Coping with COVID-19

Working From Home Right Now? We've Got Tips for Making It More Bearable

Our editors share their strategies.

By Ilene Denton April 2, 2020

Image: Shutterstock

When Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield told The New York Times last Sunday about his difficulties working remotely from his San Francisco home due to spotty internet service (“I did the all-hands from the laundry room,” he told a Times reporter), we totally empathized.

Our editorial team is meeting from our own homes every morning via a quick Slack video call. It’s important to touch base with my fellow editors and graphic artists even though it does present its challenges—for the first three days, for example, I could see and hear everybody but no one could hear me (my fault, not Slack’s). And it’s nice to hear a colleague’s child occasionally and to see their tantalizing mountain-high stack of books in the background.

To make the workday at home workable, I find it’s incredibly helpful to stick to a regular schedule and a regular workspace—9 a.m. sharp at the dining room table for me, while my husband’s law office is in the laundry room, just like where Butterfield found himself the other day. Before I end my workday, I also record a “to do” list for the next so I’ll be ready to jump right in. We are both lucky and grateful to be able to keep working in these historically difficult times.

I asked other editors to share their tips for working from home.

Break up the day.

“I take my dog for a walk in the middle of the day. This breaks up my day, gets me out in fresh air, and my dog is happy, too. I have a set workspace away from my family. It can get distracting if we all try to work in the same room. And I have snacks nearby for an energy boost.” – Allison Forsyth, editorial intern

And respect the night.

“Even though the days feel blurry right now, make sure to try and separate the workday from the evening. If you’re lucky enough to have an office in your home, close the door and don’t go back in until the next day. If you don’t, do something pleasant to delineate the change of pace: light a candle with a specific scent you can associate with the transition, walk your dog, do a quick yoga or meditation practice, or start cooking dinner. Whatever you do, keep things separate!” – Megan McDonald, digital editor

Find a pleasant space… and keep it clutter-free.

“I never thought I’d want my workspace in my bedroom, but it’s turned out to be OK. It’s a huge room—it used to be an apartment above a garage—with tons of windows and doors that let in abundant light and views of a live oak, two massive Sylvester palms and bamboo. I feel like I’m in a tree house; a pleasant setting, I’ve discovered, is a must when I’m working at home. And since it’s away from the noisy goings-on downstairs like the FPL workers out front and my dogs barking at them, and away from distractions—like the fridge and washing machine—I’m more productive than I would be near the kitchen. I keep the space organized and completely clutter-free, so work feels contained. And I’ve realized that the dogs would much rather be up here with me than downstairs barking. They’re a comfort now that I have no co-workers to bother.” – Susan Burns, editor-in-chief

Get up from the computer now and then

“Working from home has made me more aware of the need to get up and away from the computer screen and move around (yes, my home office setup is not all that ergonomically correct!), and of my neighbors and what they are up to, both good and bad (noisy home improvement projects on the one hand, friendly waves from afar when we all step outside and walk around the block on the other).  I’ve been listening to the bird song outside my windows and taking time to smell the flowers—in this case, the Confederate jasmine in bloom right now in my yard. And reminding myself that video conferencing is a good reason not to let myself become a total slob!” – Kay Kipling, executive editor

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