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Over the past year and PC — pre-coronavirus — I’ve worked from home the majority of the time. It was an adjustment after seven or so years of going into an office. Years of access to a printer and shipping materials and paperclips and quiet and popping over to a coworker to ask a question or share a funny anecdote. Now, we’re isolated. We’re working hard just to stay connected. We’re improvising. We’re getting creative. We’re lending a helping hand. We’re experiencing unease. We’re clinging tightly to a sense of humor. We’re getting through this.

I’ve bullet-pointed ideas and tips for the entire remote workday experience — from setting up your space to unwinding after you log off. Whether you’re running a large company or a small family, here’s how to stay happy and productive in a less-than-ideal and distraction-filled work environment.

Peyton's cozy work from home station

SB digital analyst, Peyton, is hitting lots of the high notes here: green plants, a fabulous candle, a planner and a mug filled with local coffee. Image: Peyton Haecker

BEFORE WORK

Keep up your morning routine as if you’re going into work. Make your bed, open the blinds, shower, brush your teeth, and put on a clean, comfy outfit that’s not the PJs you woke up in.

Organize your space. We’re not here to claim that your WFH station will be as effective as your office, but small tweaks can amp up productivity. Grab some essential organizational items … even if it’s just a mug of writing utensils, a desktop calendar or planner, and a notepad.

If you have the space, connecting your laptop to a larger desktop monitor (with a real mouse and keyboard) is an effective — and pretty affordable — way to emulate your office space at home. All you need is the monitor and the cord that connects it to mirror your laptop’s screen. SB TIP: Your local electronics repair/reseller shops will likely have some of these monitors and would love the business.

A manly work from home set up

Even if space is tight, get creative! My boyfriend set up his space in his bedroom and took his monitor from his office. Image: Matthew Massey

But first, COFFEE! Stock up on some delicious beans from your favorite local coffee shop. Call around a see who’s selling beans, pick a few pounds up curbside, and fuel up for a day’s work while injecting some love back into a small business.

If you have a pack of people (and animals) in your household, be open about structure and expectations. Tell them what you need and when you’re next break will be to give them — and you — something to look forward to. Boundaries are especially necessary when we’re all on top of each other.

WHILE YOU’RE WORKING

Close your tabs! Without coworkers hanging around, and with this nagging urge to stay informed, it’s tempting to try to consume multiple things at once. Stay focused on one task at hand — the highest priority — then move on to the next one. Experts and studies show that multitasking lessens productivity by 40%. 40%! (SOURCE)

Download Zoom. You have likely heard about this service over the last week as people are giving out their ZOOM meeting numbers like we used to give out phone numbers, but it really is awesome. It’s a virtual meeting space where you can see and hear others, type notes, and get some face-to-face time with coworkers while out of the office. Instead of making your in-person meeting a call, make it a Zoom meeting. They’re offering a free trial and great resources on effective remote working.

Automatic time-tracking apps, such as RescueTime, can hold you accountable and help you figure out what times of day you’re most productive and when you slack off. Toggl is another good free time-tracking tool.

If noise doesn’t distract you, play your favorite lighthearted podcast (here are some of our current favorites) in the background to emulate the feeling of a bustling office. I have also recently become obsessed with the Atmospheric Piano playlist on Spotify.

ON YOUR BREAKS

Actually take them! It’s so easy to get into a groove, but pauses are important for the mind and body. Be sure to set your status to away, turn off notifications, and close out the inbox during your break.

Move around! Take a 20-minute walk through the neighborhood. If you need a distraction, throw on The Daily, The Journal or revisit a band you haven’t listening to in a while. Or walk and talk to your parents or an old friend.

Online or virtual workouts are everywhere these days. Check your local studios for virtual classes from your favorite instructors, or find an app you really like. Many are free right now (or have great free trials).

A Glo app user practicing yoga in her living room

All you need is a little bit of space to learn a new workout routine. The possibilities of virtual classes are endless. Image: Glo

RELATED: Fitness At Your Fingertips: 3 Apps That Will Change Your Life

Marie Kondo your living quarters bit by bit. Start small … drawers, pantry, fridge. Then move on to places like the bathroom and closet. While you’re working on your closet, make a donation pile and maybe pick a few nicer things to sell virtually on Poshmark or ThredUp. That’s a great way to make a little extra dough during this uneasy financial time.

Eat a few bites of ice cream straight from the container.

Read. That. Book. You. Bought.

AFTER SIGNING OFF

If your after-work hankering for wine is anything like mine, it’s good to stock up — and that’s another way you can support local. Another clever idea: If you’re getting takeout from your favorite neighborhood spot, you can add a bottle of wine to your order and all they have to do is uncork it to sell it to you.

Commute to the kitchen. Try some recipes with what you have in the pantry. Check out Caroline Chambers’s Quarantine Kitchen series on Instagram (so funny and adorable), Food 52’s pantry meals section and Laura Lea Balanced’s quick and easy recipes. Or, if you’d rather the ingredients come to you, now might be a good time to try a subscription meal service like Sun Basket, Home Chef, or Blue Apron. Emeals allows you to pick recipes and either get the ingredients from the grocery store OR you can send the list directly to a delivery service to bring you the ingredients.

Plan a virtual happy hour with your friends from all over. This trend is popping up — and popping bottles — across the country, and we’re into it. Hop on to a group FaceTime with your favorite beverage and apps in hand and say cheers from afar!

Need a live music fix? We’re seeing tons of virtual live-streamed concerts popping up every day from your favorite artists. Some are on network TV, others on individual streaming platforms and some are thrown up on Facebook and Instagram Live.

Couch tour phish

Dallas real estate agent Jonathan Rosen’s couch tour set up looking like the perfect spot to watch your favorite band. In his case, Phish. Image: Instagram

OTHER CREATIVE IDEAS FOR FREE TIME AT HOME

  • Give your face a makeup break and up your skincare regimen since it’s at your fingertips and you’ll be washing your hands so much, too.
  • Learn a new board game. You’ll be settling Catan in no time.
  • Get the beloved — and super effective — language teaching program, Duolingo, to prep for some serious travel when this is all over.
  • Unsubscribe to some of the emails you’ve likely seen clutter your inbox the past few days.
  • And on the flip side, choose a few local businesses you love — boutiques, restaurants, salons, etc. — and subscribe to their newsletters, give them a glowing review on Google or Yelp, follow them on social media, or write an encouraging comment.
  • Puzzles. 1000+-piece puzzles.
  • Ask yourself what subscriptions you can cancel. That’s a smart first step in saving money.
  • Make a “Happy List” every day — three things that make you happy. From tiny to huge. My three from today: Setting the coffee maker the night before, Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, catching up with a friend from afar.

RELATED: (Updated Daily) 5 Good Things That Just Happened

We’ve got this, y’all! Send your own WFH stories, ideas, tips and tricks to [email protected].

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