Working From Home in Uncertain Times: Tips to Stay Sane and Productive

  • Mar 25, 2020


With companies sending workers home because of the coronavirus outbreak, some of you may find yourself working from home for the first time. For some of you this may be new and uncharted waters.

My very first job was one where I worked remotely and I never worked in an office until well into my career. I actually found that an office environment was far less productive than working from home.

As the new reality of working from home may be a shock for those who have never done it before, here are a few pointers on how to be a productive worker in your new home office environment.

Find one place that’s yours

A home office might sound like a contradiction in terms—your intent was to have a home, not an office, if you’re a first-timer working from home. But you can make it work. Find a space in the house that you can make your own. This is especially important if you don’t already have a specific room or area that you can turn into your own office area.

Think about an underutilized room to repurpose as your office space. One area could be your dining room if it hardly gets used. If you’re an apartment dweller, you may not have a space that’s underutilized; that’s where you’ll have to make the difficult decision to create office space in your bedroom or living area.

The bare minimum you’ll need in your office is a desk to work on and a place to file papers If you don’t have a desk, a table will work; a bookshelf will work for filing if you don’t have a file cabinet.

Desk placement in an office has become less of an issue with cell phones and wireless phones. However, as you set up your space, working near a window bringing in natural light is ideal; working in a windowless room is more challenging as your mood might suffer.

What do you do if you have children?

People will be more forgiving In the age of coronavirus if they happen to hear children in the background while you’re talking with them on the phone. Just know that it’s not ideal to hear children screaming in the background. Consider the best time to make important phone calls where you need quiet, especially if you don’t have a door to close. Is there a certain time when your children are more quiet? Perhaps when they nap or eat? Is there a TV show that can serve as a babysitter? These are all considerations to make when you need to conduct business and want to sound somewhat professional.

Just know that keeping your child occupied doesn’t always work. When my daughter was young, she learned that the time to ask for something was when I was on the telephone. Kids are smart! I learned that the only childproof time to make important business phone calls was when she was napping or at preschool. Since the latter may not be an option now with so many schools closed, just know that in the age of coronavirus, people should be more understanding.

Be able to shut it down

Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you have to be constantly working—in fact, you shouldn’t. Create a schedule of working hours, but understand it may not be a nine-to-five job when you work from home. Customers will call you. However, also remember that the phone doesn’t always have to get answered and you can stop checking emails at a certain time. Figure out a schedule based on your business and what works best for you.

You also can’t work seven days a week. Pick one or two days a week to be completely off—that means no checking email at all that day. I find it helpful to not check emails on Saturday because Saturday is my day off. What day will be yours?

Keeping a schedule is important for avoiding burnout. Burnout is a very real issue for people who work at home. There always will be something you can be doing, but just because there is, it doesn’t mean it has to be done right now. Learn to turn work off.

Whether your work-from-home situation is temporary or permanent, you can make smart choices that will allow you to be productive.