RESOURCES  |  March 23, 2020

5 tips for working from home to maintain productivity and a work-life balance

Written by FreeWill

COVID-19 has caused companies around the world to ask their employees to work from home, including many nonprofits.


Before hosting our webinar, we surveyed nonprofits who registered. 44% of which said they are already working from home while another 39% expected to start soon. As of Friday, March 13, we have also moved to remote work for the next few weeks. The main goals of asking employees to work from home is to create more social distance between people in infected areas and to slow the spread of infections.


However, working from home is very new for many people. At home, it can be easy to get distracted and become less productive unless you set yourself up for success by sticking to good habits and routines. If you live in a small apartment with roommates, kids, pets, or a partner, it can be even more difficult to manage. Here are our top tips for working from home that we sent out to our own employees:


1. Stick to your morning routine.

As tempting as it could be to stay in bed all day, we highly recommend that you don't do this! Get up and continue your morning routine as usual, whether that's taking your regular morning shower or making yourself a healthy breakfast.


Try to take advantage of the time that you’re not commuting to set your focus in the way that works best for you. Now that you have more time in the morning, you may want to add new pieces to your routine, such as going for a run, taking some time to read or write, or shifting your work hours earlier to free up some time in the evening.


2. Pick a dedicated place to work within your home.

This can be hard if you live in a small apartment, but any separation from your home life will help you stay more focused and productive. This could mean that you pick a specific corner of your bedroom, a spot on your couch, or a chair at your kitchen table. You should feel free to move around throughout the day, but by dedicating specific places that are and are not for work (like your bed), you will create separation and maintain a better work-life balance.


3. Find time to do things other than work throughout the day, including talking to your coworkers.

Much of what people miss most about the office is being around other people and connecting in-person. So it's especially important to not isolate during this time. Throughout your day, make time to connect with them through a quick phone or video call (face time is important), or message each other about work and fun on communication software like Slack. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have to lose the camaraderie of the office.


Beyond talking to coworkers, make sure you try to get outside. Take a walk in the morning or at lunch. Or even use lunch to break up your workday, so that it's easier to keep track of what's work and what's break time.


4. Keep it professional by planning your day.

Staying professional and focused when there are so many other things you could be doing at home takes a bit of planning. Try to map out your day into time blocks. For example, put things like "answer emails" or "work on X project" on your calendar to build structure. 


You may want to set goals with you manager to make sure you're clear on priorities, or let your team know what you hope to accomplish that day. A few of our teams are holding daily digital 'stand-ups' in the morning to keep each other up-to-date on our projects and progress.


5. Find a way to end your work day.

When you’re no longer commuting home, it can be hard to tell when the work day is over. So it’s important to find a way to turn your work brain off. At the end of the day, we suggest:

  • Going for a walk
  • Planning an activity, such as grabbing a drink or working out
  • Setting a time that you’ll close your computer, and leave it out of sight
  • Closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths when the day is over and your computer is closed

You may also want to check out Beth Kanter's article on "How To Facilitate Effective Virtual Meetings." Beth is a well-established international nonprofit thought leader, who has been working remotely since the early 1990s.


A few resources for working from home: