How to stay sane and productive when working from home

Working from home seems great -- but can also be a productivity nightmare.

Mercey Livingston CNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
Mercey Livingston
4 min read

Working from home has its perks -- but it can be bad news for productivity. 

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As the list of companies mandating employees to work from home to stop the spread of coronavirus  grows, you might be wondering just exactly how you can stay sane if it happens to you. The panic over coronavirus is already stressful enough, and the last thing you want to worry about is how to Zoom call your manager -- and whether your Wi-Fi can actually handle it. 

But alas, as the coronavirus outbreak shows no signs of slowing down, you could soon be in that position. Let me let you in on a little secret -- as someone who's been working from home full-time for nearly two years now, it's not all PJs and Netflix like you might imagine. In fact, working from home is sometimes more difficult than not. There can be days when you're distracted or interrupted every 10 seconds by family members or housemates. Or household chores like laundry or dishes could call your name while emails pour into your inbox.

Working from home has its perks -- you can work in sweatpants if you want, there's no commute time and sometimes you can be more focused and efficient. But you'll make the most of it if you approach the day intentionally. Below are some of my best tips for working from home while staying sane and productive.


Working in bed is not ideal when it comes to productivity. 

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Avoid working in bed

I don't always follow this rule, to be honest. Sometimes I open my eyes, grab a coffee and immediately begin writing my latest article. But if you start working in bed you'll likely get sleepy or have a hard time feeling truly awake. Instead, get up and make your bed first thing in the morning, just like any other day. Avoid the urge to work in your bedroom at all, unless that's the only space where you have privacy.

If you do have to work in bed, whatever you can do to create a sense of "going to work" will help you. That means changing out of your PJs, washing your face, getting coffee -- whatever makes you feel awake, do that first. Once you start working, sit up and avoid working in your bed if you're exhausted. 

It's a good idea to treat your bedroom as a sacred space -- where you only go to sleep or relax. Once it becomes your office, you'll find it hard to avoid thinking about work 24/7. Try to set up a workspace somewhere else, even if that's the kitchen or dining table. If you're lucky enough to have the space, maybe you could work from a spare bedroom or home office.

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Try to work from a space free of distractions if you can help it.

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Avoid working where you'll be tempted or distracted

One of the keys to successfully working from home is to pretend you're at an office. Would you stop to do laundry, watch Netflix or do the dishes if you were on the clock at work? Probably not. So don't work somewhere that will tempt or distract you -- that means don't work with a TV on, and if laundry or dishes are calling your name, avoid them! Get your chores done before you begin work and save time for bingeing Netflix once you're done for the day.

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Set boundaries with other people at home

Working from home with roommates, friends or family present can be challenging. Speaking from experience, if someone comes over and sees you on the computer, they may not register that you're working. This is true especially if that person has never worked from home before -- they may assume you can do whatever you want. 

It's important to set boundaries with people around you in work from home settings. Tell everyone who's home with you that you'll be working during certain hours and to not disturb you unless it's an emergency. Put a sign on your door if you have to. Doing what you can to avoid interruptions is key to staying as productive as possible.

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Take breaks

And no, scrolling through Instagram does not count as a break. You should aim to take a break every 75 to 90 minutes, for about 15 minutes per break. Ideally, your break should involve no screens at all and let you get some fresh air. Take a walk outside, play with a pet or talk to a friend. You'll find that you're much more productive if you walk away from your desk and computer throughout the day. 


Try to add in social activities in your day, even if it's just a phone call to a friend.

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Avoid total social isolation 

While working from home can feel more productive at times when you're alone, there is also a downside to working alone all day. I consider myself an extroverted introvert -- which means I work best without a lot of people around me, but I enjoy having coworkers and connecting with others every day in real life. One of the most challenging things about working from home is the lack of socialization. 

As distracting as some office environments can be, there's nothing like having coworkers you enjoy working with and catching up with throughout the day. Make time to connect with others, whether that means FaceTiming your work husband (or work wife) or making dinner plans with a friend.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.