Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.
The toilet just overflowed.
And my husband, teenage son, and I are sharing a little over 1,000-square-feet of work space, chill space and yes, throw-a- tennis-ball-against-the-bedroom-wall space during this coronavirus quarantine.
It’s a lot to handle, but it's an even bigger challenge to tune everything out when you have work to do and you’re trying to adjust to the unfamiliar rhythms of working from home.
That’s why you’ve got to flip the switch and reframe the feeling of “ugh, I’ve got to WFH” to “Oh, I can work from home—cool.” Take it from me, a journalist who has worked from home for two decades...it’s not all that bad (especially considering there are a lot of people unable to even do their jobs right now). In fact, it’s actually pretty great, which is why I’m sharing my time-tested tips to not only survive—but thrive—while working from home:
Make your space work for you
Your office isn’t perfect. Consider how annoying it is to work under fluorescent lights, or huddled under a pashmina because the building is a little overzealous with the AC. With a home office, you’re in control of everything, from lighting to windows open (or shut). Take a deep breath, drizzle some essential oils into your favorite diffuser, and do what usually gets you focused. Headphone with smooth jazz, chewing a piece of gum, or playing TV in the background—do what you’ve gotta do.
Set ground rules with your peeps
For so many people working from home right now, an additional stressor is that everyone else is at home with you. One tip for surviving without anyone having a major meltdown: communicate constantly and calmly. If you’re trying to speak with someone on the phone in one room and your son is FaceTiming loudly with friends in another, someone is going to lose it—but not if you communicate ahead of time as in, “I’m starting a call right now. I will need quiet but just for 15 minutes.” Another great plan: Set up a schedule for the day that includes meals, so everyone isn’t eating breakfast or lunch at different times. In fact, we’ve used meals as a time to catch up and share worries, updates on friends, and swap memes. It’s a therapeutic moment of togetherness during these tense times.
Don’t sit in the same place every day
When you WFH, you’re not trying to simulate your office cubicle. This means that you don’t need to sit at a traditional desk if you don’t want to. I’ve worked at my kitchen counter, jerry-rigged a slab of wood atop an AC unit to maximize the view and, yup, worked on my overstuffed couch. You want to find a spot in your space—however small—that will inspire you the most that day. If dragging a table and chairs over to the window helps, by all means, do it.
Separate life from work
It’s 100 percent okay to spread out all of your files, calendars and to-do lists around your work area during the workday, but at the end of the day, do yourself (and your family) a favor and pack up your work stuff and put everything in a basket or bin. I’m a stickler for this because neither I nor my family members want to be surrounded by my laptop and files when I’m off the clock.
DIY an at-home café
If you’re missing your office kitchen—endless tea varieties, cappuccino at the press of the button, canisters full of snacks—DIY it. Make a giant pot of coffee, fill a ceramic creamer with your favorite flavored blend and put spoons and sweeteners out in a decorative tin. It sounds extravagant, but it really helps make home feel more business-like. Likewise, if you’re missing snacks, put them out just like your office manager does every morning, and make your own water cooler by filling a giant carafe with ice water and fruit, and perch it near your workspace.
Dress in happy colors
Even though you may not meet a soul (other than your family) that day, dress to impress—yourself. For me, this means wearing a blouse in an upbeat color, a signature necklace or a scarf in a pattern that enhances my outfit. It’s honestly a cliché to stay in sweats, and while I get the goal of being comfy all day, taking steps to shower and wear "real" clothing will help you feel better about the day. And, since most of us are going to be connecting on video calls for the foreseeable future, it may actually make you feel better about being on-camera.
Book Virtual BFF time
When you don’t have any co-workers, you have to work even harder to connect—and that’s in the best of times. It’s critical to reach out to at least one person daily, and that need will increase exponentially as this WFH reality extends over time. It’s really quite easy: scroll through your list of contacts in your phone. Is there a college friend you haven’t connected with recently? Check in. Are you spreading goodwill to family members? Now’s the best time to do this. Hopefully we’ll all continue to connect like this—even when this challenging WFH mandate comes to an end.