Social Distancing: A Work From Home Survival Guide

First and foremost: we’re all in this together. We know we’re not the only ones who feel worried during this uncertain time. Working from home while people are in isolation, quarantine, and social distancing can bring its own challenges. 

Both within our own offices and with our users, we’re aware of the mental toll the next few weeks may hold and want to share some of our best resources to get through it. PLANOLY was created to empower small business owners, and now more than ever, we need to support our online communities with compassion and empathy. 

Last week, our company responded to recent events by instituting a company-wide work from home policy. For most of us, it’ll be an adjustment but we have many teammates who already work-from-home. So we went to Slack to gather the advice of our remote team for a comprehensive survival guide to work while social distancing, create sustainable work and life boundaries, and take care of your mental health. 

How to Work from Home During Social Distancing 

Keep your regular hours. Creating a schedule and imagining that you’re at the office is crucial. Schedule time for work versus home and stick to it! Every hour, get up and walk around for 10 minutes. This is a good time to check up on the kids or have a virtual watercooler chat with a coworker.  

Create a dedicated workspace. Carve out space in your home for work that can’t be associated with home-life. Keep your workspace clean and approachable. If possible, avoid multi-purposing areas where you eat or sleep to keep physical boundaries between work. 

Get everyone in your house on the same page. If you have a partner, child, or roommate at home with you, let them know you’re “at work” and when you’re available. During your work from home hours, you won’t be able to check your child’s homework or take out the trash. Let them know that you’ll be more fully present to play or hang out after a certain time. 

Stay social while social distancing. Even if you’re working from home, visibility is still important. Turn your calls into video chat! For most, video chat can feel dreadful until you’re actually on the call so just do it. You’ll thank yourself later when you feel more elated and connected afterward. Whether it’s through email or your company chat, be involved with the team and individuals in the same way that you would as if you were there in person. Send memes to keep the water cooler convos going. 

Check-in with your team. Taking a page from the PLANOLY engineering team, host a daily standup to quickly go through everyone’s goals and challenges. Spending a few minutes to check-in, whether it’s through a call or chat, can provide everyone with the direction they need to stay focused. Here’s an example agenda:

  1. How are you feeling, really? 
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. What are some roadblocks or challenges you’re facing?
  4. What’s something that went well yesterday? 

Find your flow. In a normal workday, there are a few hours where you are in optimal focus called flow. If you’re having a hard time finding it at home, get into a flow with one of Spotify’s focus playlists. Sometimes, it helps to blast the same few songs on repeat to uncover your creativity. 

Oops! You’re distracted again. If you still feel distracted or are aimlessly scrolling on the ‘gram for too long, lean into it. Take a dance break with some Britney Spears – or whatever throwback jams bring you joy. Turn up your speakers or headphones and wiggle around without restraint – no one’s watching anyway. 

End your day with a to-do-later list. At the end of your day, take note of anything unfinished, your day’s thoughts, or what you plan on focusing on tomorrow. This list will provide closure to move away from work for the day and set you up for success the next day. 

Tips to Maintain Work-Life Boundaries During Social Distancing

Devise a small routine shift from work to home. Do something simple to let your mind and body know the day is over. Perhaps it’s closing your laptop and putting it away somewhere. Maybe you enjoy an iced beverage of your choice. Say to yourself: I did my best during the workday and now it’s time for rest. 

Don’t prioritize productivity. With social distancing shifting routines and a general background of anxiety, it’ll be harder to focus – and that’s okay. Instead of wondering, “Did I do enough today?,” ask yourself, “Am I learning and growing?” As we all know, people tend to share their highlight reels on social media. We can’t all expect to be like Shakespeare, writing his best works while in quarantine. While it may feel like everyone else is zooming through their reading list or reorganizing their entire home, the reality is that we are collectively coping with social distancing in different ways. 

Set realistic expectations. We tend to inflate how much time we have when working from home. You’re only human and can focus on so many things at a time. While it’s tempting to pile up the to-do list, keep your daily goals to your top three. 

Do nothing. Doing nothing is an important life skill. Getting away is essential to problem-solving and replenishing your creativity. Give your mind time to wander so your brain has a chance to reset. Take a break from the screens to read a book, stretch, or practice deep breathing. 

Tips to Prioritize Your Health

Be gentle with yourself. You’re a human being who needs rest, recovery, and re-runs to get through this time. Try the Oak meditation and breathing app, we love “Loving Kindness” meditation to combat anxiety during the day and the “Guided Breath” before sleep to ease into sleep. 

Write yourself a compassion letter. Write to yourself from the perspective of your empathetic and compassionate friend. What do they love about you? How would they respond to the challenges you’re facing? More often than not, we need the advice and positivity we give our friends. Give that to yourself this week. 

Do something with your hands. There’s a reason all your friends seem to be cooking or organizing their homes on your Stories. Cleaning, cooking, and sewing – 1950’s “housewife” chores – are now rebranded as the “new wellness” for a good reason. Doing something from start to finish with your hands can soothe worry and distract us from our devices. Mini tasks or chores can help us find a sense of control when we may feel like we have none. 

Keep it up. Keep washing your hands, sleep 7-9 hours regularly, stay hydrated, stretch, watch your favorite stand up, and eat nutritious foods. Self-care goes beyond a tasty snack or bath, it’s about listening to your mind and body. What does it need? Sometimes meditating may ease your racing mind while, other times, you’ll need 30 jumping jacks. 

Tips From the PLANOLY Team

Visibility is important, so be involved with the team and individuals in the same way that you would as if you were there in person.  – Gabe, Senior Front End Developer 

Be on the same page with spouses and kids for when you are working YOU ARE WORKING (e.g no taking out the trash requests, no homework checking, no solving toy fights, etc.) – Brandon, Senior Android Developer 

Set aside 15-20 minutes for lunch (don’t eat it at your work table!). I invested in a standing desk and try to work standing for an hour post-lunch. – Ashutosh, Quality Assurance     

Make it a point to get dressed – change into a different pair of sweatpants, loungewear, a tux – anything but pajamas! – Jasmine, Marketing Analyst 

Have a morning routine, rather than just jumping right in. Start your morning outside of your home – either with a walk around the block for some fresh air or take a yoga class on YouTube.  – Adriana, Product Marketing Lead

Looking Ahead

We know we’re privileged to work in a culture that priorities family and health above all. There are many who are marginalized and are really suffering – whether it’s due to closures, lost wages, or any other COVID-19- related concerns. If you find yourself in a position of privilege with the means to give, donate what you may normally spend on brunch

We’ve all found ourselves adjusting to cancellations, disrupted industries, and work-from-home policies as social distancing takes hold. During this trial, be productive but realistic. Connect with yourself and stay virtually connected with your coworkers and friends. Take simple steps to create boundaries between work and home and continue to prioritize your mental health – in whatever way that works for you. We hope you are keeping safe and healthy. 

Resources

PLANOLY was built to provide tools and resources to help creators and business owners better plan and save time. Here are our top resources to stay focused, positive, and protect your business. 

How to Prepare Your Business for the Coronavirus (Honeybook)

Chill Lofi Study Beats (Spotify Playlist)

Focus and Pomodoro Timer (Chrome Extension)

Coronavirus Starter Copy to Respond to Your Customers (Honeybook)

Guidance for Business Owners and Employers (CDC)

Visually Schedule, Auto-Post, and Analyze Your Instagram (PLANOLY) 

Day-to-Day Projects to Keep Kids Reading, Thinking, and Growing (Scholastic) 

35 Feel Good Shows to Watch on Netflix Right Now (Oprah)

For our full list of resources for parents, wellness, education, and crisis communication, head here.

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