Millions could soon be working from home amid the spread of the coronavirus, and to all of you I say: welcome. I’ve been working remotely for almost six years, though not at the recommendation of public health experts due to a potential pandemic, but because I’m a freelance writer. I’m lucky enough to have a job where it’s possible to work from home, a privilege I don’t take lightly.) “Social distancing”? I’ve been on it long before it was a thing. Working from home, or WFH, can feel like bliss, or the abyss: You are free...but also lonely, and frequently unshowered, and wearing pajamas until 3 p.m. I’ve picked up a few best practices along the way (though I can’t say I always follow them myself). Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of it.
1. Exercise during your would-be commute.
Working from home is a gravitational pull toward sloth-like behavior, but getting a sweat in, even if briefly, starts the day on a more energetic note. Seize the time in the morning that you’d normally spend getting to the office and do a home workout class (the Peloton app has yoga, strength, and bootcamp classes that stream to your TV, no pricey bike required) or get outside for a jog or walk (provided you’re not quarantined).
2. Exile any family members if possible.
My husband and kids may live here, but this apartment is also my office (on the days when I don’t go to a coworking space), and I need them to vacate it at a reasonable time so I can get cracking. I prefer them to be walking out the door around 8, and will issue friendly but firm reminders if they’re lagging. If children/caregivers/spouses/roommates will be home while you work: Delineate a space that is yours and discuss the hours you’ll need space and privacy. Locked doors are sometimes necessary.
3. Shower and change your clothes.
This may seem only obvious and hygienic, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to convince oneself that it’s better to just jump right into work first thing, than to take even a short amount of time to bathe. Note: I am not suggesting that putting on a “real outfit” or “jeans” is a must, but even a swap from last night’s PJ’s to athleisure goes a long way to making you feel like a functioning adult.
4. Embrace podcasts.
With no work friends around and the thick sound of silence in the air, podcast hosts have become my faux friends. (That may sound weird, because it is; that’s what happens when you work from home.) I feel less alone thanks to Michael Barbaro explaining the news to me on The Daily; and Lovett or Leave It for providing the weekly pop culture/politics download. No AirPods required—just blast on speaker into your empty environs!
5. But also: Make fellow WFH friends.
The loneliness of working from home is perhaps the hardest part. Put out feelers and find out who else is WFH (and asymptomatic) and make a plan to meet for coffee, take a walk or some such. WFH friends are fantastic for bringing structure, accountability, and inspiring the aforementioned showers. I also get a boost from old-school phone chats with friends who have flexible schedules.
6. Log out of Twitter or your preferred social media.
There’s nothing and no one stopping you from near-constant social media scanning while WFH, but signing out has a chastening effect: Instead of clicking right in to an endless stream of content, you’re greeted with a log-in screen, and reminded that you’re supposed to be doing work, not looking at your third-grade best friend’s gender reveal on Instagram.
7. Don’t become Cinderella.
Spending all day at home, you suddenly realize just how many chores and projects await: dishwashers needing unloading, messy drawers demanding organizing, kids’ toys strewn about. I like to do a quick straightening-up in the morning so I’m not working amidst a sty, but try not to let too much housework seep into work-work hours. It’s just a noble form of distraction and procrastination.
8. Set boundaries.
You may find that other people who work in conventional job settings have a tendency to believe that “working from home” means “not working at all,” and will call or text you at random with questions/concerns/rants, etc. A polite “I’ll be working until 5 and can chat later!” or “Call you back on my lunch break” usually works.
9. Beware idle snacking.
Overeating a constant stream of fun size Halloween/Valentine’s Day/Easter candy is a longtime occupational hazard of from working from home. By all means, I endorse eating and snacking, but not for eight hours straight. Stocking healthy snacks—chopped veggies and tzatziki, apples and peanut butter—helps.
10. Make yourself a decadent lunch.
The work-from-home vortex can mean coming to at 2 p.m. and realizing you never ate lunch, only to grab a granola bar or a container of leftovers and call it a day. But on occasion, I like to use a WFH lunch break—do take a lunch break, for both sustenance and sanity—to make myself a proper lunch of penne, shrimp, and peas tossed in a nice Rao’s marinara sauce.
11. Or better yet, go out to lunch!
Especially if working from home is going to be a fleeting thing, try to take advantage: Meet your WFH friend for lunch, or treat yourself as a party of one. Pop into a bookstore; take a detour through the park, and enjoy the mid-day freedom of having no in-person meetings, or bosses, lurking around.
Written by Michelle Ruiz.
This article originally appeared on Vogue UK.