Has Coronavirus Closed Your Office? Work from Home the Right Way

17 Mar, 2020 By: Lynn Allen

If you’re transitioning from a company office environment to a home office, these six tips will help you create a more positive, productive experience for yourself and your coworkers.

In an effort to embrace social distancing and stay safe amid this COVID-19 outbreak, many of us find ourselves face-to-face with a home office scenario. Some of you will welcome this change with open arms, while the rest will find it to be quite the disruptive adjustment. As someone who has worked from home for more than 10 years, I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned and offer some advice for a successful transition. Done properly, working from home can be just as productive as working in a company office, if not more so.

Success in the home office requires self-discipline, plain and simple. Distractions are readily available — and more fun than work. It is easy to waste a day at home and accomplish nothing on your to-do list, so you need to focus, focus, focus! Read on for six tips to help you do just that.

  1. Set concrete office hours — and stick to them! Working from home should match your experience in the office as closely as possible. Setting up home office hours will help you as well as your coworkers. During this time, you will be focused on your job (not Facebook or the laundry), and readily available should anyone need to reach you. This probably means sitting in front of your computer for the majority of your day, just as you would in the office. Mark this schedule on your calendar and make it a habit to start and end work at approximately the same time every day, whenever possible — be consistent.

    Note: Since many schools are closed right now, some of you may be caring for children at home, and may need to alter your standard work hours as a result. Ideally, your manager and teammates will work with you to accommodate a revised schedule.
  2. Choose a home office location that’s free from distractions. I have the option to turn any part of my house into my office — and I have! You may not have this luxury (especially if your children are home from school), so do your best to find a distraction-free zone where you can focus on the work at hand. In a perfect world, this would include a door you can close when needed and some healthy light from the outside world (but limit distracting views). A decent chair is important, so you won’t be in pain at the end of the workday. And some space to spread out would be nice, especially for those of you who are working on CAD/designing/engineering tasks.

    When selecting a location for a home office, look for a quiet spot with minimal distractions, natural light, and enough room to work comfortably. A door you can close as needed is helpful for improving concentration and reducing interruptions. Image source: leungchopan/

    Don’t forget to take note of the Internet connection/mobile phone signal strength in your home; steer clear of any dead zones when selecting your home office location.

    Note: Do not, under any circumstances, work from your bed. That is a definite home office no-no. There are a myriad of reasons why you shouldn’t work from your comfy, cozy bed (even though it’s the easy thing to do and we’ve all done it at some point). You need separation between work and sleep — period! Otherwise, your body will get confused: Are you working or are you sleeping? Naps come all too easily when you work from your bed, and sleeping at night will become increasingly more difficult.

    But what if the only room you have control over is your bedroom? If at all possible, stay clear of the bed and find a corner of your bedroom to work in instead.

    Resist the temptation to work in bed; blurring the line between work and rest can decrease your quality of sleep. Image source: TheVisualsYouNeed/

  3. Make smart choices about music and video. Just because you are home and can watch TV does not mean that you should! I guarantee your productivity will go down if you try to watch while working. The TV in my house stays off from the moment I step into my home office until I am off the clock. If you wouldn’t be watching TV or Netflix in your company office, then don’t do it at home. When it comes to music, I am most productive when it is quiet, but I realize that many people work well with music playing. If you find yourself spending too much time switching songs or stations, however, then it is officially time to turn it off!

    Note: If you have a door, be sure to close it to indicate to the rest of your family that you are in work mode. I promise you that an open door invites interruption. If you are on a very important call where interruptions could be costly to your career, put a note on the outside of the door for added security. I’ve been known to use the "Do Not Disturb" sign I snagged from a hotel. (Sorry, Marriott!) 
  4. Take a shower and get dressed — every day! Yes, you can probably work all day in your pajamas, and nobody will know (unless you have an online meeting and accidentally turn on your webcam!) Studies show that those who shower and dress are more productive than those who do not. You will feel better. You will be more motivated! You will accomplish more so just do it (and make your bed while you’re at it). We aren’t talking putting on a suit here – but get dressed into something the outside world can see you in.

    Note: If you will be on webcam at any point during the day for an online meeting or webinar, then you should be dressing like you would in the office. I keep a jacket nearby to throw on for calls when needed. I’m all about dressing to impress: It’s an important gesture that projects professionalism, but requires only a little effort. That said, if you are fortunate enough to work in a casual office normally, there probably isn’t any reason to break the mold at home.
  5. Amp up your response rates. Guess what: If you take a long time to respond to an e-mail, people will assume you are not working. If they try to contact you during the workday on Skype and you aren’t there, they will make the same assumption. You have to be doubly on your game to convince the world you are still being productive even though you're not in the office.
  6. Remember to care for yourself. One of the disadvantages with working from home is that disengaging becomes more difficult. You work and play in the same place! Sure, you don’t have that long drive home — but what if that was your way to wind down after a long workday? Ideally, you will set up some type of ritual at the end of the day to officially call it quits: Maybe it’s a walk around the block; maybe you work out; maybe you set yourself up for the next workday. Whatever it is, pick something that officially ends your time at work.

    And don’t forget to take breaks during the day and to eat a real lunch! People who work from home rarely separate themselves from their computer at lunch time — and that’s not conducive to a productive afternoon. Block off that hour or half-hour on your calendar, and take a real lunch break in a totally different room. Get up from time to time and move around. It’s rare that someone sits all day at their desk in the company office; we’re usually wandering off to connect with someone in their office, or attending a meeting. Don’t abuse yourself by never leaving the chair/couch/barstool at your kitchen counter!

Hopefully these tips will make it easier for you to endure the next few weeks or months while we are coping with the coronavirus. I wish you all good health and happy isolation!


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