I worked from home for years before we found our first office, which gives me a small leg up on sheltering in place. But at the same time, nothing feels the same as it did then. I can't go to a coffee shop when I need a change of scenery or see friends after a long day at my desk. The thing we all need to remember is that if you're lucky enough to be working from home, it's not simply working from home, it's working from home during a pandemic. You're working, but also dealing with an enormous amount of stress, fear, and guilt, not to mention raising children if you're a parent. It's more important than ever to adopt healthy practices and be kind to yourself—you may not be as productive as you were in your office, and that's okay. We're quite literally all in this together. Here are the tips I've found useful for working from home right now:
Before you even sit down, change out of what you slept in. This can mean changing right back into what you were wearing the evening before, as long as it feels clean, but try to avoid wearing anything for longer than 24 hours. The simple act of changing—even if it's from one pair of sweats into another—is an indicator that it's a new day.
The first couple of months that I was working for myself from G's apartment, I would sit on the couch in front of our blank TV. When he came home from work, and it came time to unwind with a show, I found that it was nearly impossible to make the transition from work. If you're able to, work away from your bed and the couch, even if that means setting up a desk in a less desirable part of your home to clearly delineate work time from free time.
The things I have on my desk include: My laptop and charger, phone and charger, a big water bottle with a straw (this one's my favorite), a notebook and pen, headphones, and a candle (even if it isn't burning, it still feels nice to have). Even if live by yourself, try to use "work items," like headphones, only while you're working.
In the same way your bed should be a place for you to sleep, your desk should be a place to work—not to eat, use Instagram, or chat with your friends. This isn't to say you shouldn't be taking plenty of breaks while working from home, just be sure to take time away from your work place to do these things!
When I first began working from home, one of the hardest adjustments I had to make was learning to really eat only during mealtimes, with the exception of a mid-afternoon "snacky snack" (by the way, if you have not seen this meme, you have to). Meals create a structure. Treat lunch as a built-in time to step away from your desk eat with a roommate or your family, or while watching a twenty-minute episode of The Office.
A few years ago, I began loosely applying the Pomodoro Technique to my work schedule. I work uninterrupted for 20 to 25 minutes, then take a short break to either go outside, refill my water, or chat with my "coworker" (Sloan) or call an actual colleague just to chat!
Closing your computer at the end of the day is a physical signifier that you're done with work. If you can, close the door to your home office or simply tuck it behind a couch cushion so that it's out of sight (and, hopefully, out of mind!).
When I wrote my first book, I did the majority of my writing in bed, hunched over my key board and still have chronic neck issues from it. Trust me, it's much healthier and more cost effective to take care of your body now and either use proper posture when sitting at your dining table "office," or invest in a good standing desk or seat.
Maybe you've never been one to keep a list, but when you're working from home it's helpful to come up with a to-do list and prioritize a few things to work on throughout the day. And then, most importantly, celebrate when you've checked off every task! There can be an impulse to sit at your desk from 9 to 5 but the beauty of working from home is that you don't always have to, as long as you're working efficiently. If you finish you to-do list early, celebrate that accomplishment by stepping away from your desk.
Just like there will be days when you finish early, there will be days when you simply can't get to everything (which has been happening to me a lot lately). And that's okay. At 5 PM, I close my computer for the day. If I still have items on my to-do list, I write the down on a fresh page for the next morning. Tasks that seem impossible in the evening are often no problem with a fresh set of eyes.