By most accounts, we are in the early days of the nation’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. If you, like all of us at Jackson Spalding, are one of the millions of Americans working from home to protect against the spread of COVID-19, now is the time to establish boundaries and habits that will carry you through the next several weeks – or more – with your sanity intact.
The following tips are based on the combined 20+ years of experience I and my fellow JS “outpost” colleagues have gained by serving our clients remotely from locales like New York City, Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles. We’ve seen the good, bad and ugly of working remotely over the years. And while working from home in the era of COVID-19 is a different animal altogether, many of these tried-and-true tips still stand when it comes to staying sane.
- Give Yourself Some Grace: As mentioned, these are not your typical WFH circumstances. You may be having to work in close quarters with roommates, juggle watching your kids or have your dog or cat constantly fighting for your attention. Do the best you can and find comfort in the fact that many of us are in the same boat. Take it one day (or meeting) at a time.
- Designate an Office Space: Designate an office space at home to help you focus and maintain separation between work/life. Use headphones to drown out background noise. If it’s too quiet, turn on music or have the TV on in the background to create some white noise.
- Get Dressed: Don’t underestimate the power of showering and getting dressed for the day, even if you simply change into a different pair of yoga or sweatpants. It will help you feel more human.
- Establish a Routine: Try to find a daily routine that works for you and stick to it – it will help you adjust quicker. Also, build in some time before you start your workday to “get ready” and transition into it, whether that’s having coffee, getting the kids ready for “school,” or exercising, etc.
- Break Up Your Day: If you start struggling with cabin fever or burnout, make it a point to take walks outside, eat lunch with your roommates/spouse or take breaks throughout the day. And don’t forget to eat and drink plenty of water! You’d be surprised how often it happens.
- Stay Connected: Use video conferencing for as many meetings as possible to get face time with others. Stay connected to co-workers through your company’s messaging platform (Slack, Glip, etc.) and make sure to chat about non-work items so you still get some socializing in during a day of “social isolation.” Yesterday, JSers signed on for a virtual St. Patrick’s Day toast – complete with a limerick contest – for a little company-wide camaraderie:
- Stop Working: You’d think it’s obvious but STOP WORKING at the end of the day. This can be easier said than done when you don’t have a commute to break up your day. Setting a calendar reminder to wrap things up can help.
- Stay Active: Regular exercise is key to staying sane while working from home. Take stretch breaks, go on walks/runs outside, or check out YouTube for workouts to do inside. Peloton is offering a 90-day free trial of its app, which includes classes for yoga, strength training, boot camps and more. Add “walk and talks” to your work day, taking calls while you walk around the neighborhood and get fresh air and sunshine.
- Reevaluate: Keep a pulse on how you’re feeling and try to identify what makes the good days “good” and bad days “bad.” The little things can make a big difference in your mood and productivity – from having a good conversation with a co-worker to taking your dog for a walk at lunch or having plants near your work area.
- Look Out for Your Co-Workers: If you have a team member who is newer to the company or nervous about working remotely, make sure to check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing and offer support. Also, be understanding of colleagues who are juggling childcare responsibilities. This is uncharted territory for all of us, so remember to exercise compassion and kindness above all else.
We are all in this together, and if we work together to take care of ourselves and each other, our work and lives will be much happier and healthier.