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15 Tips for Working From Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I started working from home a few months before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. My former job, which lasted for five years, involved teaching at a public school. I transitioned from lecturing all day to being stuck behind a laptop the entire night. Being an extrovert with extreme anxiety, it was difficult. Here are some tips on how I adapted:

1. Operate on a fixed schedule. Set a plan for work, breaks, leisure and downtime. Living with bipolar disorder, the transition from mania to depression affects work performance, so a schedule helps you go into work autopilot. This means getting the job done based on muscle memory. If you’re not feeling well, sit behind the desk and your brain will (hopefully) follow suit.

2. Take timed breaks. Productivity methods like Pomodoro timers are useful for those with a short attention span. Committing yourself to 20 minutes of straight work, then having a five-minute break cycle, sounds more doable than an entire eight-hour shift. Before you know it, you’re done for the day.

3. Stare at something green for a few minutes to rest your eyes from the screen.

4. Decrease the brightness of your laptop to a comfortable level or use “night shift” to decrease blue light. Setting your computer into “dark mode” or inverting color strains the eyes less, although I can’t say this is applicable for designers because they need to see every detail.

5. Declutter your desk but keep what inspires you.

6. Make sure your sitting posture is correct and set an alarm for stretching.

7. Maintain social interactions. Although it may be difficult right now, a good way to mimic authentic human interaction is through video calls or voice calls.

8. Make sure your windows are open for proper ventilation and lighting. If you can’t open or don’t have a window, you can use warm lighting and a small desk fan.

9. Set daily goals. Just make sure they are achievable and cut yourself some slack if you don’t achieve them within the day. Small steps are always considered as progress, no matter how insignificant you may think it is.

10. Listen to your supervisor. They are there to help you. Feedback is always constructive. Sometimes, we may not feel that way because it hurts our ego, especially if we think we’re doing well. If you think they’re being unreasonable or vague, ask for detailed instructions on how to improve. If they can’t answer, cite your possible solutions; it might get the ball rolling for your supervisor to suggest solutions as well.

11. Set a time for news and limit it to credible news sources. It’s incredibly difficult to not panic these days; the least we could do is to not fuel it with too much information.

12. Set a motivation playlist for when you’re feeling stressed and a concentration playlist to keep yourself in the mood for work.

13. Set a time limit for crying. I usually have panic attacks and crying spells. I don’t fight it, I limit it. I set a timer for 15 minutes and just cry. When the alarm ends, I sit in front of my laptop and begin with a task that requires the least brain activity.

14. Never eat in front of the computer.

15. Find something that’s the right amount of escapism. Korean dramas work for me; it takes you to situations that are engaging enough for the moment, and most of the time you’re assured that by the end of the series, everything’s resolved. Some people like horror, dystopian or comedy, but the important thing is that when you watch, you’ll feel better afterward.

These tips won’t work for everyone as we have different coping mechanisms. Lastly, think of this time as survival mode or low power mode. You don’t have to be the best right now; you just have to maintain a sense of normalcy. You may even feel that the “new normal” we’re experiencing now is fake or contrived. Everyone’s uncertain about the outcome of this pandemic and it’s OK to be anxious. We are in the dark; the least we could do is act as in artificial light source, even just for ourselves. You know that it’s not the sun but it still illuminates.

For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash