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10 Tips to Survive Working From Home During COVID-19

Guidance to help you and your team navigate working virtually as the world tackles COVID-19 and establishes widespread work from home policies.

Working From Home

Working from home now? Me too, but I work for a remote company….so that’s nothing new for us. Our teams operate remotely to serve global clients, which allows our team to float more effortlessly between the regions in which we operate at any given time. What has been a normal schedule for all of us at Main & Rose is now the norm for the rest of the world, and it’s pretty understandable that many people are having trouble adjusting to this way of life. From Marketers to Nonprofit Heroes to Investment Bankers, people who are used to their double-screen, ergonomic, resource-filled offices are now stuck at home trying to force their kitchen island into becoming a desk for the foreseeable future. 

We’ve had clients, friends, and family members reaching out to us over the past week asking how in the world they can make their home an office, all while maintaining some semblance of work-life balance (after all, your computer now stares at you all day from your living room or kitchen). Don’t worry friends, we’ve got ideas. Ten of them here, to be exact, but feel free to reach out if you’re searching for even more.

#1: Establish A Morning Routine

Don’t underestimate the power of a morning meditation with a cup of strong coffee. Since work is accessible to you all the time now, make sure you’re taking time for yourself before you get started. Whether it’s a quiet breakfast reading the news, or taking the dog for a walk (keeping a safe distance from others, of course), or doing a home workout, make sure you establish your routine early in this quarantine and stick to it. For those of you that need more structure – make a checklist for each morning and force yourself to get it done before checking those emails or diving straight into morning calls. Sometimes this will mean setting your alarm just a little bit earlier to make it happen, but trust us when we say it’s worth it.

Pro Tip: Adding a meditation in this routine has proven benefits for work. Many resources like Headspace and Calm have free trials and special offers due to COVID-19.

#2: Get Dressed. Seriously.

How amazing is it to stay in yoga pants or sweats all day? We love it too, but for those of you that are so used to getting dressed up to be in an office all day, adopting this casual habit overnight might take you by surprise. All of a sudden, it’s 3p and you haven’t showered – and then you shower and get back into sweats – we bet it’s happened to you already. Even if you want to stay super comfortable and casual, make sure part of your morning routine is at least changing out of your PJs and getting “ready” for the day. This habit can have a dramatic effect on your mental health and well-being during this stressful time, so add this one to the list.

Pro Tip: Dedicate a section of your closet or wardrobe to comfortable and casual work from home options. No need to wear a dress or collared shirt, but this will help you switch from PJs to work clothes and back much easier.

#3: Schedule Breaks

Adding lunch to your calendar or taking a 15-minute break to stretch should be listed in a national best practices guide to working from home. This under-utilized option at our fingertips will drastically shift your day towards a more productive and efficient work output; and it’s dual-purposed. 

First, it allows you to take the mental breaks that would naturally occur in an office. There’s no getting up to chat with your co-worker or grabbing lunch from your favorite spot in the neighborhood (no, Slack chatting with your colleagues does not count). These scheduled breaks force you to get up, step AWAY from the computer, and move your body around. 

Second, many of us here at Main & Rose are from the agency and corporate life before we started here. We know about the unspoken (or perhaps spoken, in some cases) uptick in distrust when the team works from home. This schedule allows your co-workers to know when you’re at your desk, and when you need to step away. No need for anyone to wonder if you’ve taken a break for an hour to watch your favorite show on Netflix if you don’t respond right away. 

Pro Tip: For those of you that use Slack or similar messaging systems regularly, update your status on the platform to reflect your break so people know their messages won’t be received instantly. 

Second Pro Tip: Actually take the break. Many of you have Slack or similar apps on your phone, so don’t use that as an excuse to be available 24/7.

#4: No Netflix

Speaking of Netflix – put the remote down. As much as it’s tempting – this is a horrible idea (to put it bluntly). Get to the end of the day and binge as many shows as you want, but don’t treat yourself to that “background noise” or “lunchtime show break” while you’re working. We all know great shows are addicting, and if you want to prove your efficiency and capability to work from home we can promise you this is not the way to do it. Need background noise since being at home is TOO quiet? Put on a playlist.  Did you know that classical music can actually increase your productivity?

Pro Tip: If you prefer some additional stimulation during lunch or on your breaks, try listening to podcasts (we found a good list here for business-focused options) or an audio book to keep your mind moving without switching on the TV.

#5: Set up a “Desk”

We know that not everyone reading this has access to a home office, spare room, or in many cases, any extra space at all (shout out to our NYC friends). But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set up your space in a way that makes you feel as comfortable as possible. Whether it’s dedicating a space at your kitchen table or creating a standing desk on your kitchen island, make sure there’s a space you “report to” daily. Working from your couch, bed, or other cozy spaces in your house may be great for a bit, but don’t make that your home base. Make sure your computer is as close to eye level as possible (stacking books or using an Amazon box isn’t out of the question) and make sure your surroundings are neat and tidy. Grab your candles, your favorite resource books, and maybe your multi-colored post-its and get to work.

