and stay focused throughout the day. It will also keep you productive so that you don’t fall behind on your work and have things pile up over time.

3. Schedule Your Breaks

When you work in an office, it’s easier to separate your work and home life, so when you’re working from home, you need to be more intentional. While you’re setting your work schedule, be sure to plan the times you will eat lunch and take regular breaks

If you tend to get in the zone when you work and forget to come up for air, use an alarm or reminder app on your phone to prompt you to take a break. Step away from your desk for a few minutes to stretch, pet your cat, make a cup of tea, or go for a walk if you’re in an area where it’s safe to go outside. When it’s time for lunch, take a longer break, prepare a proper meal, and take time to eat in another part of the house — away from your desk. 

4. Manage Distractions

Whether you have young children in the home, the dishes piling up in the sink, or a dog begging for a walk, one of the biggest challenges to working from home is managing distraction.

First and foremost, communicate with the people who share your space. Hold a family meeting or sit down with roommates to explain that you’ll be working from home and communicate what you’ll need from them, whether that involves quiet hours, staying out of your office, or helping pick up the slack with chores or child care during the day.

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Tell your family that when you’re in your office or workspace, that means you’re working and can’t be interrupted unless it’s an emergency. Remember that it might take some time to “train” people not to talk to you or ask you for things when you’re working. If you gently remind them that you’re not available, and stay consistent about setting your boundary and not giving in, they will learn over time to avoid interrupting you. 

Finally, try changing your physical space to establish more of a barrier between yourself and others. Consider putting up curtains, using a folding screen, or hanging a sheet around your work area, or marking the floor with tape or chalk to put up “invisible walls.” Use earplugs or headphones with quiet music to block out household sounds and serve as a visual reminder to others that you’re busy. And get kids involved by asking them to create a “Do Not Disturb” sign you can hang when you’re working.

5. Disconnect From Your Screen

One of the downsides of working from home is that you can’t leave at the end of the day — and carrying your work problems with you to the dinner table can add to the considerable stress you’re already managing. To keep up your productivity for the long-term, you need to be intentional about stepping away when the work day is over. 

  • Set a time to end your work day
  • Set a timer to remind yourself to start wrapping things up
  • Consider putting away work materials so you’re not tempted to go back to work later
  • Don’t check email or messages at night or on weekends
  • Be intentional about shifting to a family activity after work

Make sure that your work schedule includes the time you will “clock out” each day, and set a timer for 30 minutes before the end of each day to start the process of closing out tasks, reporting to your boss, making a final email check, planning the next day’s to-do list, and anything else you need to do to wrap up. 

If your work area is in a shared space, like the dining room table, consider packing away your laptop and paperwork for the night, so you aren’t reminded of any unfinished tasks, and aren’t tempted to go back to it later in the evening. Make a rule for yourself that you won’t keep checking email or making calls after your work day, and try to avoid working on weekends.

Finally, make a point of shifting back to family life when the day is done. Play a game with your kids, cook a meal, or watch a movie with roommates, so that you use your non-work time to recharge.

Making It Work When You Work From Home

Working from home can feel stressful if you’ve never done it before, but it doesn’t have to be. By having a plan, being thoughtful in setting up your space, and communicating with the people who share your household, you can transition to remote work and stay productive for as long as the crisis continues.

Ilima Loomis

Ilima Loomis

Ilima Loomis is a freelance writer and journalist who specializes in writing about health care, HR, science, travel, and Hawaii. You can find more of her work at ilimaloomis.com. Ilima is a regular contributor to the RxSaver blog.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.