Expert-approved tips for getting the most out of the beginning of the day while working remotely.

By Rachel Sanoff
March 31, 2020
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Credit: Manop Phimsit / EyeEm / Getty Images

As the number of COVID-19 infections increase worldwide, many employees find themselves working from home to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But being productive during a public health crisis isn't easier just because you're working remotely. "Right now our days are somehow feeling both exactly the same and entirely chaotic all at once," says licensed therapist Janie McGlasson. "This is confusing and can [make] you feel unable to function."

Sticking to a morning routine helps create the boundaries necessary for good work-life balance for any remote employee, and establishing structure is especially important in uncertain times. But how can you find and implement a morning routine that works for you while working from home? First, don't pressure yourself to thrive during a pandemic—take your time figuring out a new normal. Clinical psychologist Mariana Plata says, "A routine is important, but more important than that is flexibility. We're all in a process of adaptation and doing the best we can."

Begin the Night Before

Getting rest each night is a vital part of protecting your health and immune system. Beyond that, "good sleep hygiene," as therapist Farah Harris, LCPC, calls it, is crucial for maintaining normalcy and feeling well enough to start your day. So, before anything else, focus on getting enough sleep. When you're winding down each evening, Harris recommends "turning off devices, [practicing] meditation, and stretching."

Consistency Is Key

"A healthy work from home day starts with a consistent wake up time," says Sabrina Garba, founder and CEO of Glass Ladder Group. This can help break up daunting feelings of days blending together, and Garba suggests keeping the same wakeup time you had when you were commuting to the office. "Use that commute time to actually cook breakfast, watch the news, or listen to your favorite podcast," says Brittney Oliver of networking platform Lemons 2 Lemonade. Garba recommends replacing it with a solo walk around your neighborhood while listening to music.

Waking up to a regularly scheduled alarm is only part of the process, though. You have to actually get out of bed to partake in any of the above activities—and it's completely understandable if that feels difficult. "So many of us struggle to get out of bed without a crisis happening," says Garba. "Now that we are experiencing this major shift, it's on a whole different level." One way to ensure you get out of bed is to not immediately roll over and check your phone when you wake up. If you can do so safely, consider leaving your cell phone and laptop somewhere in your bedroom that will require you to get out of bed to grab them in the morning.

While maintaining your pre-work from home wakeup time might work for some, it may not for you. A benefit of working remotely is added flexibility in your schedule, so if you're struggling to function at home, Harris says you may just need to start your day later: "Not everyone is an early bird. If you're more productive later in the day, give yourself some wiggle room."

Creative Routines

As career coach Brittany Cole explains, committing just 15 minutes of your morning to a task unrelated to email, social media, or anxiety-inducing COVID-19 news updates can improve your day. McGlasson and management coach Kishshana Palmer both recommend picking any joyful activity to help you get out of bed. Palmer suggests dancing to your favorite song or watching your favorite show before crossing things off of your to-do list. She recommends playing with your pet, making coffee, exercising, or calling a friend. Meanwhile Harris suggests having an accountability buddy if starting work proves challenging: "A friend or a family member [can] give you a courtesy wake-up call until you can get into the swing of things."

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