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Tips for working from home during COVID-19

An illustration of a yellow letter u on a red background providing tips for working from home during COVID-19.

As the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, diff has decided to go remote, company-wide until further notice. Since March 11, all differs have been working from home (WFH). We hope that by keeping everyone working remotely, we can help to reduce community spread of the virus, and “flatten the curve.” 

For most of us, working from home every day will take some adjusting to because it means sorting out a new daily routine. And a new routine can take some trial and error: The strategies for focusing and keeping organized that work for one person may not work for another. 

We reached out to differs to see what strategies for working from home have been successful for them. Read on to learn how diff’s teams are separating work and home life, maintaining routine and productivity, keeping active, managing working from home with kids, and how they’re staying social while social distancing. Hopefully a few of these ideas and tactics will work for you!

How to separate work and home life

I feel like my “work/home life” is just one life unless I purposefully separate it. One way I do this is by making a time that I agree I’ll stop working – something like “At 5pm, I’ll go for a walk with my partner” or “at 4pm, I’m going to catch up on 90 Day Fiancé”. By setting specific work hours I can know how much time I’m devoting to work that day, and I won’t be as tempted to waste time because “I can always work later.” 

  • Bashu, Intermediate Front-End Developer

The most important thing is balancing out your work/home life. Taking my breaks, my lunch, and setting start and end times so I can properly disconnect and step away from the computer. I also have found an appreciation for the app Focus Keeper.

  • Randy, Senior Project Manager 

Make yourself a space that is dedicated to work. Even if it’s a small space. Working while sitting on your bed might seem like a comfortable choice, but after a day or so you are likely to grow tired of it. Having a dedicated space in your home also sends the message to your brain that you are in a work setting and that you can stick to your schedule. 

  • MP, Talent Attraction Specialist

MP dedicated work space

MP’s dedicated work space shared with her partner

How to build a routine and maintain productivity

Get dressed, even if it’s just loungewear. Change out of those PJs! This helps so much! I also try to get fresh air every day, and always step away from the computer for my lunch. 

  • Anne-Marie, System Integrations Project Manager

Sticking to the routine of getting up ,showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast then working is essential for me to feel good throughout the day. That and also having a good chair!

  • Andy, Senior Ecommerce Business Analyst

During work, get up away from the screen every hour and do something, whether it’s dishes or reading, it’s best to have a real brain-break from work. I’ve also been scheduling my days on Google Calendar, which I’ve found is super helpful for keeping my days structured. 

  • Mikayla, UX Designer

mikayla desk space

Mikayla takes a break from the screen every hour

Having a good communication dynamic with my team is crucial. A message like “Hi!” or “Can I ask you a question?” distract me from my work. I prefer for my colleagues to be direct with asking me what they need. This way I can pick up our conversation and respond as soon as possible, even if we are working on different schedules.  

  • Eric Chan, Front-End Tech Lead

How to keep active and healthy

At around 5, I stop working and do a home workout everyday. If I have anything else to do for work, I’ll continue after I’ve worked out and showered. I’ve created a pinterest board with home workouts in it. You may need something that resembles a weight (like a water jug, small tool box, etc.) or workout bands for some, but I tried to put a couple in here initially that are just bodyweight and HIIT! I typically tackle one muscle group a day.

  • Mikayla, UX Designer

The most important tip I have for everyone is to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water does only good things for you: helps with focus, mood, tiredness, and overall health. 

  • KC Wan, Front-End Developer

Exercise is key to good health. My girlfriend and I try to escape the condo everyday for walks. I also have a bike trainer which allows me to go on virtual bike rides which has been awesome! 

  • Andy, Senior Ecommerce Business Analyst

andy bike

Andy taking a virtual bike ride at home

How to manage working from home with kids

I find that using a pomodoro timer to manage your time and take breaks is super helpful. It’s so insanely hard to be disciplined with a young child at home, but the pomodoro timer helps a ton!

  • Ben, UX Designer 

ben working with child

Ben working from home with his toddler

During the day I let my kids play some traditional games at home (like Monopoly) and give them puzzles to solve, which helps keep them busy. I’ve also been using the time at home to teach my older children. I’ve been showing my two eldest kids how to do data entry for my tax clients. They are happy to help me!

  • Munawar, Financial Controller

My wife and I created an activity book for our 6 and 8 year-old daughters. It includes 80 pages of colouring activities, crossword puzzles, mazes and more. I also crafted a daily schedule for my kids to ensure they keep busy. We change it everyday according to their feedback so it works for them and it works for us. Activities include crafts, Just Dance, outside activities (2-3 times a day), reading, movie afternoons, cooking with my wife, and working on their activity book. 

  • Jerome, System Integrations Project Manager

activity book

A maze from the activity book Jerome and his wife created

I found a free astronomy class that helps because my daughter really loves science. It happens everyday at 10:00am. My daughter did the first one and she loved it! Her teacher also sent some homework to the students in her class to help keep them busy.

  • Patricia, QA Lead 

If you have kids below 2 years old, it is nearly impossible to work when they are awake, as they require too much attention.Therefore, if your beloved one is also staying home with you, plan your day ahead to organize shifts between the two of you (mandatory meetings have a strong focus period that is needed).

  • François-Xavier Degroot, System Integrations Lead

Francois Xavier child and toddler

François-Xavier’s dog and daughter at play 

Tips for staying social while social distancing

Schedule lots of calls, both video and audio. Call family, friends, and stay in touch with colleagues over video calls. Since social distancing, video calling colleagues on a daily basis has been a great way to keep us all feeling connected and happy.

  • Nikita, SI Project Manager

Journaling can help put words on the anxiety that you feel and since not everyone is comfortable reaching out and talking about it, journaling gives you the time and space to reflect on what you are feeling and going through. It also gives you perspective on the situation by giving your brain permission to let go of certain thoughts because they are now put in writing and processed.

  • MP, Talent Attraction Specialist

I’m so thankful for internet connections right now, because that’s how I’m keeping from feeling lonely. I’ve been using social media to check in with friends regularly. Just be sure to also limit your time on social because it can also be overwhelming.

My friends and I created a big Facebook Messenger group chat and agreed that when we feel lonely, we can call each other at any time of day. Because there’s so many of us in the chat, it’s been pretty much guaranteed that when you call, someone will pick up! It’s been a lot of fun, and also very supportive.

  • Erin, Marketing Coordinator

    Work from home resources during COVID-19

    Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of resources available to help work-from-homers stay focused and productive, and to keep the kids entertained. We asked differs to tell us what online tools have been helpful for them. Here’s our master-list of work from home resources for focusing, exercise, learning, and entertainment: 

    Resources for help with work & focus

    Resources for exercise

    Resources for learning

    Resources for entertainment 

    Stay safe and healthy

    At a time when ecommerce is in higher demand than ever before, our incredible team is continuing to run at full capacity. We are thankful to our wonderful community that is actively supporting each other during the evolving situation of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Although new developments are unfolding everyday, what remains consistent is that we are all in this together. 

    If you have any questions about ecommerce at this time, you can reach out to us. We’ll be back in touch with you as quickly as possible!

    This article originally appeared in the Diff Agency blog and has been published here with permission.

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