How to stay sane while working remotely during the Coronavirus outbreak

From productivity advice to self-care reminders, there are different opinions on how to handle daily life during COVID-19. But whether you’ve always worked from home or are now facing the reality of juggling remote work with other responsibilities, there is no universal rulebook for dealing with this situation.

“This isn’t remote work in a traditional sense. It’s people working from home during a pandemic, a health crisis and global economic downturn,” says Jess Malz, organizational transformation consultant, learning experience designer and certified coach. “I think the number one thing right now is to prioritize mental, emotional and spiritual health.”

Malz had to quickly pivot her business to online offerings and is now helping her clients navigate the changes and challenges brought by the pandemic. She says that when it comes to remote work, adopting a trial-and-error approach is key. “People need to test and try things out and learn who they are and what they need and what works for them, and then communicate that with either their teams or employers.”

We’ve picked her brain on the best ways to stay sane while working remotely in these exceptional circumstances. Embrace the five principles below as you figure out how to work from home while creating new routines and finding balance.

Let go of perfection

“I’ve realized that I’m not going to have the perfect pandemic,” says Malz. While it may be tempting to tell yourself you are going to use this situation as an opportunity to get six-pack abs, write a novel and give your kids the best homeschooling experience, it’s important to remember that your energy and mental state may be affected by current events. So ride those waves of productivity, but also give yourself a break whenever the only thing you can muster is a Netflix marathon.

Create a short-term workspace

A lot of us set up our furniture and it just sits there. Malz says you shouldn’t hesitate to rearrange things in your home with your short-term needs in mind. From adding an oil diffuser next to your screen to creating a makeshift standing desk or setting up a temporary work station in a room where you can close the door to avoid distractions, play around with your space. “Try different things from week to week if needed,” says Malz.

Have phone meetings while walking

If you are still allowed to go walk outside in your area, take advantage of phone meetings that don’t require extensive note-taking to walk and talk. Fresh air and sunshine work wonders for your mental health, and moving around while changing your environment has an energizing effect that will help you stay focused.

Channel creative impulses

Have you been experiencing bursts of creative energy? If so, you’re not alone. A lot of people are using this time to explore how their skills and strengths can be of service right now, according to Malz. “If you have an idea, now is the time to try it,” she says. A lot of organizations are also more open to new initiatives during times of change, so you could be turning a nudge of inspiration into something super valuable by putting it into action without overthinking.

Prioritize human connection

“I think it’s really important to stay connected to your team right now and to check-in, even if it’s a quick stand-up or a weekly retrospective check-in,” says Malz. “What are people learning? Maybe they have tips and tools they can share with others in terms of handling the situation.”

We may be physically distanced, but human connection is more important than ever. Don’t just use video calls to talk shop. Find ways to have fun with your coworkers. Ask them how they’re doing. Share your own feelings honestly. Maintaining healthy connections will improve your sense of well-being.