Anyone working from home these days will likely tell you that it isn’t nearly as ideal as it sounds – at least not in this scenario. 

Where many of us tend to separate the personal and professional aspects of our lives, they are now inextricably intertwined. We’re unable to partition our environments in the same way that we’re accustomed to, and that presents unique challenges. 

Although this situation looks different for all of us, it’s safe to say that expending all of your effort inside the same space – where you sleep, exercise, cook, parent, study, unwind, etc. – makes it difficult to find balance. So, let’s talk about some ways to combat that. 

Successfully working from home isn’t just about productivity and your volume of output. It’s about staying grounded in a healthy and curious state-of-mind. It’s about feeling energized and social enough to stay connected with co-workers and friends and enjoying your relationship with your work. 

With that in mind, try to approach your work-from-home game in two important ways: functionally and emotionally. Here are some ideas to keep in mind from both perspectives. 

There are many tangible things you can do to direct the way you function in your home-based work environment, such as:

Setting working hours and sticking to them 

Maybe you’re someone who is finding it especially difficult to switch off from work-mode now that the physical act of walking out of the office and leaving it behind for the day isn’t part of your routine. Just because you can keep grinding all hours of the day, does not mean it’s a good idea. Decide when your workday ends and honour that intention – without shame or guilt or second-guessing. 

Paying attention to how you start your days 

Win the morning, win the day, right? Okay, so that’s not always how it goes but maintaining (or maybe even improving) your morning rituals can go a long way in terms of framing your mindset and getting in-the-zone. Have you gotten some of your time back in the absence of your morning commute? Maybe fight the urge to sleep in and instead, wake yourself up with a chapter of a good book, some light exercise or by getting some fresh air. One benefit of our regular routines being disrupted is that we’re in less of a rush – we can practice mindfulness and living slowly. Take your time getting ready, sipping coffee, eating breakfast. These moments of peace are small wins to be celebrated. Embrace them.

Setting boundaries 

This one can be interpreted in a lot of different ways based on your individual circumstances. Whether you need to set physical boundaries by keeping your workspace separate from the rest of your home or avoid the option to have a glass of wine while you’re working just because you can, boundaries can restore some much-needed semblance of normalcy in these confusing times. Take some time to reflect on what sort of boundaries might be missing from this version of your life.

On an emotional level, staying grounded and social are mutually inclusive and essential. Your needs will vary day-to-day, but consider how frequently you are:

Getting the rest you need

Being cooped up in our homes all day can leave us feeling lethargic and exhausted. When this happens, we may want to check out and escape with things like Netflix, alcohol, or excessive sleep. This is completely valid and sometimes even necessary. But when our options are so limited, it’s important to remember that the most rejuvenating rest can come from engaging in other, meaningful activities rather than tuning out. Instead try reading, creating, writing, meditating. Small local stores offer personalized service, like Gifted, who have great puzzle options, and Wordsworth and other bookstores offering home delivery.

Supporting and connecting with your community

When you start to feel alone, remember that we are all in this together. Many local businesses need our help right now and are still providing services. Get your friends and/or family together and plan a fun evening of activities. Set the scene with a local Zoom background of a cafe or popular cityscape, then grab a growler from your local brewery and order in from your favourite local restaurant. Get your team together for locally hosted online trivia nights or start a dance party in your PJs – many local artists are hosting live music or DJing for you from their home.

Making plans in advance 

At this point, time feels like it’s just a construct and staying social is easier said than done. This means that if we haven’t scheduled that meeting, virtual game night, or phone call with a loved one for a certain day and time, we might not always follow through. If you’re starting to feel less connected to the people in your life, try to be proactive about it. Pencil things into your calendar even if it feels obsolete. Be open and honest and lean on others to hold you accountable. Too much isolation is never good for the soul. 

Practicing gratitude

Too often, we only notice the absence of things. This pandemic has temporarily changed our day-to-day lives in some major ways and we’re all yearning for simple activities and familiar places we may have taken for granted before. Let this be a reminder to actively, consciously practice gratitude as often as you can. Count your blessings – list them, talk about them, prioritize them. From a place of gratitude, we gain energy and motivation that can help us show others compassion and support. 

Above all, be gentle with yourself and know that your experience of this situation and your feelings are perfectly justified. Some days might be harder than others and that’s okay. Just keep doing one thing at a time. Remember when you feel alone, you can always catch up with a friend on the phone.

In these uncertain times, flexible, virtual work arrangements can come with certain challenges for productivity and focus. With the right effort, you can stay productive while taking care of yourself and your loved ones and it may even lead to positive shifts and growth. It’s important now more than ever to support one another and our community as we navigate the days ahead.