7 tips for working from home

Mar 25, 2020
Guest post by freelance copy editor
Steph VanderMeulen


When I tell people I’m a freelance copy editor, I usually hear, “That’s cool! I wish I could work from home.” Be careful what you wish for. Thanks to COVID-19, you now have little choice but to be home, and there’s been no transition period for you.

At home, distractions abound in the form of chores, kids, animals, and residential noise. You may feel restless, unfocused, frustrated, or lonely.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over 17 years of freelancing. I hope these tips help you with your tasks, and your mental and emotional health, while you stay home.

  1. Stick to a schedule: When no one’s watching you and the temptation to do whatever you feel like is high, self-discipline is key. Try to stick to the routine you had when you were going out to work. Set your alarm, shower, do what you do to start your day, and then head into a location where you can focus away from the rest of the household. Turn off any digital distractions you wouldn’t normally check at work. Sticking to your schedule means you’ll have less trouble adapting when you go back to the office, too.
  2. Negotiate boundaries: Boundaries are very difficult to enforce when you work from home. You’ll need to set some rules with your family or roommates about not disturbing you during your work hours. Try posting your schedule on the fridge or on your office door so everyone knows when you’ll be available for meals, walking the dog, or playing.
  3. Set a timer: If you struggle with discipline and focus, try the free Pomodoro Smart Timer app. You can set a timer for your work and break sessions. Mine dings after 40 minutes and gives me a 5-minute break to stretch, grab a snack or beverage, or check Gmail or Instagram. After four sessions of work, I get a 15-minute break. You can customize your own times and sounds.

    If you don’t eat, you’ll find it harder to focus—ensure you make time to fuel yourself with nutritious food.

  4. Prepare snacks and meals in advance: At home, it’s easy to either skip eating or wander to the fridge every half-hour. If you don’t eat, you’ll find it harder to focus—ensure you make time to fuel yourself with nutritious food. Keep pre-cut veggies and other prepped food on hand. You could even add making lunch and prepping snacks into your pre-work routine, just as you would have before.
  5. Pick a playlist: Some people prefer silence, but music helps me focus and deeply affects my mood and body. If, like me, you find the radio distracting, I recommend using Spotify. It has playlists conducive to working (search for “working,” “studying,” “concentration,” etc.) and every genre you can think of. There are even nature sounds. You can also create your own playlists. If you use the free app, there will be ads. I subscribe, and it’s worth every penny.
  6. Move your body: Sitting all day can create lack of focus, chronic musculoskeletal issues, and a feeling of inertia that is very difficult to shake. Find time to stretch, go for a walk, stand instead of sit, do sun salutations, run up and down stairs, stand up to get more water, jump on a mini trampoline, play an instrument—whatever works for you. Listen to your body, and remember: you’re more important than the work, no matter the deadline.
  7. Give up the guilt: Please do not beat yourself up if you have a day or several days of lack of focus and not exercising and drinking only coffee and eating boxes of crackers for lunch. Guilt has no place in this new, trying situation. Being home doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be super-productive just because others on social media are ramping it up. You do you. As much as you have to work, the temptation to also finally relax and have some “you” time, or quality family time, or sessions of online socializing with your friends, is likely huge! This is a stressful, potentially lonely period. It’s not only okay but also understandable and advisable to answer it with kindness toward yourself and others.

Steph VanderMeulen is a freelance copy editor and proofreader. She lives with her husband and two budgies in Belleville, Ontario.