How to Work From Home Effectively During The Coronavirus Outbreak Without Going Totally Crazy

With the novel coronavirus sweeping through the country, many workers are being asked to work from home in an effort to slow the spread through self-imposed quarantines and social distancing. As Washington state became an early epicenter of the outbreak, many of its major employers implemented work-from-home policies, including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Bungie, Twitter and Nintendo. Other employers around the country have followed. Here are some tips for working from home without going crazy.

Work Mode

One of the first tips you'll often encounter about working from home is maintaining the work routines you're used to, which can help get you into a work mentality.

  • Shower and dress yourself rather than diving immediately into work when you're less than clean. You don't have to go nuts, but maybe switch from one pair of sweatpants to your folded backups.
  • Get seated for typing. Working from your bed or couch may seem comfortable, but it's likely to create some awkward angles for your wrists and neck. Make sure your computer is at the eye level it would be at your desk at work and find a natural typing angle that doesn't put too much strain on your wrists.
  • Body-weight fitness can replace a gym visit. For those who are used to going to the gym in the morning before work, working from home while self-quarantined can be especially challenging. Check out the subreddit r/bodyweightfitness for great routines you can do without gym equipment.

Separation

Experts recommend keeping your daily rituals even while working from home. pic.twitter.com/ktHuEaXMLT

— Tomáš Bella (@kvasinka) March 16, 2020

With work email on our phones, it's already easy for the workday to bleed into personal time—and even easier during a work-from-home self-quarantine. But one key to preserving your mental health while working from home is maintaining a separation between work and your personal life. This can be accomplished in a number of ways:

  • Designate a work location separate from your typical living space. Set up your computer on the far side of the table where you rarely sit. Designate that one chair in the corner as the work chair.
  • "Commute." Taking a quick walk around the block before and after your working hours can help separate your workday from the rest of your life. Of course, you'll want to maintain a safe distance from other people while doing so.

The Dale Cooper Secret

twin-peaks-coffee
Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) and Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) treat themselves to coffee and doughnuts on "Twin Peaks." CBS Home Entertainment

In the first season of Twin Peaks, FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) offers the local sheriff a great piece of advice. "Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret," Cooper says. "Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it, don't wait for it, just let it happen."

For Cooper, this was most often a hot cup of black coffee, a slice of pie or a doughnut. But the only person who knows the best workday present to gift yourself is you. Have a beer with lunch. Light some scented candles. Eat a scoop of ice cream directly from your palm.

Procrastinate With Style

Do you typically tab over to social media throughout the day? Well, use your self-quarantine as an opportunity to switch up your typical modes of procrastination so you feel less trapped in whatever internet hole already haunts your office work schedule.

Here are 25 links to fun sites, including one where you can look at pictures of uncontacted tribes and sigh wistfully at their complete lack of a 9-to-5.

Chores

If you're typically out of the house all day, you're likely to see your living space in a whole new light while working from home through the duration of this epidemic. Maybe you'll notice those dusty surfaces or all the crumbs in the carpet. One common way people procrastinate is by setting aside important tasks for minor ones, like chores. But try to keep it to just one chore. Maybe do the dishes while taking a break or vacuum that carpet in the foyer. But don't go on a cleaning spree.

Actually Do the Work

While you may not be able to avoid procrastinating entirely, avoid the temptation to "ease" the workday by putting the TV on in the background or indulging in other distractions. People are terrible at multitasking, and too much outside stimulus will only distract. The day will go faster without the TV on. The easiest way to get done with your work-from-home workday is to put your nose to the grindstone. Otherwise, the day is going to feel interminable.

Take That Lunch Hour

While some people are tempted by television, working from home can often have a different effect—the new routine may knock good habits to the wayside. But it's important to take periodic breaks while working, to refresh your ability to think and work. So don't forget to take occasional breaks, especially in the middle of the day. Recharge by taking an actual lunch, even if you usually eat at your desk.

One good way to ensure you're working effectively and also taking breaks is with a Pomodoro app or timer. Pomodoro is a simple productivity technique that breaks work into intervals so you can hyper-focus on one task at a time. The technique is simple:

  1. Pick a single task.
  2. Work on it for 25 minutes (time yourself).
  3. Make a tally or check on a sheet of paper.
  4. Take a five-minute break.
  5. Every four tallies (or "Pomodoros"), take a 15-minute break.

There are lots of apps that can help you employ the Pomodoro Technique. Or you can use the online Marinara Timer.

Your Pet Is Working Too

Let the pet do whatever they need to with your keyboard. Bring them into the process. Here's my cat's contribution: asfkljpibzxc.

cats-coronavirus-work-from-home
Let your cat get involved when you're confined to your home. Bettmann

Finally, don't forget to mute yourself on that conference call so we don't have to listen to you breathing! And good luck in there.