At the onset of COVID-19, more than 100 million Americans have been ordered to stay home with several states issuing stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. This means adjusting to an entirely new structure of working, at least for now, for many who have never worked from home before.
As someone who spent 3 months of an internship (entirely remote) in an uncomfortable, temporary rental home as my family was waiting for renovations on our new home, I know that working from home can be a challenge and occasionally isolating. The way you utilize your space is the key to staying productive and sane.
Whether you’re navigating working in a tiny apartment with your partner, stuck at home with your kids, or working alone, there are certain ways for maintaining a schedule and structure so that you’re able to delineate your workspace from your home life.
Pablo Buriticá, an expert on remote work, is currently stuck working from his 700 sq ft studio in Manhattan with his partner. He commented to MarketWatch, “Even if we didn’t have isolation, I think it would be very distracting.”
Buriticá recommends sticking to a routine and acting as if you’re going into the office. What does this look like when you’re stuck inside from sunrise to sunset? Start work at the same time every day, change into comfortable but put-together clothes other than your robe or pajamas, and take a brief lunch break away from your desk.
One of the most important factors is having a dedicated workspace. Having a space you go to each day will help you get in the right mindset to focus on the tasks at hand without getting distracted.
Matt Haughey, the creator of MetaFilter and writer for Slack, commented to TIME “I started doing this kind of work sitting at a desk in the middle of my living room of a small San Francisco apartment 20 years ago, and it was a pain to stay on task and not get interrupted.”
However, not all of us are lucky to have our own space, let alone an office space. Especially those who live in a cramped apartment with two roommates or even a spouse.
Companies like IKEA, Amazon, and Target offer “small space” desk options like wall-mounted, floating, lap, and standing desks to accommodate small home living so you won’t be stuck working on your bed or couch.
Experts recommend using lunch as a time to get out of your office space and into a new one.
Leigh Anne Varney, a PR associate stated, “I try to not eat at the desk so I have some sense of scenery change for 30 minutes, including taking a break from emails and the phone, and, I don’t know, reading a book that has nothing to do with work for 30 minutes.”
Taking a short break away from work will allow you to distance yourself, and then feel recharged once you get back, preventing burnout and further feelings of claustrophobia.
Along the lines of following a work schedule, John Fitch & Max Frenzel, co-authors of Time Off Book, suggest that we calculate the amount of time we normally have to commute and use that time as our “rest” allowance.
If you usually had a 30-minute subway ride or drive, that time was probably spent preparing for the day ahead. Take 30 minutes to do a relaxing ritual—whether it’s yoga, stretching, video chat with friends/family or catching up on the news.
For parents with kids at home, NPR recommends making a plan for education and environment. With schools shut down, it’s advisable to not regroup children, so don’t plan on any playdates. Technology can serve as a learning tool and distraction by doing “virtual” playdates via FaceTime and services like Roblox, which allows children to chat while playing a game together.
In these uncertain times, the news and navigating home relationships can serve as distractions and even triggers for stress and anxiety. Finding ways to break up the monotony and learning to cohabitate in your space will allow you to be more productive and happier each day.