Nothing about COVID-19 is routine. We’re all trying to figure out this new reality together as over 158 million of us (and counting) are now mandated to work from home—at least for the time being. There can be a learning curve for those who never worked remotely, but in this case, even for those who have. Now, we have to factor in spouses, roommates, and four-legged, winged and scaled friends on top of our jobs. We talked to a bunch of our Vitamin T co-workers and talent for some tips on staying sane while being productive.
Pretend you’re ‘going’ to work
One way to make a completely atypical situation feel more familiar is to do what you’re used to. Account Director Sarah-Tyler Moore in Richmond, VA says “I always get ready the same way I would if I were going into the office, to set the tone for my day.”
Barbara Pachter, author of The Essentials of Business Etiquette, agrees and even takes it a step further to say that when you’re telecommuting, you should wear what you would actually wear to work. We’re guessing this isn’t yogurt-stained yoga pants with cat hair.
Emily Bonecutter, an Agent who lives in Indianapolis (and covers our Cleveland, Minneapolis, and St. Louis markets) suggests “always having a ‘drop dead’ time you have to be at your desk”.
Project Manager Lisa Martensen tries to stick to traditional business hours to create the feel of a regular workday. And Talent Agent Jessyca Hix in our San Diego office advises, “Schedule breaks and snacks!.”
There’s an app for that
Use the technology currently available to give you an energy jolt, whether it’s an app, a tool or a podcast. Detroit Account Director Lizzy Graham gets daily news snippets about jobs, business, and finance from the Morning Brew. “I’m also really into the Sam Harris Making Sense podcast. It explores questions about the human mind, society, and current events. I’ve switched quite a few clients onto it and they love it!”
Sarah’s an avid podcaster listener too, starting most days with NYT's The Daily before checking out Dax Shepherd's ArmChair Expert and Meditative Story. She also relies on Coffitivity to mimic the sounds of a coffee shop at home and she doesn’t miss filling out her 5 Minute Journal on her phone. “It’s a very low commitment way to reflect on what I'm grateful for, and helps create some control when everything can seem out of control right now,” she says.
Ever hear of TeuxDeux? (Think “To Do”, but fancier.) Jessyca swears by this task manager app. “It’s super helpful with noting daily tasks and automatically rolls over what didn’t get done to the next day.”
Lisa says that while her team was already using things like Slack, Asana, and Teams, they’re more critical than ever. And, she says, “I finally started getting comfortable with video during meetings—it’s surprising how much more connected and engaged I feel when I can see everyone on the call!”
Compliance Specialist and Proofreader Kristin Hamm agrees, telling us, “I think the underlying theme is communication and staying in touch with your team is incredibly important when working remotely.”
Tech hungry for more? Check out this list from How-to-Geek.
When you’re spending this much time at home, you gotta make your own sunshine. Sarah actually has two dedicated workspaces, a dining room table in the sun-filled downstairs and a traditional desk setup in her office upstairs. And she’s big on her blue-light filtering glasses, which are more than super cute. “They’ve significantly helped with my insomnia,” she says, “and help me transition from the end of the workday.”
Jessyca seconds the importance of the big yellow orb in the sky, telling us “When I moved, that was really important to ensure my new home office had natural light, it really does make a difference in my mood ‘coming to work.’” (This is right in keeping with the Harvard Business Review, which recently found the #1 office perk to be natural light.)
Kristin will even take a quick lap around the yard, “to refresh my mindset and my eyes!” she explains.
Rock out with your docs out
Music is a mood booster. Besides being a positivity enhancer, it can lower cortisol levels, improve blood flow, ease pain (and even enhance post-surgery outcomes). So keep those tunes flowing.
Lizzy is listening to artists like Tycho, Haelos, Daughter, and Lamb. “They’re all fairly chill and positive to put me in the right frame of mind and inspire a good-feeling, productive workday,” she says. Jessyca is all about the upbeat too. In addition to Ellie Goulding, OneRepublic, and Dua Lipa, she tells us, “I also love to support our former colleague Amanda Ferris (aka Amanda Kate) and her new album, Gypsy!”
Kristin and Lisa are on the same musical wavelength when it comes to their work soundtrack: Beethoven and company. “There’s nothing like classical music to keep me focused,” Lisa says.
Send guilt packing
You don’t need to go on that trip. There is enough happening in the world right now without feeling bad about how you’re handling it too. (And actually, work-from-home guilt has been a Big Thing, even prior to coronavirus.)
Sarah and her husband are both working from home while also parenting their 4-year-old. “I’m constantly resetting my expectations as to what success looks like,” Sarah says. “My daughter is doing a lot of screen time right now and I’m giving myself a break on that.”
Emily also has to navigate working alongside her 12-year-old twins. Like herself, the kids have a set place to work and take set breaks throughout the day. “I’ve let them know that being home is an adjustment. Don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go right or the way you think it should. Make adaptations and move on!”
Jessyca agrees. “It’s important not to be too rigid with the structure you set for yourself. I don’t allow myself to feel guilty for doing household chores to break up the day or take a mental break.”
Go big and stay home
It doesn’t look like any of us is going anywhere anytime soon, so we might as well think about what our dream home office would be like. Window seat with extra fluffy pillows? Chalkboard wall for scribbling ideas or to-dos? Walk-out patio for easy Vitamin D access?
For Lizzy, it’s a built-in sound studio with absorptive and transparent noise barriers. “I’m an audio nerd,” she says. “And that would keep any outside noise to absolute zero!”
And pretty much everyone would love to be able to stretch their gams while checking things off their lists. Jessyca, Emily, Lisa, and Kristin dream of the perfect standing desk. And Kristin’s dream would also include more green—houseplants, that is. (Looking for more dream home office ideas? Check out these from Architectural Digest.)
Many of us might be feeling anxious and overwhelmed right now. While we’re social distancing, staying connected is more important than ever. Speaking of connecting, please connect with us, we’d love to see your home office! Tweet us @vitamintalent or tag us on LinkedIn—and we’ll feature some of our faves.