Working from home without any separation between actual work and home is not easy for many of us.

Before March of this year, I had never really worked from home. Now it’s my every day life.

I just moved into a bigger apartment so that I could have a dedicated office space since this will be my new normal for the foreseeable future.

I share my home with a rambunctious and quite high-maintenance French bulldog puppy, which is not so easy all the time when she wants to play and I’m trying to work and host meetings. I know a lot of you are managing working from home while having kids who are at home and attending school remotely, which is incredibly challenging.

To a certain degree, everyone is in the same boat, but each of our situations is unique. Have compassion, understanding and empathy for others – your colleagues, friends and family and most importantly yourself.

Self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges, but along with them lies opportunities for new perspectives and positive habits.

I personally never thought I would like working from home – and although I miss seeing people every day and getting dressed for work, I know I’m more efficient at home due to less distractions and the absence of a commute.

Here are a few tips on how to leave your work at work when working from home. 

  1. Shower and get dressed for the day. I am not suggesting that you put on full work clothes like we used to wear BP (before pandemic). I personally have not worn real business attire since March 16 myself and my heels are wondering what happening to me (I’m not sure I even remember how to walk in heels to be honest). It’s important to be comfortable (Target leggings are my go-to) while always looking professional. I put on a bit of makeup and do my hair if I know I will be on a videoconference. It also gives me a pick me up and helps me feel more like myself.
  2. Visualize the day. Spend a little time early in the morning thinking about your day and planning it out. To the greatest extent possible, focus on important (not urgent) projects first and avoid distractions – research shows that most people are more alert and productive in the morning versus afternoon. Know that your day will likely get highjacked at least for a time because things pop up. Just go with the flow – the job market is tight and it’s nearly bonus time at most firms.
  3. Create a dedicated and inviting workspace. Your workspace doesn’t have to be its own room—in my apartment, it’s a corner—but it should feel as separate from the rest of your home as possible. Try to make your workspace as comfortable as you can with a chair you can sit in for eight hours a day (I got mine from Wayfair) and a few decorations and framed photos of the people you love. Find an area with good natural lighting too.
  4. Plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time, such as at the beginning of the week or workday. This prevents you from working to the point of hunger and then scrambling to decide what to eat. You should also avoid eating at your workstation.
  5. Take occasional breaks outside. Incorporate more exercise into your daily routine and make a point to get outside if you can. I have a dog so it’s easy for me to take her out for walks. If you don’t have a pet, get some fresh air at some point during the day.
  6. In addition to making sure your work gets done, take care of your physical and mental well-being during this stressful time. Try yoga or meditation. I got a Peloton bike. Maybe you like running – whatever it is just keep moving.
  7. Create a daily ritual to mark the end of professional time – I write a to-do list for the next day and tidy up my desk area. It feels great to start the next day with an organized workspace and when I write that list of to-do items, I’m reminded of exactly what needs to be done.
  8. Taking the to-do list one step further, write out either on paper or digitally – whatever you prefer – all the tasks you need to accomplish, ideally in order of importance.
  9. Finish one small but important task before you stop working for the day.
  10. Start your personal time after work on a positive note – for me, it’s walking my puppy and then making dinner – two things that make me incredibly happy.

Working from home during this time may not be what any of us planned but we can make the most of it.

Remember to be kind to yourself and your colleagues as we all continue to adjust to this new normal.

Have faith in your ability to adapt and find the sweet spot in your work-life balance.