How to stay sane when you’re working from home

Are you going stir crazy working from home during COVID-19? If you’re an extrovert like me and can’t quite embrace the new world order of Zoom calls and Skype chats, here are some tips and tricks that I’m using to stay sane in this weird new world of work.

Before I jump into my list, let me say that I’m extremely privileged to have the ability to work from home during this time and I honour and respect that right. I started this list because I’m finding that I am working too hard from home. I am burning myself out and not sleeping. And let’s face it, this is probably not the time to have a major meltdown and compromise my otherwise healthy immune system. A gin virus I could handle, but not this beer one.

There are lots of people who enjoy the flexibility of working from home every week and love the time and space to focus, but I’m not really one of those people. And yes, I have worked from home in the past, but mostly to get repairs done or to take delivery of a package. In my freelance writing days, I’d work in a café or at my client’s offices, because I like a bit of background noise when I work.

I’m one of those weird people who like going into the office. I love the banter, the meetings, the buzz of people around me, a chat in the kitchen, lunching with work colleagues, collaborating with my team – and I’m an extrovert so people give me energy.

If you’re a crazy extrovert like me and missing the office or an introvert looking to set some work-life boundaries, here are some working from home tips to keep you motivated and semi-sane. Of course nothing beats being around people, but we all know what that means right now.

Dress to impress

I love dressing up for work. Most of my fun in the mornings is deciding on what outfit to wear and coordinating my accessories and shoes. Some days it takes me 10 minutes to decide what earrings will go with my outfit (no kidding).

You could throw some active wear on the bottom and something half decent on the top in case you’re on a video call, but I’m making it a point to dress as if I am heading into the office. I’m even ironing my clothes (I did say I was crazy). It’s important to be in the right frame of mind to work and wearing a great outfit does it for me, even at home.

At the end of the day, I change back into something equally as stylish (of course), but a little more casual. It helps me unwind and disconnect from the day.

Commute without commuting

It can be tempting to slip into the habit of starting work early because you don’t have your regular commute and I started doing that too, but I found it just made my day longer and more exhausting.

You can keep your commute without commuting by walking up the street or around the block. I’ve been walking to my ferry wharf and back – and it gives me an opportunity to see other people, even if we’re walking past each other at the regulated social distance. Weird, but it works.

Drink your morning coffee in a keep cup

If you can’t get out to Tom the bearded barista for your morning cup of joe, then the next best thing is making a cup of takeaway coffee at home. My advice is to make it in your usual keep cup to ‘keep’ you in work mode. It’s lovely drinking out of your favourite mug or tea cup at home, but save that for your ‘me time’ when you’ve knocked off for the day.

My Nespresso machine is never going to have a chat or yell, “Regular long black for Linda”, but I’ve got a lot of hours to train him, so you never know.

Note: At time of publishing, many cafes in Australia have closed, but some still are doing take-away coffee and meals. Please keep supporting your local as long as you can.

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Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Burn essential oils or light a candle

Something you can’t do in the office due to fire regulations is burn candles or light your essential oils, but you can go for your life at home.

My favourite essential oils for keeping me awake and focused are rosemary, basil, peppermint and eucalyptus. I’m currently enjoying an Australian Rainforest blend. Who doesn’t want to be transported to the great outdoors when you’re stuck indoors?

Just remember to blow out any open flames at the end of the day or you’ll have no home to work at home from.

Get ready for your close up

If you’re dressed for the day, then you shouldn’t have any trouble turning on your camera when you have video calls. Encourage your colleagues to switch on their camera too. I know that it makes some people feel uncomfortable, but it really truly helps you stay connected and feel a little less lonely and isolated. After all, extroverts are people who need people, and whilst some say they’re the luckiest people in the world, they don’t feel lucky if they can’t see your face.

Of course if the bandwidth is bad, then switch of your camera, but try to have a few face-to-face meetings each week.

Play video conference bingo

This video conference bingo was floating around LinkedIn this week and it’s a bit of fun. So far I’ve heard birds, dogs, knocking, high pitched noises and children. I’ve won a million times over for, “You’re on mute”. Did somebody say bingo?

Source: Mumbrella

Give me a break

In this case it’s do as I say not as I do. I am terrible at taking breaks when I’m working from home, I tend to hunch over the laptop and get into something and before I know it the day has passed. Perhaps writing this down will inspire me to go for a walk around the block, get up and stretch or simply grab a glass of water. It’s tempting to get up and stare into the fridge, but try and avoid that if you can. Save the fridge for your lunch break. That’s one break you definitely should take.

