6 Work From Home Tips To Save Your Sanity (And Keep You Productive)

Advice from a WFH veteran.

By Suruchi Avasthi
camille styles's austin office makeover with target

During these unprecedented times, there are many things we’re figuring out together…  especially as many of us adapt to working from home in an effort to social distance. One topic that’s come up in my conversations with coworkers is how grateful we are to have the ability to work from home right now. There are so many others who don’t have the same opportunity, so we’re trying to keep things in perspective and remember that it’s a privilege. That said, working from home isn’t easy, especially if you’ve never done it before. I worked from home for two years in my last job, and for me, going from office life to WFH is challenging and takes some getting used to.

Sure, we can all create a zen work space with lit candles and an inspiration board, but there are so many challenges to getting in the groove when it comes to boosting productivity and keeping your sanity.

As we all adjust to a new normal (at least for the time being), here are a few things that have helped me in the past, and that I’m re-instituting right now.

camille styles's austin office makeover with target

1. Get dressed and create a schedule.

I don’t think any of us working from home right now are very concerned with a full face of make-up and business-casual outfits. But one thing I noticed while working at home for a few years was that when I had an actual meeting to get dressed for out of the house, when I came back in, I was much more productive when sitting in actual clothes. And after getting dressed for the days after, I found that it really does help! I get it, PJs and sweat pants are comfortable, but even if you toss on a pair of jeans and a tee, I guarantee it will make you feel more put together and by proxy, more apt to knocking out some projects you might be slugging through otherwise. Also, create a schedule for the day! Calendar blocking is your friend. Especially for all the parents out there who might not only be working from home now, but also trying to keep their kids on a schedule, setting up your calendar will help keep you on track and make the day feel a bit more structured. Camille has previously shared how she organizes her calendar, and the method has been really helpful!

2. Take a break from screens.

While you’re putting together your schedule, put some time blocks on to step away from the screens. Between checking my NYT app for updates, scrolling through social media, and being nose deep in excel files all day, my eyes (and mind) are strained by the end of the day, but then I still turn to my television for some Netflix time. Realizing that I’m now spending almost the entire day looking at a screen, I had to take a step back and plan for at least a fifteen minute screen break before and after lunch, and take up an activity that would take my eyes off a screen.

yoga, fitness, stretching

3. Get up and move.

Now that you’ve put together a master schedule and added time to break from screens, use that time to get up and move. I was messaging one of my coworkers and he mentioned how hard it is to sit and work for eight hours a day from home. I had to mention to him that even when we’re working in our actual office, we are not seated at our desks for eight hours at a time. We get up to take laps around the building, we walk to meetings and to the cafeteria, we stand up to get snacks and to meander over to each others’ desks to chat. Just because we’re working from home now doesn’t mean you have to stay at your desk all day. Use your screen break time holds on your calendar to get up and go for a walk or to take some laps around your house. Some of my coworkers and I are doing virtual fitness challenges, like a fifteen minute break to do wall sits or push ups together so we get movement and social time in together. The activity will not only help keep you moving, but it will help put you in a better mood!

4. Stay connected to your coworkers (or friends!)

I’m super lucky to enjoy my coworkers company, and for those of us transitioning from seeing each other and talking about our lives five days a week to not at all, WFH is super isolating. As a team, we’re planning virtual social time through the week with games, trivia, and discussion topics to keep ourselves busy and give us something else to talk about and take our minds of things. We’ve even planned virtual happy hours for after 5pm where we can all hop on Skype with our libation of choice and connect even from our separate locations. No one will understand your specific work situation better than your coworkers, so lean on and support the built in community you’ve been given. If not with your co-workers, lean on friends and family during your breaks and give them a call to feel connected!

desk, home office

5. Set boundaries and pick up a hobby.

One of my coworkers mentioned that what’s been hard about working from home is creating a clear boundary between work time and off work time. Given that we are now working and living in the same space and, let’s be real, some days that may mean working from the comfort of our beds, boundaries can get blurry. In addition to giving yourself a cut off time, give yourself something to look forward to after work. Remember when we were kids and school would end and we would go to our after school activity like orchestra practice or soccer? That activity was the cutoff from school. After I log off from my work computer now, I’m setting up at least thirty minutes to do a hobby. I’m re-learning how to play the piano, I’m writing a book, and I’m doodling just for fun. You can knit, take on a baking project, or check out this list if you’re still looking for an idea. Any skill or hobby you want to pick up will give you something to look forward to after work and keep your creativity going in a fun new way!

6. Show grace to yourself and your coworkers.

Two of my managers are at home with their kids, not only trying to do their work, but also trying to keep their kids as engaged as possible. Some of my co-workers are just feeling generally stressed. Others have had family members lose jobs and are struggling to focus while trying to help those close to them. We’re all having to adjust to a new normal together, it’s a little clunky, but let’s remember to be kind to each other and ourselves. Show your co-workers grace and do the same for yourself. I’ve been incredibly honest with my team that it is hard to focus right now, but I know we’re all just trying our best. Everyone has appreciated the honesty and it allows us all to feel like we’re really in this together. If you have the ability to safely do so, offer to drive by drop off supplies to older co-workers, offer to just be available to talk if anyone needs it. Send a quick IM asking how your coworkers are doing. This list has some great social-distancing ideas for showing gratitude to your coworkers. Let’s all remember to be kind to one another in these times.

What work from home strategies are helping you right now?