6 tips for working from home during pandemic

Yes, you should still wear pants

As the coronavirus continues to spread, most people are adjusting to a quarantined and remote workplace. While some professionals have experienced more of a shift than others, most are experiencing a challenge whether it be in adopting new technology, remaining focused, or simply learning how to live and work with a partner or children in the house. 

Kristin Messerli

When working from home, one late night of Google searching early coronavirus symptoms can have a domino effect on my schedule and routines. Working from home offers flexibility and opportunities to create healthy lifestyle routines, but it requires strategic management of your own time and structure. Without intentional design, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy and unproductive habits.

I have had a remote team for most of my career, and I am constantly looking for better tools or advice for supporting my team (and myself) in our productivity and combating feelings of isolation. I have compiled a few of the basics here that add some structure to the remote team, personally and collectively. 

Here are some of the best tips I’ve gathered for working from home: 

1. Have a routine

If you haven’t already been working remotely, part of your routine is going to the office. Your new office may be steps away, but rituals that start and end your day provide you with a sense of structure to your day. A structure like this provides your brain with a signal to get in “the zone” for the day or let go of the day and reset to return with a fresh perspective.

As part of your daily routine, remember to take breaks throughout your day, and keep regular work hours if possible. Schedule breaks in your calendar so it alerts you and nothing gets scheduled in its place. Walk around, do some stretching, or have a healthy snack to get your mind back on track. I’m doing a lot of puzzles these days, and the results of taking a break are extremely obvious in this situation. I often become obsessed with finding a particular piece, but the moment I take a break and return, it magically appears. Breaks are crucial in quarantine and remote work.

Digital takeaway: Check out a habit tracking app like Productive to set goals and alarms throughout the day that remind you to take a walk or follow a routine.

2. Move your body

Just because we are in quarantine, doesn’t mean we should sit all day. Your body, and especially your brain, desperately needs movement to stay productive. My routine consists of 30 minutes of yoga in the morning, two 20 minute walks during the day, and a light muscle workout in the evening. Find some activities that work for you, and make it part of your routine. With or without COVID-19, don’t let yourself wither away!

Digital takeaway: Include a short workout in your daily routine at home with some ideas from this Instagram account, or try some at-home yoga with this YouTube playlist of yoga for “uncertain times” by my favorite video yoga instructor.

3. Host video calls

Video conferencing couldn’t be easier with accessibility to the many apps available. If you haven’t been using video previously, now is the time to get serious about it. For team and client calls, video is a great way to build trust and bonding when in-person is unavailable.

As a remote team, we have a video call that opens the week and closes the week, and we have special project video calls as needed. We almost never use a phone call because video conferencing requires everyone to be fully engaged and allows you to “read the room” in a virtual setting.

At the end of the week, we discuss our “highs and lows,” which may be funny or extreme during quarantine. Be present for teammates as they express real fear or stress, encourage their vulnerability, and laugh together (when appropriate) about the moments quarantine has you losing your mind. While in quarantine, consider holding more frequent video calls and schedule regular check-ins with teammates, employees, or colleagues. You may even consider hosting a team happy hour over video! 

Digital takeaway: I use Zoom calls for most of my day-to-day conferencing. I can record them as needed, it’s easy to use, and they have a “waiting room” in case you have back-to-back calls. Another favorite is Google Hangouts or FaceTime for iPhone users.

4. Maintain team collaboration

Outside of our regular video calls, I am in consistent contact with my teammates. If you’re working with a team, collaboration tools are a necessity. Here are a few of my favorites (digital takeaways):

Ongoing communication: We chat via Slack, which is basically a chat room for work topics.

Project management: There are many amazing tools out there, but I like the simplicity and price (free) of Asana. Use this software to manage assignments, timelines, and assess workloads for your team. Without this, I would forget pretty much everything.

Document collaboration: Keep your documents (and spreadsheets, slideshows, etc.) in the cloud-based software, Google Drive, and allow teammates to review, comment, and update.

Brainstorming: The previous three tools are a necessity, in my opinion, for the remote team. But I recently came across a software called, Miro, which is basically a virtual whiteboard. Teammates can collaboratively join mind mapping and sticky note brainstorming sessions over video (or not) from the comfort of their quarantined home office.

5. Prepare your meals or order delivery

If the food you’re eating makes you sleepy (high carb, sugar, etc.), you are likely to get particularly cozy when working at home. Prepare healthy meals and snacks to be easily accessible during work hours. If you forget, support your local businesses and order delivery!

Digital takeaway: Most food delivery services like Uber Eats are waiving the delivery fees, and many local restaurants are now offering delivery that didn’t previously.

6. Keep your pants on!

It’s not the end of the world yet, and dressing the part can go a long way to feeling that productive energy you need for your day. Enjoy the casual attire, but maintain some level of normality in your appearance.

Digital takeaway: Try out a clothing box subscription from your favorite clothing brand (many have them now) to help you find some new looks or casual attire to fit your apocalyptic style. My personal favorite is Trunk Club by Nordstrom. 

No matter your quarantine situation, invest time in strategically planning your routines and preparing the technology that will set you and your team up for success at home. Most importantly, remember that if you have a terrible day “at work,” shake it off and try not to “take it home” with you. 

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