1. Staying home is for your safety

A - Work mindfully in the era of coronavirus

Being confined under a state of emergency to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus should not make you panic. You are in your home and should feel safe. Take a breath to calm your anxiety.

Let’s start with an exercise

  • Sit in a chair, back straight, feet planted on the floor, and your arms relaxed.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose. Follow the breath through your chest and into your belly.
  • When it hits your belly, hold it for a few moments and release it slowly through your mouth.
  • Repeat this as many times as necessary until you feel calmer.

Your life has a meaning

Many people are now scared about their future, so it’s essential to exercise kindness in all your human interactions. Remember that stress can make us behave in strange and sometimes negative ways, without meaning any harm. If there was ever a time to go out of your way with a kind word or two, or to respond to anger or frustration with love and support, it is now.

An ingredient that will reduce stress and depression is gratitude. At the end of the day list the things that you appreciated and felt thankful for during that day – anything that will focus your attention on the positive.

2. Set your work environment

Design your workplace, with borders

If you don’t have an office at home, start by defining a perimeter as your work zone. Ideally it should have a door that closes to avoid distractions and surprises during calls and video conferences. If you can, separate your work area from your personal space and use it just for work.

Deal with the "New Colleagues"

  • Set boundaries around your designated workspace that make it off limits for housemates - your new colleagues. Let them treat your workspace as if it is miles away.
  • Only go to your designated space when you need to work. Stick to a regular schedule and to a routine and keep your workspace at arm’s length after hours.
  • Block the neighbor’s barking dog, excess noise from household members, or ambient noise with noise canceling headphones or ear buds. Studies show that a gentle blend of soft music combined with soothing nature sounds activates the calming part of your brain, helps you concentrate, and lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Discourage personal intrusions. Interruptions can cause you to lose your focus, procrastinate or get behind on a deadline. It’s important to prevent intrusions into your workspace by informing others that, although the location of your job has changed, you still require privacy and concentration. Notify others that during at-home work hours you’re unavailable and cannot be interrupted. Let them know the afterhours when you’re available to connect.

Set your ritual

Working at home can create some challenges that you may not have at the office. It’s important to have a defined schedule and stick to it.

Avoid sleeping in or lingering over breakfast. Get to work just as if you’re driving across town to your office and maintain the same hours so you can manage the workload.

Once your home office is set up, go to it on a regular schedule so your mind doesn’t wander. Establish psychological boundaries so you’re not constantly reminded of temptations around you, such as the chocolate cake in the fridge, or unfinished personal tasks, such as doing laundry, vacuuming or organizing your spice rack. They can compromise your productivity. Remember that you can do these things outside of work hours as you normally would.

After a reasonable day’s work, put away your electronic devices and work tools just as you would the baking ingredients after making a cake. Keeping work reminders out of sight keeps them out of mind and helps you relax and recharge your batteries. It’s your time to consider your “new colleagues” as what they are: your family.

Be aware of workaholic tendencies

Efficiency and flexibility are two of the reasons that people want to work from home, along with shorter hours. (Imagine what you can accomplish with eight straight hours of keyboard- pounding, uninterrupted by emails or daily staff meetings).

But sometimes flexibility is too much of a good thing. With a deadline looming it’s hard to just close the door and pretend you’ve left for the day. Many home-based workers find themselves working more hours, not fewer, including at night and  on weekends, just because the office is always there and they can’t ignore it.

C - Stay connected with your team

Coordinate with your teammates to maintain the communication flow. Set up one-to-one calls at least once a week. Try a video-first agreement. It may feel awkward at first on bad hair days or with a messy background, but do it anyway. After a while, it will feel natural. Make sure you have your company’s teleconferencing devices, such as Zoom, hooked up and ready to go.

D - Make your virtual meetings more professional

Ideally for video calls the room should be quiet and not totally empty or without a carpet to avoid ambient noise and echoes. It’s best to have a neutral colored wall in the background, although patterns are not a problem if unavoidable. Also, note that Zoom provides options for different virtual backgrounds that you may use (just click on the arrow next to the camera icon to access the options).

Ensure that your room has enough light to illuminate your face. Once your station is ready, you should be ready too. For outside calls you should dress appropriately – pajamas are not an option. Don’t forget to turn off notifications and put your phone on mute to avoid disruptions, and look at the camera when speaking.