How to keep yourself happy and productive if you're working from home because of the coronavirus outbreak

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By Marguerite Ward, Sharon Feiereisen, Business Insider


Woman working from home

  • New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, and Oregon have declared states of emergency in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, in addition to the city of San Francisco.
  • As the outbreak grows, more employees are likely to work from home, either voluntarily or by company or government mandate.
  • Here are top tips from people who work remotely for keeping yourself grounded, including getting dressed for work each day, and managing clients' expectations.

At least eight US states - including New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, and Oregon - have declared states of emergency amid the growing coronavirus outbreak, in addition to the city of San Francisco.

As governments and companies brace for possible local outbreaks, more employees are likely to choose to work from home.

While remote work has obvious benefits, it's not all fun and games. In reality, working remotely requires discipline and can come with its share of loneliness. Remote workers are more likely than their in-office counterparts to report feeling overly stressed at work, and to struggle with maintaining a healthy work-life balance, according to a  2019 Airtasker survey of more than 1,000 professionals.

We spoke with several professionals who work remotely to get their firsthand insight on how they manage to stay afloat in their work setups. Here are their best tips to keeping yourself relaxed and engaged if you work remotely.


Have a dedicated work space.

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"Running a real-estate brokerage in Miami, there are certainly a lot of distractions that can take you away from work," Mikael Hamaoui, president at Riviera Horizons Realty, told Business Insider.

"I have a dedicated area in my home that is for work only. It's critical to separate work from personal, or it's too easy to find yourself on the couch watching TV. It's imperative that anyone working from home create a dedicated work space that is free of distractions so you can stay in work mode even when you're at home - and try not to go to your home office outside of working hours and vice versa to really keep that separation."


Start your morning by grounding yourself.

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"It's important to have a morning ritual that helps you gain focus and clarity about your goals for that day," Serena Poon, a chef and nutritionist, told Business Insider. "I start mine with meditation, my gratitude list, and affirmative thoughts before I get out of bed."


Have a schedule.

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"The thing that keeps me sane while working remotely is having a set schedule," Kara Luton, an engineer at CrowdStrike, told Business Insider. "I wake up at the same time every day, jump in the shower, and get ready just like I would if I was going to an office."


Enjoy your surroundings.

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"I make sure to maintain a great work-life balance while on the road, in the air, or abroad," Kiara Horwitz, CEO and founder of the PR company KHPR Inc., told Business Insider.

"When I work remotely I continue to take time to breathe, relax, enjoy my surroundings, and take personal breaks when needed. No one is dying (thankfully) in my industry, and if I need an hour to clear my head, I do so."


Manage clients' expectations.

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"I set parameters around my work-life balance before I bring a client on board," Horwitz said. "If I'm working remotely and there is a change in time zone, I always alert my clients that I'm traveling and make sure they know when I'm able to answer emails, texts, or calls. This helps to manage expectations."


Get dressed as if you're going to a meeting.

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"I know how much fun it is to hang out in athleisure or pajamas all day because I did it for years, but when I started getting dressed, a strange thing happened," Lindsay Anvik, keynote speaker and business coach told Business Insider. "Because I was prepared to have a last-minute meeting, coffee, or video chat, my business saw the benefits."

She added: "Before, I would turn down last-minute lunches or meetings because I literally wasn't dressed, and by 2 o'clock it's hard to find the motivation to change for one thing. Don't get me wrong, I still wear slippers around the house, and will sometimes throw on a college sweatshirt instead of a button-down blouse, but if I need to, I can be out the door in five minutes. Hair is blown dry and makeup is done. I feel put together because I am together."


Work in another place at least once a week.

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"Go to a coffee shop, a library, a restaurant, or a friend's office and work there," Anvik said. "This not only leads to the chance of meeting someone and networking but it gives you some inspiration. It provides something new to look at and new environments help breed creativity."


Develop a workout routine.

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"Unless my body is begging me not to, I go to the gym every morning before I begin work," Daniel Berkowitz, founder of AuthorPop, a digital consultancy for authors, told Business Insider. "It's a great way to get some natural energy and it gives me a sense of accomplishment before I dig into my to-do list."

Not a morning person? Others, like Sarah Segal, founder of Segal Communications, find that having something active scheduled for the end of the day helps too:

"Sometimes that means a dog walk and other times it means taking a ballroom dancing class at the end of a long day."


Do chores to break up your day.

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"When you've worked for an hour or so, empty the dishwasher or take out the trash. It's the equivalent of going to your coworker's office," Anvik said.

Berkowitz said he likes doing this because even if he's not leaving his apartment, accomplishing a task, even if it's a relatively small one, allows him to feel a sense of accomplishment and refocuses his brain.


Call people and make time to socialize.

© Francis Kokoroko/Reuters

"I know a lot of people hate talking on the phone, but guess what? You work in your home. You may not get a ton of interaction," Anvik said. "Socializing is important to connect with clients, preventing feelings of isolation and having someone to talk to besides your dog."


Set alarms to move.

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"I set alarms for 10 to 15 minute breaks to move, to stretch, to get fresh air, and disconnect from tech devices," Poon said. "When you're focused and in the flow of working, it's easy to let hours pass by before moving from your laptop. Reminders to take breaks to connect with yourself are just as important as reminders for important calls or tasks."

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