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Dr. Annie Varvaryan, Psy.D.

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Working or Studying from Home? How to Stay Productive While Being at Home



With some of the recent health concerns occurring with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the capability to work remotely has been increasing in numbers. Even students of all ages are being asked to engage in their classes remotely, which has created a shift in the way most people are used to being productive, organizing their schedule and managing their time.


You may have already had a “system” in place for your daily schedule. Perhaps you woke up at the same time every morning, commuted to work or school, had a lunch hour at the same time everyday and hit the gym on your way home. But things have changed. Most people are not able to keep their consistent routines in place because working or studying from home comes with new scheduling challenges.


Depending on your perspective, this could either be a positive or negative thing. Some people are enjoying the ability to get more sleep due to a lack of commute, working or studying in the comfort of their home, as well as spending more time with their family members, friends or roommates. Others might have more difficulty compartmentalizing the difference between their work and home environment. No matter which category you fall in, you likely have to create a new system for the next couple of weeks or months that will look different than the routine you already had in place.


Whether you are someone who enjoys working from home or not, you might consider some of the following strategies that could help you stay focused and productive in the home.


Create a Workstation at Home: There is no question that the physical separation between work and home could be very helpful when trying to get work done. It allows people to maintain a different mindset about completing their jobs in their workspace, and coming home to their personal space. If you no longer have to commute to a physically different workspace, it is important to set up a workstation in your home. This does not need to cost too much money or any money at all. In fact, you can utilize the resources in your home to create a space that is a separation from your personal environment. When you create a separation, you force yourself to get up from your bed, sit down at a desk or table, and start to associate other areas of your home as a space to get work or studying done.


Adapt to your New Environment: The “system” that you may have been using before with your work or school schedule may no longer be the best strategy when working from home. You may need to change things around to create the best possible new way to improve your productivity and focus at home. For instance, if you are someone who tends to focus better in a quiet space, you may need to wear headphones or establish “quiet times” with your household. Alternatively, if you thrive in social contact with others and do your best work with ambient noise in the background, consider doing work in the common areas of your home. Perhaps you already had a system in place with grabbing some food at your actual workplace and now you have to figure out your meals everyday. Consider how you could prepare ahead of time by meal planning and having food ready in advance instead of trying to figure it out on the spot. Ask yourself, what are ways that I can adjust or adapt to my new environment and make the best out of the current situation?


Maintain a Structured Routine: While it may seem very tempting to sleep in, work from your bed and stream shows throughout the day, keeping a structured routine is one of the most important things to do at this time. Waking up and going to bed at the same times, eating regularly planned meals per day, and doing some physical movement are short-term changes that will have a long-term lasting impact. Giving yourself structure will allow for more time in your day to take breaks, give yourself personal time to watch shows or read a book, but also the opportunity to “pencil in” some time to focus on the goals that have been on the back burner. If you have goals to meditate more, work on your relationships, learn a new language or skill, then structuring in time for these activities will help you work toward accomplishing those goals.


Monitor your Time: You may be working or studying from home now, but that does not mean you have to work during every minute of free time. Not setting structure for yourself and engaging in poor time management skills could be detrimental to your productivity over time as this type behavior is not sustainable and leads to burn-out. Some people carry the mindset that just because they are working from home, that they must “overcompensate” by working longer hours and trying to be more productive. Keep in mind that the expectation of working from home does not change. Likely, you have already had a discussion with your boss or supervisor about the expectations of working from home. Try your best and stick to a work or study schedule that incorporates breaks and some time for personal goals, and remember that overworking does not necessarily lead to the best results.


Set Reminders: In the workplace or school environment, there are cues that indicate when it is time to take a break, have lunch, or re-engage in work. At home, some people experience one end of the spectrum where they have taken a break most of the time, whereas others might be overworking due to a lack of scheduling or reminder system in place. Having reminders that indicate it is time to get up and move, talk to a friend, or eat some food could be a natural way of setting those same reminders in your home setting.


Stay Connected with Coworkers: It is important to continue to engage with coworkers and peers even while working or studying from home. This allows for social distancing, but not social isolation especially when you have a problem, question, or need to bounce ideas off of a colleague. Most people are continuing to have virtual work meetings during this time, but taking the extra step to reach out and personally facetime, call or chat with a coworker online could help reduce feelings of social isolation and decrease feelings of being alone even if you may be the only person in your household at this time.


Spend Time with Family or Roommates: If you have the opportunity to be living with others in your home right now: It’s okay! You can spend some time with family and friends while you figure out your new routine. Chances are that you are spending more time with them than ever before, but it could be helpful to see this time as an opportunity to increase quality time and interactions with the most important people in your life. Having a balance of both focusing on your tasks while also interacting positively with others and creating new memories will bring a sense of connection with others.


Whether you are working from home, studying from home, or experiencing any type of change in your day-to-day routine during this worldwide health crisis, it is important to assess your current situation and develop a new strategy. Making small changes could make a significant impact in the long-run and help sustain long-term habits. Consider what small changes you can make to increase productivity, stay connected and establish behaviors that allow you to adapt to your new situation.


Due to recent changes with the coronavirus and for the safety of everyone, I am now offering online therapy to 100% of my clients. If you are interested in learning more about how to make changes in your schedule while working or studying from home in therapy, please feel free to click on the "Contact Me" section below.