Working from Home During COVID19

April 19, 2020

6 min read


Effective strategies for maintaining balance.

Enjoy your Zoom call with friends, doing yoga, listening to a lecture, or learning a new hobby. And then? Spend the next hour or three scrolling through your phone, undoing the calm, worrying about your ability to get toilet paper, reading an email from your company’s CEO about the insecurity of your job, learning more about your grandmother’s risk of catching COVID19 from her neighbors’ who stubborn inability to social distance, reading about the growing number of cases of COVID19 and ensuing deaths in your area, and considering the inevitable collapse of the economy…

Wait. There has to be another way forward.

As someone who has worked from home for the past five years, I’ve put a lot of time and energy into finding a way to balance the outside distractions of my phone, the blurry lines marking when my workday starts and end, and my personal life at home. It took me nearly four of the past five years to find the right balance – a constantly moving target. Having finally found a system that works for me, I want to share with you some strategies I have employed to find pockets of calm, joy, fun, and a boundary between the outside world and my home. This is what works for me, meant as inspiration for your own strategies and techniques to find balance and calm. Read on for some places to start…

Sleep without your phone.

I purchased an alarm clock on Amazon to make sure I wake up on time. What other excuse do I have to need my phone by my bed, if it’s not to wake me up for work? I leave my phone downstairs in the kitchen each night, so that when I wake up each morning, I can resist the temptation to reach for the outside world. I also purchased a home phone (an oddity for a millennial such as myself), with all phone numbers blocked except for my family members’, so that I can be reached in the event of an emergency. It’s surprisingly cheap, and quite calming, to know that you are still accessible even without your cell by your side.

Start your day with intention.

For some, this involves reciting the Shema each morning- a most-Jewish expression of gratitude. My husband and I get specific: we start our day by expressing gratitude for the moments, experiences, and people in our lives – things as small as our dog’s cute morning stretches or as big as our gratitude for our health and wellness in such uncertain times. We start the day on a grateful note, before we can let any worries, responsibilities, or fears trickle in.

Set a clear work schedule.

When does work from home life actually need to begin? And end? Perhaps you need to be accessible quite early in the morning or quite late at night; there’s no judgment. The onus is on you, though, to set a clear boundary with yourself and clear expectations for your coworkers – if you are expected be online at 7 AM, you should not be checking your email at 6:30. If you need to be available until 8 PM, it’s on you to make sure you are clocked out completely.

Take your work email off of your phone.

This one is huge. I am constantly trying to check my work email on my phone; I have to admit this is the hardest one for me. Each time I successfully sneak past my own rules, I make sure to at least log out and uninstall my work email application. This way, if I insist on checking email again, at least I am making it harder for myself. This invites opportunities for mindfulness at each step of the process. I can stop and ask myself, as I try to log into my email, if this will bring me what I need in the moment. Will this serve me, or bring more stress?

Get dressed for your day.

For me, this involves changing from PJs into comfortable clothing. I sometimes throw on a little makeup or fix up my hair. I’m not getting all jazzed up in a dress or pantsuit, but the change in attire and appearance signals something in me that changes my mode. When my work day is done, I change out of my clothes and wash my face; these subtle signals to my mind and body help to distinguish my work and home time. Having a ritual of getting ready for work – and another of peeling off the work layers – help me to fully turn off my brain each evening.

Decide how you want to consume the news, and how often.

Instead of reading sensational news as it arrives, I’ve chosen to slow down the news cycle. With some exceptions, I try to consume all of my news in good old-fashioned print form, with editing, vetting, fact-checking and all. Do I really need to know the hour-to-hour count of COVID19 cases in my region? Or, is it more important to read a research-based analysis of effective methods to quell the transmission?

Install an app-limiting timer on your phone.

As a millennial, my relationship with my phone is a complicated one. While I often am guilty of disregarding its warnings, I do utilize a service that lets me know when I have passed my self-determined daily limit for a particular application. This way, at the very least, I am forced to make a conscious choice to barrel forward in my scrolls and swipes against my own better judgment.

End your day without your phone.

In order to start my day without work, without news of COVID19, and without anyone else shaping my experience of my day, I must end my day on my own terms. I say goodnight to my phone before I head upstairs, and I spend the last moments of my day journaling in reflection or reading a good book, before I ultimately click off the lights.

The strategies and techniques that work for me are of course custom to my own experience, work-schedule, preferences, and needs. But the key here is that I’ve sought out my own solutions to build a rhythm and set of habits that help to keep my anxiety at bay, my work/life boundary as clear as possible, and my days filled with intention. This can be a long process of trial and error, but as with everything in life, it’s up to you to decide where you’ll begin.

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