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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Working from Home during the COVID-19 Outbreak

For many Americans who are still working, much of that work is now being done from home. But it isn’t just work. Americans are now in positions where they’re responsible for not only their jobs, but childcare, cohabitating full-time with significant others, family or friends, and there is anxiety and fear that comes with the unknown of what the next few weeks or months will look like. Here are some tips to make teleworking more manageable.

Woman teleworking with child

First, Are you Ready?

Tip # 1: Create a Productive "At-Home" Work Environment

  • Get started on-time or earlier.

  • Get dressed for work as you normally would if you were going into the office. Staying in your PJs might be comfortable, but it may hinder your motivation to work.

  • Pick a quiet place (if possible) in your home and designate it for work only.

  • Recreate your workspace with things or items that remind you of your regular workspace.

    • DO: Keep a clean, organized workspace with limited distractions and noise
    • DON'T: Although you may be tempted to complete household chores while working, you may find yourself distracted and less productive

Tip #2: Minimize Distractions

  • Limit Noise. Avoid having the TV on or loud music in your workspace. Additionally, try to keep your pets away from your workspace, when they see you at home, they may seek out your attention.

  • Share your schedule. Make family members aware of any conference calls that you may have, this helps to avoid interruptions or loud noises that may be heard over the phone. Consider placing a sticky note, or other sign, on your door when you are on a call.

Tip #3: Be creative in piecing together telework and childcare

  • Figure out the plan. As schools switch to online teaching, stay in contact with teachers and the school for guidance. If there are people in your life who can help with childcare, reach out now and figure out a plan.

  • Tailor your work schedule with the school schedule. If schools have planned online learning for a set number of hours, prioritize your work that requires more concentration during that time when your children are occupied.

  • Create a schedule. For two-parent households where both parents are expected to telework, figure out a strategy. This will likely change, but know who will be working when and what time intervals of working/childcare work best.

  • Reach out to other parents. This is a stressful time for everyone, especially parents who need to figure out childcare and teleworking. Other parents not only know what it’s like to be in this situation, but can also be a source of support. Consider starting a group chat between parents to share ideas and responsibilities.  One parent who needs to go shopping could pick up items for other parents to help share workloads and enhance social distancing.

Manage Relationships

Tip #4: Check in with each other!

  • Ask coworkers how they’re doing. While we are all together in this situation, each person and family is impacted uniquely. Check in with colleagues on a regular basis. Schedule daily or weekly check-in calls.

  • Use technology. If possible, figure out ways to incorporate some video chats into work. Simply seeing the face of the person you’re working with can provide a helpful break.

Tip #5: Relationship planning

  • Plan regular date nights. Make a set plan for “dates,” with your significant other, even if the date is all indoors.

  • Don’t spend every minute with each other. Anyone can get stir crazy and for couples it’s okay and normal to carve out time to be in separate areas of the home, engaged in your own valued activities.

  • Daily planning. Know who is doing what chores each day and keep your partner updated on your daily schedule.

Set your Schedule

Tip #5: Make a to-do list for each workday and remember to take breaks!

  • Make a to-do list for each day. This can help you to stay focused and to prioritize your tasks.

  • Be prepared. Make sure you have all of the necessary equipment, software, and documents/information that you need at home to carry out your work duties and responsibilities.

  • Take a Break. Take a step away from the computer screen now and then. Go for a walk, call a friend or watch an episode of that show you’ve been meaning to watch. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Managing Stress

Tip #6: Update your self-care!

  • What has worked for you in the past may not be enough now. Regularly check in with yourself and how you’re doing. Even if you think your self-care is fine, you might need to adjust it and that’s okay.

  •  Check in with family and friends. This can be helpful to you and the people you check in with.

  • Engage in physical activity. Aim to spend 30 minutes a day engaged in a moderately intense activity (e.g., a brisk walk). You can even split your activity time into three 10-minute blocks. Physical activity is a great way to manage stress and improve your health.

  • Manage your stressful thoughts. It is normal to have worries and stressful thoughts when faced with situations that are new, unclear, and feel out of your control.  Focusing on what you can control and even writing down your worried or stressful thoughts may help decrease the intensity and frequency of those thoughts, even if they don’t go away completely.

  • Have fun with new coping strategies! For many of us, we’re basically stuck indoors, and it can get redundant and honestly, boring. Be creative and explore new activities. Play boardgames online with friends. Download online books from your local library. Maybe take a stab at using the art supplies you got as a gift two years ago and haven’t had the time to play with. This is a new situation and we’re all going to need new strategies to keep us sane and productive while teleworking.

  • This page last reviewed: March 23, 2020