Like a lot of people, I have been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m incredibly lucky to have a job that I can still do at home, but as many of you know, that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Here are some tips for working at home during COVID-19 that I have learned.
Acknowledge that this is hard
I recently heard from a coworker that we should remember that we aren’t just working from home, we’re working from home during a worldwide crisis. Our bodies are in a heightened state of panic, and for some, that’s worse than others. It’s not as if we are just going about our days doing our job as normal, just from a different location.
For many people, we’re working from home with family around. Maybe that’s just your partner or roommate, but it may also be your kids, who also need to be homeschooled during this time. Or maybe you’re alone and struggling with the fact that you don’t have any in-person interaction with others.
I know for me, I struggle with the fact that I know I am very lucky. I have a job that is, for now, safe. I’m not deemed essential, so I don’t have to go out and interact with the public, meaning I’m a bit less at risk of catching the virus. So I sometimes feel guilty for struggling with this new normal. But it’s important to acknowledge that this is a major change, and even if we’re not personally sick, we’re still affected by the loss going on around the world, the fear of what happens next, and the general uncertainty.
Don’t Fall Prey to Hoarding Tendencies
When you’re working from home due to COVID-19, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the stories of empty store shelves and think that you should immediately go to the store and stock up. I know I had a moment of “Oh no, I love to stress bake and now there’s no flour, what should I do?” When I finally did find flour, I wanted to buy a lot. However, I forced myself to only buy two packages of it.
That is way more flour than I need.
Now, this is just minor hoarding, for sure, but it’s still not something I needed to do and I’m going to have to be sure that I use the flour rather than letting it go to waste.
I’ve seen plenty of people bragging about how they bought a trunk full of toilet paper. People, no one needs that much toilet paper. Save some for the rest of us.
But Be Sure to Shop Smart
My partner and I are trying to go to the grocery store no more than once every two weeks, so it does mean a bit more planning and stocking up. I spent more on our last trip than I have spent on a single trip to the grocery store in I don’t know how long. But we didn’t buy more than two of anything (and even then, it was things like two bags of frozen broccoli, nothing abnormal). We made a grocery list and did our best to not buy too much that wasn’t on that list. (Let’s be honest, we needed a few treats for ourselves, and we also had to make some substitutions when things weren’t available.) We did go together for this particular trip, and we used the “divide and conquer” method, so we spent as little time in the store as possible. I know now that we likely should have just sent one of us inside.
We’ve been working to reduce food waste in our lives and this has been a great way to work on that.
Set “Work” and “Not Work” Times
Not everyone is lucky to have a home office they can use while working from home during COVID-19. If you do, great! Make a point to only enter your office during work hours, and leave it when work is over for the day. If, like many, you’re working from a kitchen table or other general use space in your home, do your best to put away (or at least put aside) your work items when you’re done working.
It’s easy to be sucked into working longer hours, or putting in more time just because you have nothing else to do. That’s not great for your mental health. This isn’t a short term thing – at least here in the DC area, we’re looking at being at home until mid-June. And that could get extended. So you want to make sure that you set yourself up for success. Work the hours you would normally work (if you can) and take time for yourself in the evenings.
Do what you can to replicate a normal workday. No, I don’t think you need to get up and dress for work every day if you don’t want to. Some people enjoy that. I don’t. I’m on video conference meetings throughout the day, and I have seen one non-sweatshirt so far. Obviously, your situation may vary, but do what you can to be comfortable. I also normally work from a standing desk at least part of the day. I’m quickly realizing that since I’ve been sitting all day, my back is incredibly sore. I’m still working on a good solution for that – putting my laptop up on a box means that either my hands are too high or my screen is too low, but I’ll figure out a good compromise. If nothing else, maybe I can stand for my videoconferences to stretch out my body.
This is a hard time. It’s a scary time. We don’t know what’s next, and we don’t know what normal looks like on the other side. It’s scary, but if we all do what we can to protect ourselves and others, we will get through this.