As my team and I transition to strictly working from home this week, we join thousands of others who are stepping into brand new territory. For me, this is something I have done intermittently throughout the years, and have learned some great strategies, and also have learned from some mistakes I’ve made. Working from home can provide some great perks, such as flexibility, no commute, and customizing your workstation. What I learned through my own experience, however, is that it is easy to fall out of practice for good habits, routines, and delineation between work life and home life. More importantly, for most, working from home is going to be a temporary solution for the current problem, so it’s best to try to maintain your normal routine as much as possible. Add into the mix having the kids home, structure can fall apart real fast. Although these are unprecedented times which none of us can predict the outcome of, I believe that having some normalcy, predictability, and structure in each day, especially when blurring the lines between work and home, are of utmost importance. Here are a few things at the top of my list to consider:
Prepare your meals ahead of time: This afternoon, I spent a couple hours doing my usual weekly meal prep for lunches. All three of us will be home, but with a busy work week ahead, it’s important to maintain nutrition goals, especially because of the easy access to unhealthy snacks and potential lack of time to prepare to a healthy lunch during the workday. As you’ll see above, there’s nothing too crazy happening in my fridge, just some healthy grab-and-go containers of fruit, yogurt, and homemade banana bread which is sliced and individually wrapped. I also cooked some extra food tonight and put some into containers to reheat for lunch. This will be especially helpful in ensuring there are plenty of healthy options for my 8-year-old during the day while we are working
Exercise: Even if exercise wasn’t a regular part of your life pre-pandemic, take this as an opportunity to start. Your morning commute is cut, you have lunch breaks, and you’ll have no drive home. There’s plenty of time to get in a good workout before, after, or during your workday from home. The benefits of this are endless, including stress relief, help with concentration and focus, as well as breaking up a monotonous day.
Shut Down at 5 (or whenever you end your workday): One of the things I have always had the hardest time with when working from home is leaving work at work, which is especially hard when work and home are now in the same building. While there will always be things that cause us to need to stay late or work after hours, on an average work day, ensure that you are creating a delineation between the end of your workday, and the beginning of at home time. This may take the shape of turning off your computer, shutting the office door, or even changing into comfy clothes, or announcing to those at home that you’re done working.
Morning Routine: Maybe I sound like a broken record, but routine and structure are so important during this time of uncertainty. Even though you aren’t leaving the house for work, get up at the same time as usual, and follow your usual routine. For me, this includes showering, having my coffee with my husband, making breakfast for our son, and getting ready for work. I am choosing to take this extra time as an opportunity to slow down a bit in the morning, and enjoy not having to rush out the door.
Get Dressed: While it may be tempting to work in your PJs, I assure you that after a few days, this will get old. On the topic of delineating work and home life, getting ready in the morning, whatever this looks like for you, is an important step in jump starting your day, and allowing you to feel prepared to work. Maintaining self care routines is also important during this time of isolation, even if it feels pointless since you’re not leaving the house. Self care is about you, and what makes you feel good; these truths do not cease despite the current circumstances, and in fact, are likely even more important these days. You may need to get creative during these times of social distancing if you usually have self care services done at a spa or hair salon, but it is certainly doable, and definitely important.
Stay Social: If you have a work bestie you tell all about your weekend each Monday morning, or a co-worker you like cracking jokes with, be sure to do this while you are all away from the office and working from home. Being mindful of the work that needs to get done, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few minutes out of your day to call or video chat with your co-workers; in fact, it will bring some normalcy and enjoyment to your workday while away from one another, not to mention, remaining social in general during social distancing is important for our mental health.
The Kids: This one’s new to me, too. For this, I’m borrowing from my mentor Dr. Henry Svec, who shares in his podcast the importance, among many other things, of setting a schedule for the kids while at home. Getting them up at the same time as usual, and following their usual morning routine will also be important. Try making use of a whiteboard and setting expectations for the day. For example, mornings can be set aside to work on a special project, doing math, or other school-related activities, afternoon can be for doing chores and silent reading time, after dinner is family time, and following the same bedtime routine. This will of course look different depending on the age of your kids, but whatever the day looks like, setting expectations and predictability will be important for the entire family, not to mention the fact that it will allow you to remain focused on your job while they are meaningfully occupied.
Show Gratitude: There is so much fear and negativity out there in the wake of this crisis. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day writing about three positive moments, or things that went well each day. Show gratitude for what is good, and focus on the positives.
Although these are uncertain times with many unanswerable questions, the fact remains that there is very little we can control about the toll COVID-19 is having on society at large. What we can control, however, are our own individual actions; not only following the direction of the experts who are guiding us, but also ensuring that you focus on what you can control, like creating predictability, enjoyment, and positivity into each day now, and beyond the crisis.