Store your chores

Something that can help with regular breaks is storing up your household chores. Use one break to put out the garbage and another to put on a load of washing. If you want to go really crazy, you could unpack the dishwasher. Anything to get you out of your chair and moving for a few minutes.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Read something inspiring

We are currently living in a grim world and we all need to keep positive. Instead of scrolling through social media and news feeds in your breaks, read something inspiring. It could be a quotes from your favourite fashionista or wise woman or pick up a book, open it to a random page and see what you get.

Watch a live concert

If you want a people fix, get into a live concert. How about a lunchtime concert at Wembley Stadium? I’ve been watching Queen’s Band Aid concert and the number of people in that crowd is an extrovert’s dream come true. We are the champions my friend, and we’ll keep on fighting until the end.

Switch out your specs

I’m not sure about you, but I’m fortunate enough to have two pairs of glasses from the fabulous folks at Optique. I started wearing my black glasses when I’m working and my red glasses for when I’m not. It’s a little eccentric, but every little boundary helps.

Flower power

If you get an opportunity to buy some fresh flowers or even grab a bit of greenery from the garden, it can help to bring the outside in while you’re inside out. I’ve put a vase on my desk with some freesias from Papa Joe and Co and they brighten my day.

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Photo by Krisztina Papp on Unsplash

Let’s talk about it

In your breaks, get on the phone and have a chat to someone. Don’t get too desperate and talk to the telemarketers, but up your voice-on-voice contact so you don’t feel isolated. Make a Skype lunch date with a friend or have a virtual coffee on FaceTime. You can text too, but nothing beats face-to-face.

Host a Throwback Thursday

One thing I miss about being in the office is my colleague’s Throwback Thursday playlist. It was fun seeing what was on the list every week. You could make your own Wayback Wednesday, Throwback Thursday or Fallback Friday playlists and rock out in the comfort of your own home. Go one step further and share your list with your work colleagues – and check out Rita Wilson’s Quarantunes playlist featuring this classic track.

Log off at your regular time

The first week of working from home I was doing long hours. They just kind of snuck up on me. It’s not something I would advise. Sure, some days you might end up working an extra hour or two, but make sure you don’t make it a habit. Set boundaries and try to log off at your regular time.

Pack it away at the end of the day

I live in a very small space, so I always make sure that I pack away my work laptop and any other work related stuff at the end of the day. And yes it does take a few minutes to get set up your workspace every day, but it’s worth it – and you can pretend you’re hot desking in the office.

I turn my desk back into my own personal space every night. That’s probably a bit excessive for most people, but it really does help me to mentally disconnect from work.

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Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Clear your energy

At the end of the day I spray my apartment with a mist of white sage to clear the work energy from my space. If you don’t have any sage, you can use a room deodoriser or a spritz of your favourite French perfume. It helps to clear the air (so to speak) and to turn your space back into your own. If you don’t have any scent on hand, it also works to make a loud clapping noise with your hands – and it has the added effect of applauding yourself for another successful day in your home office. Just remember to sanitise first.

Save yourself a treat

I ordered some new shoes a few weeks ago and I kept the box sealed until the end of the week so I had something special to open. Shoes may not be your thing, but find something that uplifts your soul (or sole) and rewards you at the end of a long working from home week.

Fix yourself a ‘Quarantini’ 

The one thing that lifts my spirits is gin. Mix yourself up a ‘Quarantini‘ and get gin to it. My favourite martini is a Vespa, made with Triple Juniper gin. It was made famous by James Bond himself in Casino Royale. Shaken not stirred, serve it self isolation style with a twist or olive.

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Photo by Paula Hayes on Unsplash

So that’s all my tips for making the most of working from home. Hope they help you stay sane and set some boundaries in this strange new world. Stay safe and healthy my friends.

Do you have any working from home tips? Share them in the comments below.

People working from home looking to be inspired also read:


Note: I don’t get any perks from linking to the brands in this article, I just genuinely love what they do. But if by chance Nick from Optique is reading this, I’d love those pink Gucci sunglasses we talked about ;-).

Main photo by Izabelle Acheson on Unsplash. All other photos (unless marked) also from Unsplash.


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