Pro Tip: If you have a small budget to work with (even $50 will do), order a keyboard, mouse and computer stand from Staples or Amazon (both are offering various free delivery options). These are small items you can tuck away when needed, and it will instantly upgrade your desk area to a more ergonomic environment.  

#6: Create Your WFH Ground Rules

Now that nearly everyone is working from home, chances are you have a spouse, a partner, a roommate, and/or some kiddos sharing your space. We’re right there with you. If you haven’t already, be sure to establish some ground rules with the people you’re in close quarters with. This will eliminate the majority of guaranteed stressors that would take place if you were to just “wing it”. What happens when someone needs to take a call? How can you take shifts to watch the kids but make sure you get your working hours in? Can you put music on in the background? The list goes on, but make sure you hash out what’s important to you and clearly communicate your needs at the get-go. 

Pro tip: (Disclaimer – we found this going around the Internet but think it’s worth sharing the idea here as well) Already getting annoyed with your compadres? Create an imaginary co-worker (ours is Phyllis) to blame things on and make awkward topics easier to communicate with each other during stressful times. Did Phyllis leave her dishes in the sink AGAIN?

#7: Create Your Priority List the Night Before

You’ve probably seen this trick floating around from productivity experts, but it’s true: making your priority list for the next day, just before you log off, creates structure and efficiency. Not only are you able to sleep better at night knowing exactly what needs to be done the next day, but if you write them in order of priority, your day (and time) has already been mapped out. Don’t skip around – get the tough things done first while your brain is fresh, and do the monotonous or easy tasks in the afternoon (or adjust to when you’re most efficient). This trick also helps you avoid waking up, turning over, and anxiously checking emails when you first wake up. 

Pro tip: Don’t check your emails first thing. Make sure you get through your morning routine first.There is no separation between you and your desk, so even though you might do this on a normal workday, avoid it while you’re home.

#8: Sweat

This one is for your mental and physical health, so don’t skip it. With no commute to work, no walk for lunch, and barely any “office” to walk through during the day, this is more important than ever. Right now there are several resources offered for free due to COVID-19, so we’ve made a list for you here:

Core Power Yoga On Demand

Planet Fitness – Daily Facebook Live Workout 

Daily Burn – Free for 60 days

Peloton App – Free for 90 days (you do not need a Peloton bike or treadmill)

Sweat Factor – Free for 30 days

Bulldog Yoga – Free for 30 days

NEOU Fitness – Free for 30 days

We’re anticipating that this list will expand quite a bit over the next couple of weeks. Do you have an addition we can add to this list? Email us, and we’ll live update it. For more information about taking care of your mind and body while you’re home, check out our blog about self care.

Pro tip: Try diversifying your workouts now that we have so many free resources available to us. Try yoga one day and a body boot camp another. This will prevent you from feeling like every day is exactly the same and actually creates new muscle growth as you try new things!

#9: Make Video Chat Software Your Best Friend

While it may not be very comfortable at first, getting at least some face time in with your co-workers is key, and video chatting can help teams communicate significantly better. There are several free tools out there (and some paid tools for those of you that have enterprise-level needs). Our favorite free option is Google Hangouts, but we often use BlueJeans (now 20% off) as well. Schedule a weekly meeting with your boss, your team, your whole company (for those of you that are boutique like us), and make sure you’re looking at each other and checking in on how everyone is. It can be incredibly easy to read an email the wrong way, misunderstand someone’s tone, or start writing “PER THE BELOW” on several emails. We’re all going to be inundated with electronic communication these days, so talking things out will help alleviate some unnecessary pain points. 

Pro Tip: If you’re managing the team or hosting a conference call, make sure people don’t feel stressed and/or pressured to be wearing their Sunday best. It’s OK to have no makeup on or wear more comfortable clothes than normal – people can and should dress casually unless clients are involved.

#10: Be Kind

Last, but certainly not least. Being kind to each other will be the most helpful part of getting you and your team through this period of stress and anxiety. Understand that each of us have our own battles to face, our own relationships to manage, and our own process to figure out. None of us work the same way, and none of us have the same situation at home. Take care of each other like you’d take care of family, and you’ll end up becoming closer than ever before (leading to better business outcomes). Check in on everyone you work closely with, and make sure they (especially new employees) feel supported.

Pro tip: Hopping on a group call? Start off with asking about how everyone’s doing, and share a funny story about your quarantine adventure to kick things off on the right foot. 

Now that we’ve shared our top tips with you, we hope your days working from home will become easier, less stressful, and actually quite enjoyable. We’ve been able to thrive with this WFH model, and we believe it’s adaptable on a much larger scale for those of you that need it.

Have some great tips that others might be able to use? Please share below!

Disclaimer: This article (authored by me) was originally published here, but due to the expansive need for these tips and tricks, I’d love to share them with you as well!

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