A view of COVID-19Working from home is suddenly on the radar for more people as the world gets a handle on COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. (Not sure why we can’t we just say “new” vs. “novel.”)*

Some companies are asking employees to stay home as a precaution. Other people may be practicing “social distancing,” staying away from crowds, large meetings or busy locations to reduce the spread of the disease and leave the healthcare system for the seriously ill.

Extroverts in particular may panic at the thought of working home alone, but those of us who have done so for years know it has a lot of advantages. Think of the time/aggravation you’re saving by not commuting!

Having said that, you might want some guidance if you have the option of working from home and haven’t done so before. Here’s how to make your work time at home a success when you’re healthy:

1. Get up at your usual time. You have some wiggle room, of course, since you won’t be commuting.

2. Get ready the way you usually do – shower or bath, shave, fix your hair. You’ll mentally prepare for your usual day, and you’ll be ready for a surprise Zoom or Skype chat or teleconference.

3. Dress somewhere in between pyjamas and your usual work attire, to be ready for that surprise video appearance and also to subliminally remind yourself that you’re working.

4. Create a designated office space where you can focus. A spare bedroom is great, but even a closet with a desk in it might work. Do not work from your bed.

5. Keep regular work hours. It’s easy for work time to take over personal time. Remember to set boundaries, and schedule and take breaks.

6. Communicate with your manager and colleagues. Regularly check in with progress reports, updates and expectations.

7. Fight a feeling of isolation by staying virtually connected to others. Keep in touch with work colleagues by email, Slack, Skype, FaceTime, videoconference or whatever other technology is available.

8. Stay away from the fridge unless it’s mealtime. Allow yourself a morning and afternoon coffee break, but otherwise avoid snacking all day.

9. Know your distractions and guard against them. Netflix, video games, falling down the rabbit hole of the internet, snacking, housework – all can wait for a break time or the end of your work day.

10. If you have children at home, you’ll need help (especially for small children). Work in chunks and set rules about when you can and can’t be disturbed.

11. Wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and clean surfaces that you touch a lot, like keyboards, cellphones and TV remotes. (Need help washing your hands for 20 seconds without singing Happy Birthday twice? Find out how much of your fave song you need to sing thanks to a UK developer.)

Oh, and don’t bother stocking up on toilet paper. Did you make it through SARS without 128 rolls? I think you’ll make it through COVID-19 too.

What advice have I missed? Extroverts in particular, what bothers you about working from home?

*Get the latest information on COVID-19 from trusted sources like the World Health Organization, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Illustration courtesy of Alissa Eckert, MS and Dan Higgins, MAM, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.