7 tips for working from home during COVID-19

As a freelance healthcare writer, I’ve worked from home for the last decade. I love it. I work at an antique roll top desk surrounded by objects that inspire me. I light my favorite candle—a holiday bayberry scent from Yankee Candle—to put me in the ‘writing mood.’ I even have an ergonomic footstool and a laptop stand for added comfort. However, this ideal work setting isn’t a reality for so many people who suddenly find themselves in a makeshift home office due to COVID-19. With that said, working from home during the pandemic is hard for all of us. I conduct most interviews against the backdrop of two screaming 17-month-old twins who are normally at daycare five days a week. I’m cramming 40 hours’ worth of work into three days so my wife and I can both continue to make money. I’m exhausted and running purely on adrenaline most days. I get it. If you truly want to be productive while working from home during COVID-19 (or any time for that matter), you need to be mindful about it. Here are seven tips to ease the transition:

  1. Set your alarm. Working from home does not mean you can wake up whenever you want. If you normally start your day at 9am, start your day at 9am. Structure is key during this time.
  2. Create a to-do list. Write down specific daily goals. Then consider working in blocks of time on each of those projects, and don’t forget to make time for lunch. For example, I’ll spend an hour from 9 to 10 working on story A, an hour from 10 to 11 working on story B, lunch from 11 to 11:30, conduct interviews from 11:30 to 3, and then respond to emails from 3 to 5. (Note: My day usually isn’t this straightforward, but the idea is to be deliberate with your time and how you’re spending it.)
  3. Use a white noise machine. If you’re like me, your kids are probably making a bunch of noise in the background as you try to work. A white noise machine, space heater, or even a small fan can help block that out to help keep you productive.
  4. Rethink your workspace. Luckily for me, I have a dedicated office space in a room where I can close the door. However, not everyone is that fortunate. If you need quiet while you work (which most of us do), you may need to consider setting up a space in your basement, walk-in closet, garage, back deck, front porch, or even in your car. It’s not ideal, but nothing about our current situation is ideal.
  5. Take breaks. I definitely need to take my own advice on this. I’m guilty of working through the entire day without every getting up from my desk. However, it’s a good mental break to walk around the house for a bit or go for a short walk outside. Even stepping out to get the mail or put laundry in the washer/dryer counts.
  6. Set boundaries. It’s okay to chat or go out to lunch with family and friends once in a while during your workday, but try not to make a habit of it. Your workday is your day of work, so the fewer interruptions, the better.
  7. Drink lots of coffee. You’re going to need it. It will keep you energized, awake, and focused on your work so you don’t feel tempted to go take a nap or binge on Netflix.

Stay healthy out there—both mentally and physically. One day down, many more to go.