How to Maintain Normalcy While Working from Home

10 tips on telecommuting during COVID-19.

Due to COVID-19 and state lockdowns across the country, many people are now working remotely in their homes. Along with this “new normal” comes some unique challenges that are not always apparent at the outset. If you’ve never been stressed while on a video chat with your boss, while your dog barks non-stop, you haven't taken a full step toward losing your mind. Add in a couple of bored kids and another spouse that is trying to do the same thing and you can have a true recipe for madness.

Before I give any advice, I must come clean; I’m not a work-from-home expert. My wife, on the other hand, has worked from home for nine years. After just a couple of days of witnessing her in action, I’m seriously in awe. So, to be fair, I’m borrowing this short list of ideas.

How to avoid telecommute mayhem:

1. Keep a routine. As much as possible, try to keep your regular working hours. Depending on your situation and what you have to do, you may have to adjust around other priorities, but there’s a huge advantage to keeping a set start time, break, lunch, and end time. If you don't do this you may find you’re working all day, or thinking about working all day.

2. Create a workspace. A workspace doesn't include your couch or bed. In general, those will encourage sleep, TV watching, or both. You can get an inexpensive desk, but trust me, at least get a nice desk chair. Don't work for hours on a crappy stool or lawn furniture, and attempt to have your monitor at eye level or your neck will hurt.

3. Update your software and your headset if possible. Trying to use your child's gaming headset or a hobbled together old laptop webcam with a broken set of headphones can make each meeting a torture test for you and everyone else who has to hear the popping and feedback.

4. Practice with your setup. Make sure you know how the mic, webcam, screen share, and software work prior to joining a meeting with your boss or customers. It’s embarrassing if you’re sharing the wrong screens or yelling at your dog in peoples’ ears when you think you’re muted.

5. Make sure you take activity breaks. It can be draining if you’re sitting all day and then the work days ends and… guess what? You don’t have to get up and go home so you just keep sitting. This is not good! Remember to stand up and move about during the day so you don't actually begin to merge with your chair.

6. Set some goals. If you feel you’re drifting, nervous, or a little lost it can be useful to set a small goal, like getting a project done, sending out 20 resumes, or hitting 6,000 steps. Goals give you something to achieve and that can be enough to keep you rolling for another day.

7. Plan personal time. Carve out some personal time each day, even if it's only a half an hour at night to chill out and decompress. Read a book, get off your screens, or just sit and listen to some music. You don't have to fill up all the silence or break every bored moment with input.

8. Give your roommates a break. If you and the people you’re living with are all on edge, practice taking an extra moment before you do any of the three deadly "C's,” criticize, condemn, or complain, especially as there’s nowhere to go. This isn’t a good time to annoy the crew on a small ship because you could end up with a mutiny!

9. Receive training. Being at home is a great opportunity to expand your skills and learn some extra shortcuts or new software. Heck, you could even learn a new language or a musical instrument if you started with a little practice each day.

10. Get outside. There is a clear benefit to going outside each day and getting fresh air and (if available) sunshine. Even a short walk can do wonders for your temperament. If you’re lucky enough to be in an area where you can see the stars at night, gazing up at them can help put your challenges and problems in perspective.