Money·8 min read

Tips for Working From Home Effectively

Working from home
March 13, 2020

Editor's note: this article was updated on Mar. 19, 2020.

The Story

COVID-19 is changing the way we work and live. Deep. Breaths.

Tell me more.

Some major American companies (think: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon) are saying ‘yes’ to remote work for most of their employees. According to a Gallup survey, about 43% of US workers already work remote some or all of the time. That number’s changing this week so the virus doesn't spread. 

Ok. I'm WFH. How do I stay productive?

Whether you’re new or old to the WFH life, here are some tips:

  • Continue your routine. That means: getting dressed, washing your face, and waking up at your normal work time. If you don’t normally fold ten loads of laundry when you wake up, now’s not the time to start.

  • Pick a spot. Make it your dedicated ‘office’. Keep in mind what kind of calls you might be making and what type of work you’ll be doing. Remember that viral BBC interview? Here are some things to think about when deciding where to sit for the next eight hours:

    • Close the door. If you can, close the door. It signals to your kids, roommates, or whoever, that you’re busy and working. It also helps create a divide between your ‘work’ life and your ‘home’ life even if they’re physically the same place. 

      • PS: Have kids at home? Enter: this resource of at-home learning activities to the rescue.

    • Think about light. Don't sit with the window behind you while video chatting (hello, backlighting). But if you’re a person that thrives off of natural light, plant yourself (yep, along with your plants) as close to the window as possible. 

  • Protect your electronics. If you have one or can order one, use a surge protector. You likely have a lot of electronics (monitors, phones, lamps) you might be needing to plug in. Surge protectors will keep your electronics safe from sudden spikes in your home’s electric system. 

  • Eat like you would at your office. Don’t dive into the microwave popcorn and all your secret chocolate just because you can. Sugar highs and endless snacking will lead to big lows. What you eat will impact your mood and energy levels.

Got it. Act natural. How do I stay mentally healthy?

Staying locked in during a global pandemic does not translate into zen feelings. Here are some options to help you put your best mind forward:

  • Set office hours. Work the same hours you would at an IRL office. Though sleeping in might feel nice, working until midnight because you got those extra zzzzs might not. This will also stop you from working long past a normal work day. 

    • Pro tip: give yourself an evening routine. Make sure you’re clear about ‘logging’ off. Whether that means booking a virtual workout class (think: Daily Yoga or YouTube), shutting your computer, or cooking dinner, make a hard shift mentally after you’ve ‘logged off.’

  • Hygiene. As fun as it is to get out of bed and start working right away, don’t forget to shower. Because before you know it, it’s been a few too many days and you’ve gone from bed to your desk, back to bed again. 

  • Schedule breaks. It’s important to build breaks into your WFH schedule. Especially when you normally take them in your IRL office. 

  • Move. It might be easy to get used to not having a commute. Then all of a sudden it's 8pm and you haven’t walked more than 50 ft around your apartment. Remember to get some exercise in. Because endorphins make you happy. Need help finding a workout you can do at home? Here's a good starter.

  • Socialize. Working alone can be hard. Especially if you’re used to having a lot of people around. Make sure you’re in your co's messaging channels (like Slack) and are talking with your co-workers regularly. This will help prevent feelings of loneliness or disconnect. 

  • Take sick time. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should work if you’re sick. If you’re not well, take the time off (if your company allows it.) Your work will thank you for it. 

But I have kids. Send help.

May we suggest “Frozen 2” on repeat. At least 92,000 schools have closed across the country. The closings have affected more than 40 million students. Now, many parents are left to figure out how to work from home while also becoming teachers simultaneously. No big deal. Here are some tips for staying sane...

  • Breathe. You might not have it all together and that’s ok. It’s going to take some time. So cut yourself some slack. 

  • Inform. Let your kids know what’s going on. Talk to them about the changes so they know what they can expect. It’ll help everyone in your house come to terms with their new normal. Here are some ways you can talk to your kids about the outbreak. 

  • Scheduling. If you can, build a schedule for yourself and your kids. Try and group similar activities in both of your schedules together. Ex: you both have to eat lunch. Maybe you need silent time (you for your work, your kids for reading). See if you can schedule similar activities together. It’ll help streamline your work but also let you spend time together. 

    • Blocks. If your kids are young enough to be taking naps, try and make nap times a devoted work block for yourself. If your kids are getting ‘recess’ time outside for an hour, maybe try and schedule your conference call then. 

    • Split duties (if you can). The ultimate blessing. If you’re able, try and schedule hours where you’re on kids duty, and hours where you’re on work duty. 

  • Vocalize. Let your co-workers and managers know what your home situation looks like. Whether that means working different hours, or adjusting a deadline, over communicating will help bridge the gap.

How do I make sure my boss and I are on the same page?

Since you can’t pop over to someone’s desk or chat with them face to face, you have to find a way to make up for that lost 1:1 time. Make sure you’re aligned with your team, about how and when you’ll communicate. When in doubt communicate and do it again. Here are some of our favorite tips… 

  • Video chat when you can. It creates the feeling of being in the office and gives you that valuable, yep, face time. 

  • Punctuation is key. Remember that tone doesn’t always come across in email. Let this be your friendly reminder to be extra positive. Otherwise...your co-workers might start to think you hate them. K?

  • Hone in on your deliverables. Be clear with your manager about expectations. It might feel easy to WFH and not get that much done. Having a clear outline of what deliverables are expected from you will help you make sure you’re being productive and being evaluated fairly.

  • Boundaries. Remind your family or friends that just because you’re not working in your office doesn’t mean you're not working. You’re not avail to FaceTime just because you’re home in sweats. Make it a priority to let everyone in your life know what your WFH life looks like.  

Check and check. What about people who can’t work from home? 

Working from home is a privilege. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29% of US workers say they have the option to do their jobs from home. Those who can’t are usually people working in service industries, delivery, food and retail, emergency services, etc. 

What about people who can’t go to work because they’re sick?

Federal law only requires employers to pay hourly workers for the time they work. That means most of them aren’t getting PTO or paid sick days. But in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, some major companies have made updates to their policies to lessen the hardship the outbreak is having on hourly workers. In response, President Trump signed a $100 billion package that provides free coronavirus testing as well as two-week paid leave (up to $511 a day) for certain Americans. Specifically, those who've tested positive or are being tested – as well as people ordered to stay home because of exposure or symptoms. 

This is all great, but my office is still open. Any tips if I'm still heading to work this week?

We got you. For those that aren’t able to WFH, here’s your best strategy at staying safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Social distancing. Try to stay six feet from other people. 

  • Wash your hands. For at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget between your fingers.

  • Don’t touch your face. That includes rubbing your eyes. If you’re a person whose eyes get irritated from contacts, maybe think about wearing your glasses. Just so you’re not tempted. 

  • Avoid handshakes. It’s an easy way to keep your hands clean. 

  • Sanitize. Between washes or whenever else you feel like it. 


The COVID-19 virus is affecting our everyday lives. And its impact is changing daily. There are a lot of unknowns. But one thing we do know: limiting close human interaction is the best way to stop it from spreading. So stay up to date with the latest news, and stay in communication with your office, and yourself, so you can stay healthy. 

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