Making the best of this working from home thing during the Coronavirus pandemic

If, like me, you’ve been a designer for any length of time, there’s a good chance you spent at least some of your career freelancing. I certainly freelanced for a number of years, so working from home is nothing new to me. However, if you don’t set it up properly, working from home can lead to unfortunate consequences such as frustration, missed deadlines, burnout, etc.

I’d like to list a few tips that have worked for me and that might work for you too. It’s just important to remember that this is a difficult time for everyone, and if your performance doesn’t fully meet your expectations, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Adjustment and changing one’s habits can be extremely difficult, and that’s just the reality of it. I certainly can’t claim I stuck to these rules religiously over the years, some days are better than others, but overall I do think these are helpful in improving one’s productivity and work/life balance.

Set proper office hours

Kind of an obvious one, not to mention many employees may not really have a choice because they’ll be on calls right from the beginning of the day all the way until the end of the afternoon, so their office hours are unlikely to change. However, if you have some leeway in this matter, I encourage you to find hours that work for you and stick to them on a daily basis. While it seems that many an employer might fear an employee working from home may work less and become unproductive without supervision, I believe all too often, the opposite tends to happen, and you end up overworking. At this point, we know all too well this can lead to various health ailments including burnout.

Find at home workouts on YouTube

If you don’t already have a home workout, there are tons on YouTube. Thousands of fitness gurus have posted workouts for all fitness levels, many of which require no equipment whatsoever. Though you can still order equipment online if you don’t have any, so if you need weights or resistance bands, many a website will come to your rescue and deliver to your door. Of course, given the circumstances, you may want to opt for contact-free delivery if that’s an option where you are.

Start your day with a shower and change into your day clothes

OK another obvious one, but an important one nonetheless because not only will it affect your attitude and your mindset, but if you’re just sitting around in PJ’s all day, you’re less likely to work out.

With that being said, I personally wouldn’t recommend sitting around in sweatpants all day either. I mean, sure, it’s convenient to work out in them, but who goes to the office in sweatpants? Of course, if you’re one of the very few who do, it clearly doesn’t make sense to break out the pantsuit either. I’ve personally always worked in places that had a very casual dress code, so jeans and sneakers are not much of a departure from anything I’ve done in the past.

Meal prep

If you have a full-time job, lunch may not be the best time to spend two plus hours in the kitchen on a daily basis. You clearly no longer have access to a cafeteria, and you may not want to order out all the time–or perhaps you’ve decided not to order out at all. Personally, I stocked up (in reasonable amounts) on frozen veggies that can be cooked fairly quickly alongside some grilled chicken or some other source of protein.

Meal prep is another way to go, not only will it give you control over your meals ahead of time, therefore curbing any unwanted junk food or snacking temptations, but I actually find peeling and chopping vegetables quite soothing. If you need ideas on how to get started, check out Pick Up Limes, an awesome YouTube channel offering lots of tips and videos on this topic and others. Speaking of things that are soothing…

Find ways to stay sane

Are you already noticing this one is especially challenging these days? I know I’ve had a bad case of cabin fever for a few days now and I’m sure many of you have as well. So what helps you get to a good headspace? We’ve already mentioned working out. What else? Putting your headphones on and listening to Sidney Bechet? Cooking? Meditating? Headspace and Calm are two popular meditation apps. Watching old tv shows? Friends, Gilmore Girls, and many other feel-good shows are currently streaming on Netflix. I encourage you to find all the things you find truly soothing and are compatible with confinement/social distancing, and do them when you get a chance.

Communicate with your family

If you live with other people, let them know what you need to cope with the current situation. Be sure to listen to their needs too. Say you work from 9 am to 5 pm. Do you need some alone time from 5 to 5.30? Just time to unwind and clear your head? Discuss it with your loved ones. Mind you, you may not be physically alone during that time, especially if you live in fairly tight quarters. Furthermore I understand this may not always work, particularly if you have young children, but if you can, do it at least a couple of times a week, it may help improve your mood and contribute to a better atmosphere at home.

Play games with your family

If you live with your family, play games with them during your downtime. And yes, in addition to being fun, I do think of this as a productivity tip. I believe certain games can really get those creative juices going and they force you to think about something other than work or a highly dreaded virus. Card games are one way to go, and I would think every household has a deck of cards on hand. And now more than ever, there is an endless supply of board games you can probably order online. I suggest games that are fun, easy to set up and don’t take too long. Therefore the six hour game of Monopoly may not be your first choice–it certainly isn’t mine! One of my games of choice is SET, a card game that tests your visual perception, it’s the perfect combination of fun and easy yet challenging!

Don’t overdo it with the news

Yes it is important to be informed, governments seem to be regularly updating their instructions to the population on how to fight this deadly virus, so you obviously need to be aware of what you can or cannot do at this critical time. Beyond that, constantly watching or reading the news throughout the day may not be helpful and in fact may bring you down and have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

I hope these tips are helpful, they’re probably not especially original, but I feel these are some of the things that have helped me work from home efficiently in the past, and of course I’ve added a couple of things that are specific to our current predicament. However, I already said it, now more than ever, you need to go easy on yourself. Missed a workout? No worries, you’ll get back to exercising the next day, or even the next week if that’s what you need. In fact, the last thing you need is added pressure and stress. There’s enough of that going around right now.

Peace, my friends. Love yourselves and love your families.