So you’ve been asked to work from home to avoid the spread of coronavirus. Now what?!
Fortunately, I consider myself an expert in this arena since I’ve technically never had a real office job; yes, I go into the BYT office when I’m in DC for meetings, but otherwise ya gurl is as remote as it gets!
Plenty of people over the years have asked me how I stay productive, sane and not lonely without being in an office environment surrounded by coworkers, so here are some of my top tips:
Maintain a sense of structure, routine and purpose
It’s pretty tempting to throw your schedule out the window since you’ve suddenly been presented with the glorious opportunity to never put on pants again! And while you can really go for it in slob dot com territory, I (and many others) find it’s best to maintain a sense of purpose by preserving structure and routine as much as possible. Of course, now that you’ve got some extra time on your hands without that dumb ass commute, you can totally reexamine what that means for you; maybe you want to make yourself a proper sit-down breakfast, take a longer shower, watch a workout video, get some reading in, or even change your alarm settings to wake up a little later than you normally would. BUT, the key is to establish some semblance of normalcy, and that can be helped along by getting up at roughly the same time each day, having a sense of what kinds of activities you want to do to get you going, getting dressed and making the bed, and, if possible, “commuting” to work, even if it’s just walking to a desk or table a few feet away. (Try not to work from your bed; it fucks with your brain by blurring the lines of what is work and what is home.)
Get into a flow state
Self-starting can be REAL TOUGH if you’re not used to it, so try getting into a state of flow to help you feel “unstuck” before you start your day, and throughout the day as needed. Peep Matt D’Avella’s video all about this topic below for some good thoughts! I personally have incorporated morning reading into my routine before I start working, and it’s surprisingly been super effective in terms of getting my brain into gear for the day; I usually set myself a limit of a chapter or two so I don’t get totally sucked into a book and lose a ton of time, but the hour-ish that I devote to reading is 800% worth it. You could also try things like journaling, doodling, meditation, yoga…the possibilities are endless, but it’s a good idea to pick some sort of activity to kick off your day since the usual cues might not be there anymore.
Say hello to background noise
In the past I’ve gone to coworking spaces, coffee shops or even bars with wifi for a bit of an environmental shake-up, and to feel like I’m around other humans. I’d still recommend doing this if you feel okay being out and about in the midst of coronavirus panic, but if you wanna stay home, I’d suggest background noise as the next best thing. I usually put on something fairly mindless (like the Food Network, reruns of sporting events I’ve either already watched or don’t feel super passionately about, or even YouTubers’ Vlogmas compilations from years past), and I swear to god it does something to my brain that makes me feel like I’m genuinely around other humans. If you find visuals to be too distracting, there’s also obviously the podcast route, or if you’re like me and can’t stand podcasts, turn to our friend music! Here are some work/study music suggestions I put together a little while back if you need ‘em.
If you find the background noise is no substitute for human interaction, I’d recommend taking advantage of messaging platforms and even phone or video conferencing. I doubt I’m alone in chatting to friends throughout the day via Google, and I personally feel like it helps me feel like I’m still immersed in society when I’m just sitting in my living room alone. If you’ve got other friends in similar work-remotely boats (or if you feel close enough with your coworkers), you might (assuming it’s not gonna be too distracting) consider setting up a Google Hangout or Skype call to just leave running while you’re going about your day; we sometimes do conference calls at BYT, and in the past they’ve said, “Okay Megan, you can hang up if you want, this part doesn’t concern you!” but I’ve been like “Nah, I’ll just sit quietly, this feels like I’m hanging out with you guys IRL!” Obviously not the same as being in a room with people, but a close second as far as I’m concerned.
Taking breaks is good for you! I know some people who actually set alarms to remind them to take breaks, and are very strict about how long these breaks will last; I’m personally not overly stringent there, but I do try to have some loose “rules” so that I don’t get carried away with how long I rest my brain. I generally try to stay off Twitter/YouTube/IG/FB until EOD since these can be productivity ruiners, especially if you’re new to the whole working-from-home thing. Things I do like to do include stuff like making myself a coffee, doodling, playing with LEGOs (I am an actual 32-year-old child) or going for a walk, usually anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Now, re: the latter, obviously good ol’ COVID-19 might complicate things in the coming weeks and months in terms of getting out ‘n about for a stroll, but even if we do find ourselves stuck indoors, physical activity is a good idea! Just do what I do if it’s bad weather, which is DAYTIME DANCIN’ IN MY APARTMENT. (To be clear, I am not good at dancing, I just fucking love it a lot! DON’T KNOCK IT ‘TIL YOU’VE TRIED IT!)
Take advantage of the kitchen (or at least the opportunity for proper sit-down meals)
Apart from having more time sans commute, one of the biggest advantages of working from home (IMO) is being able to cook in your kitchen. Goodbye, overpriced fast casual bullshit! Goodbye, shitty sad sandwiches! Goodbye, wilted fourth day meal prep depression! Being able to cook at home means you can give yourself proper meals that’ll run you a lot less money than grab ‘n go options, AND you can throw all the office mandated etiquette out the window! If you wanna eat a can of tuna, YOU FUCKING EAT THAT CAN OF TUNA WITHOUT JUDGMENT!
But maybe you hate cooking altogether, in which case make yourself a fancy flippin’ cheese board! (Or equivalent easy-to-assemble-yet-delicious-spread!) You can be as leisurely and luxurious as you want in the comfort of your own home!
Obviously food is another thing that could potentially get complicated as the coronavirus situation progresses, but for now, bask in the glory of a refrigerator devoid of coworkers’ expired, half-eaten yogurt containers and moldy takeout boxes.
Enjoy the boosted flexibility and added time in the day
Honestly, one of the biggest things is to realize that working from home is actually p. dope! I find I’m genuinely more productive when I’m not in an office environment; being chained to a desk makes me feel distracted, trapped and unhappy, not to mention there’s the whole commuting during rush hour factor on top of that. With more time and flexibility, you can make room for more self-care and creativity. From my own experience, all of that adds up to a better quality of life, and that makes it easier for me to stay on task to still get things done, even though technically nobody’s looking over my shoulder. So enjoy it! And don’t be surprised if nobody ever wants to come back to the office after things go back to normal! (Things will go back to normal!)
p.s. If you need a voice of calm and a port in this storm, we recommend you read this, the first ever letter from our founder.