2020 has shaped up to be a pretty wild ride so far, and COVID-19 is looking like it’s going to be a very interesting and lengthy chapter. Like many of you, your YPAC leadership team recently received the message to work from home. Now we’ve all done a day or two from home here and there for one reason or another, and you just accept that it’s not going to be the most productive time of your life…but this is looking like it’s going to be a long haul and the show must go on, so YPAC compiled some pro-tips to help!

WFH Pro-Tip #1: Establish your “work space”

I find I’m influenced by my environment and when it comes to work, I’m most effective in “my office space;” the place where I can get in the zone, focus in on my work, and when I leave that space I can shift out of “work-mode” and into another mindset – the simple act of being in that space helps keep me focused and minimize the distractions. It’s natural then, that over the years I’ve established my home as “my relaxation place” and not necessarily a work space. To keep yourself productive and in the zone while working from home for potentially weeks on end, it’s important that you take somewhere in your home and transform it into your work space. To get the most proverbial bang for your buck, you need to completely dedicate this space to your work – when you’re in that space, it’s for work and only for work and if you’re not working, then you’re somewhere else enjoying that space for another purpose. Work with what you have – if you don’t have a home office setup with a desk and monitors, then maybe it’s one specific chair at your table, or that one side-chair you never use in your living room. Wherever it is – make it your work-temple – replicating your work environment at home will help maintain the mindset, keep you focused when distractions are about and when motivations can waver.

Photo by Devin Edwards on Unsplash

WFH Pro-Tip #2: Maintain the Routine

Humans are creatures of habit and our lives are built around routine. The simple act of getting up and going somewhere at roughly the same time every morning is a huge stabilizing force in our lives, and this has been quickly ripped away from us. It follows that the loss of such routine can quickly sap your motivation. While you can’t control COVID-19, you can control your routine, so try your best to maintain it. While no one’s going to blame you for using the time saved from your commute for a few extra winks, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day, close to when you typically would if you were on the non-covid routine. When you wake up – keep that routine going – shower, brush your teeth, change your clothes (but feel free to take advantage of WFH by wearing your lululemons and a bathrobe if that’s your thing) – and so on. There’s no doubt this is a stressful, anxiety inducing time for everyone, and the disruption from a loss of routine can have some pretty serious, but subtle impacts. Take control of the situation by re-injecting whatever normalcy you can back in to your life with your routine.

WFH Pro-Tip #3: Keep your hours and establish boundaries

Most of us are probably guilty of breaking boundaries when it comes to working hours. It’s so easy to check your phone in the evening and quickly respond to an email that could have waited until the next morning – it’s almost expected from us in this age. While this is usually fine and harmless, it’s a different ball game with quarantine, and establishing and maintaining boundaries with respect to your work are key to keeping you focused, motivated, and sane. Set yourself up for an average working day (even if your routine means you’re working in the morning and the evening and taking care of the kidlets during the day), and when the clock strikes quittin’ time, pack up your work space for the day, and shift your mindset into relaxation mode.

WFH Pro-Tip #4: Don’t forget to shake out your legs

When I’m in the office on a regular day, it seems like I spend a fair bit of time in meetings. The hidden plus of that is that I accumulate a fair number of steps going to-and-fro all day – it keeps me limber and fresh, gets the blood flowing, and does a pretty good job of breaking up the day. Now, with several meetings cancelled or moved to virtual solutions where I can call in from bed if I wanted to (after verifying that my webcam is off), my work day has become much more stationary than I’d like. When working from home, it’s important to take short breaks simply to move and keep your blood flowing – nothing is going to sap your spirit faster than sitting in the same place every day for days on end. I’m personally a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, which segments the day into 25 minute blocks separated by a 5 minute break. There are plenty of pomodoro apps and timers available for download, and it serves as a great reminder to break up the sedentary WFH day.

WFH Pro-Tip #5: Develop new ways to find balance

Real talk, a big mental stabilizer for your author is physical activity – after a long day in the office I need nothing more than to hop on a bicycle or cruise to the gym and all things in life are good again. I can get anxious if I let those habits slip for one reason or another, and it will come as no surprise that the COVID-19 quarantine has had some impact there, too and I’ve struggled to fill that gap. This impacts my sleep, my routine the following morning, and of course, my work. This outlook worsens by the reality of being quarantined at home for days on end. Boredom sets in, and mental health can deteriorate – kiss your productivity goodbye at this point.

But all of that is a little gift in disguise, too! Why not use the quarantine to pick up a new hobby or skill? Self-development and personal growth are keys to professional success, so we can use this time to take a course or complete some online training, or why not explore some new ideas and read a book or two (I’m personally a big fan of the “GetAbstract” app). If you’ve ever wanted to learn a language – now is the time (and the Duolingo app is one easy option from many). Maybe even revisit an old hobby – for example, I haven’t made much of an effort to play guitar over the last few years, but over the last few nights I’ve found myself pulling out the axe to noodle through some of my old favourites. It can be productive to find new ways or outlets for your key hobbies, too – if you need to workout and the gym is closed, there are many great online resources for bodyweight workouts and videos for yoga classes at home.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Ultimately, times like these can throw you out of balance, and it’s critical for you to find a new way to maintain something close to balance if we’re going to last through this, and maintain wherever we can the habits which used to balance us out.

WFH Pro-Tip #6: Accept that things aren’t going to be ideal

This one is a serenity now tip (but without the insanity later). WFH brings with it some challenges: slow network connections, spotty Microsoft Teams meetings (complete with someone’s barking dogs and screaming children in the background), and working from your 13″ tablet instead of your snazzy dual-monitor setup. The above points are about trying to reassert some control over our current circumstances, but the reality is much of the situation, and some of the circumstances that come with it, are beyond our control. There’s no doubt that these are anxiety inducing times, and working to accept these circumstances for what they are can go a long-way to preserving your mental health and stability. I personally find that taking a moment to rest and reflect before beginning my workday can help, and I use the Headspace App as a focusing tool. Dealing with the circumstances forcing us into this extended WFH is not always an easy thing to do, but the silver lining is that we’re all in this together – so use this as an opportunity to check in with your friends to see how they’re doing, send a colleague a note to see how they’re holding up, and stay in touch with your family.

YPAC hopes these tips will help your work-from-home setup. Let us know if you have any tips of your own. Stay safe, all

Your Author’s own WFH setup, with the new supervisor, Maybull, checking in to see how she can help.