As governments and organizations scramble to find the best response to the novel COVID-19 (coronavirus), many of us are being asked to help curb the rate of infection by social distancing and working from home. For some, it’s a welcomed trial. For many others, it’s another obstacle in a generally bizarre time.

Before COVID-19, I was asked how I stay productive and focused as a full-time remote employee. That question has now evolved: How does one stay productive, focused, and sane?

Here are a few things that have helped me, and a few things that may be helpful through temporary work-from-home mandates.

Create a dedicated office space
Working from the sofa isn’t ideal for your back or motivation. If possible, pull together a dedicated office space in your home to minimize distractions and create a destination that triggers your mentality change when you “go” to work.

Don’t quit your morning routine
It’s tempting to hit the snooze, but completely removing yourself from your everyday routine will surely impact your productivity and time management through the day. Use the time you’d usually spend on your commute to plan for the day and make clear your personal expectations. If you’d typically head to the gym first thing, look up some home workouts to keep your physical activity consistent. Usually hit a coffee shop for a latte and breakfast sandwich? Look up recipes to make your own.

Being confined to your home might feel abnormal, and adapting your existing routine to a work-from-home life may encourage a sense of normalcy. And, it won’t be a shock to the system when you do return to the office.

Say good morning to your team and check-in through the day
Greet colleagues and teammates as you usually would, but over Skype, text, etc. Ask how people are doing, be there to listen, and be candid about your state of mind. Create a virtual water cooler and set aside time in meetings for small-talk.

If you’re now managing a team remotely for the first time, schedule spontaneous check-in calls to see how your team is doing and keep everyone engaged.

While we’re decreasing contact with everyone in our lives across the board, it can be easy to feel isolated. Keeping up the morning hellos and casual conversations through the day will help maintain your sense of community.

Establish new team expectations
How often should you check-in? How many times a day should you meet? How will you collaborate differently now that you’re working together virtually?

For example, since it’s no longer possible to rely on visual cues to jump into a conversation during a meeting with many participants, managers and colleagues alike should intentionally call on those who haven’t had a chance to speak to make sure their voice is heard.

Set these new expectations early on, consistently discuss what’s working and what’s not, and adjust as you go.

Be transparent, flexible and patient
Schools and daycares are closing, and many of our colleagues are juggling new work-from-home schedules while trying to care for their families. Managers in particular should be as transparent as possible to set the tone and help others feel more comfortable.

Communicate honestly and frequently about what you’re going through and ask your colleagues and teams to do the same. Approach everyone’s unique state of affairs with compassion and patience.

We’re in this together, and we can work together to make the best of an unprecedented situation.


While many of us have the luxury of a work-from-home option, many others do not and may suffer financially for an undetermined amount of time. If you have the resources, please find ways support small businesses and restaurants in your community from a distance. Check out: