Tips for working from home during a pandemic

Okay, so we’re about 7+ months deep into this pandemic. Maybe you were already a working from home pro before it started. Or perhaps, like most, working from home flipped your whole world upside down. Now, months later, it seems people are still adjusting to this new reality. And with an impending second wave, it looks like we will have to buckle up for this ride for a lot longer.

As someone who has done this for the last 3 years, I feel confident in being able to share these tips on how to successfully work from home with you. Full disclosure: I am not a mom and don’t have the added pressure of having littles running around (other than my dog). That being said, I know many who are in this position and I am definitely attuned to these realities. The tips I’m about to share were just as relevant for me working from home during year 1, as they were during years 2 and 3, and I’m sure they’ll help you too.

1. Create a Consistent Routine and Keep Regular Work Hours

With a finite amount of time in a day and a seemingly infinite number of things to do, there simply is no way to keep yourself on track without a routine. When I first quit my job as a lawyer and started working for myself (you can read about why I quit my job here), all of a sudden, I had extra time that I didn’t know what to do with. It wasn’t until I started modeling my days at home after my days at the office (minus the corporate BS, of course!) that I started to become productive. This was the key to my success at working from home.

Fast forward to the start of the pandemic and that experience resurfaced. The uncertainty of the situation and having my husband home for the first time threw me off my routine. I was going to bed and waking up later, eating at irregular times. It took a lot of willpower and motivation to overcome the desire to slack off. But, once I got back into my routine, it was a lot easier.

My advice? Go to bed at a reasonable hour, set your alarm, and don’t hit the snooze button. ‘Show up’ to work every day, like you would at your regular office. If it helps, dress the part.

Tips for working from home during a pandemic

2. Set Yourself Up for Success

All dressed up to go to the couch? Nope! You actually need to set yourself up for success and this requires a dedicated work space. Create a home ‘office’ (preferably a quiet one) complete with all your office equipment. If you live in a small space, you might have to get creative.

What else will you need to set up your home office? Technology obviously plays a huge part.

Best Buy Canada is my go-to for all things tech, and as you may know if you’ve read some of my previous tech-related posts, I’ve been a long-time user of Microsoft products. I’ve shared several times in the past how Microsoft products have improved my workflow. I’ve had my Surface laptop for close to 3 years and the most recent addition to my tech arsenal was my Microsoft Surface Pro 7 which I got at Best Buy and still love.

Tips for working from home during a pandemic

I rely on Microsoft 365 every day in order to get my work done. Microsoft 365 is the subscription-based service that replaced the installed version of Microsoft Office software. It ensures you always have the most up-to-date productivity tools from Microsoft. It has all of the Office apps that I use regularly, like Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel, plus a lot more, including OneDrive cloud storage, Family Safety (with apps for Android and iOS), and Microsoft Teams for families and businesses. You can also protect sensitive information by securing file storage on One Drive Personal Vault.

But did you know that Microsoft 365 along with its whole suite of products doesn’t automatically come with your PC? Many weren’t aware that you need a subscription – which is pretty affordable. Depending on your needs, there are many plans to choose from.

The benefits in moving to this cloud-based version of Microsoft Office are:

  • Your software will always be up to date
  • Your files will always be backed up
  • You can access all of your files from any device, even your mobile
  • You can share with family members
  • You can work remotely more easily

The OneDrive cloud storage, alone, is worth getting the Microsoft 365 subscription for, as I am notorious for using up hard drive space quickly!

Best Buy often has special offers on their website, so I recommend checking there first for a subscription to Microsoft 365.

Tips for working from home during a pandemic

3. Schedule Appointments (Even If They’re with Yourself)

If it ain’t in my calendar, it doesn’t exist to me. Every single appointment must be recorded in my calendar along with a 15 or 30-minute reminder. From conference calls and Microsoft Teams meetings to vet appointments for Douglas, and everything in between, I am beholden to my calendar.

But not all calendars are created equal! Do you know that one of the first things I did when I started working from home was ask my husband to help set up Microsoft Outlook (also available as part of Microsoft 365 subscriptions) on my laptop? Not only do I find the Microsoft Outlook calendar much more user-friendly, easier to read and organize, and more intuitive than any other mobile device or online calendar, but the same could be said for emails too! I personally haaaaate using the web version of any other email and have all my emails directed into my Outlook inbox.

One major takeaway about managing your calendar: it doesn’t always have to be full! With these challenging times, make sure to leave lots of open slots in your calendar for self-care and/or make a habit of scheduling appointments with just yourself 😊.

4. Be Realistic About What You Can Do

One of the realities of working from home is thinking you have much more time than you actually do. You’d be surprised at how quickly the day flies by – especially when you have other obligations, like children to look after, meals to prepare, cleaning etc. Especially during this time, you must first accept that you cannot, and actually should not, do it all. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If your focus suddenly has to be on one aspect of your job or household responsibilities and this means that another area slips, then so be it. Give yourself grace and be kind to yourself.

5. Ask for Help

To the extent that you can, use whatever resources you have available to you. I recently hired an assistant, who has been quite helpful with many aspects of my business. I’m also learning every day how to better delegate and outsource to alleviate my own burden. Having Alex home for the first 3 months of the pandemic was awesome to help create content at home. It took us a couple weeks to get adjusted. But once we learned how to effectively communicate our needs to the other person and respect each others’ time, it worked out really well. As my “CTO” (Chief Technical Officer), having my husband home was also nice for troubleshooting any tech-related issues. Now that he’s back at his office, if I have any questions pertaining to my Microsoft subscription or tech that I’ve purchased at Best Buy, I give their Geek Squad a call!

Tips for working from home during a pandemic

6. Reward Yourself & Take Breaks Often

With the added pressure of a global health crisis and a new reality at home, I can’t stress enough how important it is to take regular breaks and reward yourself. You do not need to be engaged every hour of the day. The best kind of productivity is when you can show up for yourself, your family and your other relationships just as well as you can show up for work. Virtual hangouts were such a nice break for me during the first few months of the pandemic. If all else fails, set aside some quiet time, cozy up with a good book, and call it a day!

Tips for working from home during a pandemic

7. Get Out of Your Home

It’s also critical to get outside of your home for mental and physical health. I can personally attest to the change in lifestyle during this pandemic leading to negative health consequences (more on that in another post). Even if it’s a short walk around the block to get some fresh air, try to make getting up and outside a part of your daily routine.

Tips for working from home during a pandemic

Just remember: you’re doing the best that you can and we’re all in this together!

Do you have any other working from home tips to share? If so, leave them in the comments below.


Photography: Laura Clarke

*This post was done in partnership with Best Buy Canada. But as always, all opinions and thoughts are 100% my own.