I Worked From Home For A Year Before Coronavirus—But Here Are 6 Things I Needed to Switch Up

updated May 15, 2020
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When COVID-19 first started to make working from home the reality for more people than ever, part of me felt relieved that amidst all the chaos, I would at least have that part down.

Working from home seems simple in theory, but in reality it’s a master class in time management and creating hard lines between work and everything else. It is incredibly easy to get distracted and equally difficult to prevent work hours from bleeding into everything else. So as I saw people panic about how difficult working from home may be, part of me thought, “OK, I’ve got this handled.” But then… I didn’t. 

Even though much of my daily schedule and assignments were exactly the same, I found it harder than ever to focus. Sure, it made a difference that I was no longer able to leave the house to go work at the coffee shops and cafes that I frequented before COVID-19, but it was more than that. I was often completely sidelined by headlines and news alerts. A constant, churning anxiety had planted itself on my brain and it didn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. Obviously this particular scenario was unique, but in the past when I couldn’t find a calm or focus, I would switch up my routine. I would go on a trip, try out a new restaurant, work from a public park, or create something new. Now, all of those options were gone. So I decided to create new habits and environments in my own home, with the few options I had at hand. 

I moved my office.

Before, I worked from a combination of a small desk area, the kitchen table, and local coffee shops and cafes. Now, the latter two options don’t exist for me and the first one felt impossible. So I mentally scanned my home for the sunniest, most calming spot, and I moved my tiny desk there. Turns out that this was a small corner of my bedroom. It’s a little odd and bulky to have a random desk in the corner of our room where there should be a clear area, but it’s the change that’s made the biggest difference for my mental health. Not only do I do my work in the brightest, quietest part of our house now, but my desk also faces my bed which forces me to make it each and every morning.

I created an outdoor workspace, too.

For a while, my fiancé and I neglected our tiny outdoor patio area. We had some dilapidated furniture out there and an old rug, but nothing that actually made us want to spend time out there. Now, we crave the outdoors more than ever, so invested in making the area more inviting. We moved a patio chair and table set there that is actually conducive to working on a laptop, then added hanging plants and a wisteria vine to work its way around the railing of the deck. Our most recent addition to the space was a colorful, brand new outdoor rug that makes the space feel cozier and happier. It’s our own little oasis, and all it took to spruce it up was moving things around and a couple hundred dollars (if that). Having an option to work in the sunshine is a total privilege, and taking advantage of it has been the greatest choice we’ve made during quarantine.

I stopped logging into Twitter.

For people like me who work in freelance media, being engaged on Twitter sometimes seems like a job necessity. For me, though, the constant stream of headlines and bad news was causing too much damage to my mental health to justify it being worth it. I still log in once or twice a month, but I’ve deleted the app on my phone and logged out on my computer so each time I go to open the site, I have to really ask myself whether I want to be logging in or not.

I limit how much I watch the news and check headlines. 

Another part of being Very Online and working at home is that it’s tempting to keep news sites and news television on all day long—to create some background noise or distraction, but also to get all the latest updates. Being informed is important, but for me, I have had to make a conscious effort to turn off the news and not log into news sites if I don’t have to. It’s the only way I’m able to focus on—well… anything but the news (aka concentrate on the things that pay my bills). I still watch the news, but I limit it significantly.

I let myself work from bed (sometimes).

I used to only let myself work from bed if I was staying in a hotel for a work trip or vacation. There’s something that feels luxurious about being in a cozy bed, TV playing in the background, drinking coffee, and responding to emails or writing. But now, in this new normal, I’ve brought that luxurious feeling to my weekly routine. Now, on Friday or Monday mornings (usually whichever day I’m feeling more down), I let myself work from bed, coffee in tow. It feels like a little treat in an otherwise repetitive weekly routine.

I am patient when it comes to mornings.

I used to be fairly strict with myself when it came to starting work at 9 a.m. every morning (or earlier). Now, I am more patient with myself. I let myself lay on the couch for a little bit longer, stay in my pajamas for longer, and take my time starting the day. For me, mornings are the time where I often feel the most anxious—the times where it really hits me that we are in for another day of this in a long, long string of days like this. So I give myself some grace. This flexibility has made all the difference in taking some pressure off of myself and helping me feel more at ease.