Working From Home Isn’t Always Great.

As we practice social distancing to protect our communities from the spread of COVID-19, many of us find ourselves suddenly working from home. During these times, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a privilege to being able to work and earn money at home—but it doesn’t mean that working from home is easy. It requires a level of self-care and discipline that we’re not used to, and if you’re used to working on a team? It can get lonely.

I worked from home for over two years and heard every version of the phrase “you’re so lucky” imaginable. I was told how fortunate I was to be able to work in my pajamas, and how lucky I was to be able to create my own schedule. In reality, though, to call the actual situation bleak would be an understatement.

What started out as basking in the luxury and freedom of working whenever and however I wanted to, soon became waking up and pulling on the same dress as I had worn the day before (and the day before that, too). Showers evaded me, new friendships evaded me, and ultimately, leaving the apartment became a thing of the past. I had even moved to a new city during that time, so the loneliness was real.

I let [my work] define my worth as a person—I started to see myself as the amount of dollars I pulled in each day instead of a fully dimensional, albeit struggling, human being.

I became so tied to my work that I let it define my worth as a person—I started to see myself as the amount of dollars I pulled in each day instead of a fully dimensional, albeit struggling, human being. Because of this self-worth issue, it took more time and energy than usual for me to finally get out and join a yoga studio—but that was the first step in realizing that I needed more than just podcasts and work all day. Once I began to rejoin the world through a regular out-of-the-house habit, I found more energy to start applying for jobs and, eventually, landed a job that took me out of the house (hello, The Good Trade!)

While I never changed it all around to become a completely healthy work-from-home woman, those two years gave me a lot of empathy, kindness, and patience for others who may be struggling with depression, loneliness, and self-worth issues. It can be a real problem for telecommuters—from feeling left out to all of the serious mental health issues that can come with social isolation.

Now that I’m further removed from the mire, I can see what did (and what could have!) helped me feel more vibrant, energized and productive. If you’re struggling with balance while working from home, here are my best been-there, done-that tips!

Make Your Workday Work For You

One of the most important aspects of working from home is establishing boundaries and creating work rules for yourself. An at-home workday can spiral into an all-day workday if you aren’t setting proper goals for yourself.

An at-home workday can spiral into an all-day workday if you aren’t setting proper goals for yourself.

Start by getting clear on what a productive day looks like—so that you can tell when it’s time to clock out for the day, and so that you aren’t staring at your laptop at 9PM wondering if you should squeeze in one more hour of work. If you’re working closely with a boss or colleagues, loop them in and share your expectations with one another.

Once you have a clear understanding of your own expectations, begin each day by taking time to schedule everything you need to do that day and evaluate where you’re at on your goals for the week. Again, this helps to set the bar for the day and gives you things to cross off a list so that you can end the day with a positive feeling of productivity.

Since communication is essential if you’re a part of a team working remotely, it’s a good idea to set up a Slack channel for instant communication as needed. Otherwise, be careful not to waste your day away in responding to emails by closing out your email application and only checking it once you’ve completed more important tasks throughout the day.

Every month, take time to re-evaluate your schedule and see if you’re spending your most energetic times wisely. Consistency is key! Even though some of us may balk at the idea of a routine, it really does help to get into a rhythm—especially when you’re working in a creative field.

Check Your Personal Habits

Healthy work-from-home habits are the same as any healthy habits. Take care of yourself like you would a small child, a puppy, or a plant. If you’re struggling with depression, here are a few tips to help you nurture yourself on difficult days.

  • Get dressed. Unless you genuinely feel your best in your pajamas, get dressed in a new, clean outfit each morning. Do your hair and makeup if you want. Just show up for yourself like you would for anyone else.

  • Go on a walk. I tend to put a little more effort into getting ready if I know that the rest of the world will see me—so, after you get ready, go for a walk around the block. It’ll wake you up, give you a few minutes of sunshine, and improve your mood before you sign on for the day.

  • Take regular breaks. Set an alarm every hour for a stretch break, a coffee or water break, or for another one of those around-the-block strolls. Even if it means your work day lasts an extra 30 minutes, your body will thank you.

  • Reach out. Say hello to a friend or family member once a day. Even if it’s just a quick text, try to connect with another person outside of work.

  • Get social. Plan regular social events with friends in your city. If you don’t have any to start with, plan biweekly or monthly evenings where you disconnect from work and go to a workshop, book club, or networking event for something you’re interested in. It sounds simple but it can be a challenge for work-from-homers: make friends. You can do it!

  • And yes, exercise. I’ve seen it in every self-help article ever written, but it’s such a valuable addition to a productive daily routine. It can be a walk with your neighbors, a yoga class with friends, or an intense sprint workout with your running buddies—just get out and move. For those of us who work from home, it can be helpful to exercise with friends, so that you can get a one-two punch of activity and socializing.

Create A Healthy Workspace

One of the easiest ways to create a healthier work-life balance while you’re working where you live is to segment physical space for each activity. If you don’t have an extra bedroom for an office, get a small desk or set aside a corner where you only do work. Still don’t have enough space? Working from the kitchen table can work, just be sure to shut down and put away your work computer so that you can relax and transition easily into the non-working hours.

Be sure to shut down and put away your work computer so that you can relax and transition easily into the non-working hours.

Surround yourself with things you love—plants, candles, prints, fresh flowers, etc. Build a positive space for yourself and take time to pull together a cheerful playlist or an inspiring podcast queue to get you through the day. Have a cozy mug filled with your favorite organic tea or coffee and a giant water bottle to remind you to stay hydrated. This part is all about indulging your senses with happy things, without causing too many distractions.

And finally, don’t be afraid to work from home outside of the house. Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere, but those can sometimes be inaccessible or expensive. So, if you can swing it, pop over to a local coffee shop each morning (or even once a week) to tackle certain projects. If you can’t afford a latte every day, head to the library and plug in to work for a few hours. You may even have to—gulp—get in the car to do this, but getting out of your house or apartment is worth the occasional commute.

Do you work from home? What habits help you stay grounded?


Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her two rabbits, or practicing at the hot yoga studio.