COVID-19: How to work from home and stay productive

Yael Klass
By Yael Klass
March 24, 2020 · 7 min read

Stocking up on canned goods, watching our way through Netflix and trying our best to stay indoors, away from others. Welcome to the ‘new normal.’

As you know, we are dealing with a global pandemic known as coronavirus or COVID-19. One of the most troublesome aspects of this virus is that those infected can be without symptoms for up to 14 days. This is where working remotely becomes the key to stopping the spread of the virus. In America, the term ‘social distancing’ has been coined. This is exactly as it sounds – being social but keeping a distance.

According to The Telegraph, as of March 19th, 2020, there are more than 218,000 people infected throughout the world and 8,800 recorded deaths. Additionally, new CDC findings show that “40% of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were aged 20 to 54.” So, the best way to be safe and healthy (and keep others healthy too) is to stay at home.

What does this mean for your business?

With this in mind, most businesses will feel a significant impact, especially small-medium businesses. They either have to temporarily close their door or start working remotely. For some, this will be the first time that you have worked from home. For others, moving your small business online isn’t as seamless and you will need to find ways to restrategize and connect with clients. This may include real estate agencies, beauticians, restaurants, fitness instructors and other brick and mortar businesses.

How to stay productive from home 

If you found a way to continue working remotely and find yourself struggling to get a hang of it, we are right there with you. Staying on task in this new (and possibly distracting) environment can affect output and concentration. As each day is essential to the success of your business, we have identified proven remote work strategies that will keep your spirits and productivity high

1. Maintain your regular schedule 

Although the appeal of sleeping until noon is strong, try your best to stick to your usual wake-up time. After finally rolling out of bed, go through your normal morning routine. Whether this includes taking a shower, doing some meditation or making coffee, be sure to treat the day like any other workday. This will set your focus and put you into the mindset that you are getting ready to accomplish your tasks. Begin your workday at around the same time, eat lunch when you usually do and try your best to finish your tasks at a similar hour. Last but not least, make your bed. Not only will you thank yourself later, but this will prevent you from crawling back into it later in the day. 

2. Set up your workspace

Find a quiet corner in your house that offers some privacy. Organize your work-from-home desk similar to how it is arranged at your office. If you have your laptop propped up, use some books or even shoeboxes to create this effect. Keeping future video conferences in mind, choose a neutral background and make sure to have sufficient lighting. This may involve setting up a lamp near your screen so your face can be illuminated during calls. Additionally, you should find a space with natural light as this is essential for your well-being. According to The Balance Small Business, it can “reduce headaches and eyestrain, allowing you to be more productive on a day-to-day basis and healthier in the long-term.” 

3. Create a list of action items

Keeping distractions (such as kids and pets) in mind, begin your remote work by writing down things that must be accomplished by the end of the day. This will decrease your feelings of guilt if you take time for some fresh air or spend part of the afternoon playing a game with your children. Give yourself the full day to finish this list and if projects aren’t time-sensitive, you can breathe easier knowing you WILL eventually cross off everything by day’s end. 

4. Check-in with your co-workers or employees throughout the day 

After creating your daily list, schedule a call with your team to maintain expectations and open the lines of communication. According to Barbara Larson, a professor of management at Northeastern University who studies remote working, “ask [your manager or employees] if they don’t mind having a 10-minute call to kick off the day and wrap up the day. Oftentimes, managers just haven’t thought of it.” 

This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and you will know what each team member is planning to accomplish. This will also help fight the loneliness of remote work, especially if you are used to being surrounded by co-workers. 

If you are looking for free digital tools, check out the video-conferencing application Zoom. It allows you to have quick team status meetings (or even virtual happy hours). There is also Slack for instant messaging and group chats. If you want to share your to-do list and let your teammates add their own accomplishments, there are useful task management sites like Trello and

5. Keep spirits up

There is no bigger pitfall to productivity than stress and anxiety. No one can ignore that these are stressful times. Negative headlines, worrying about susceptible loved ones and fighting the urge to go panic buy the entire supermarket can all put work-related tasks on the back burner.

The answer to this is, most often, more communication and stricter schedules. Whether it be co-workers or customers, make sure that you realize how every task you do affects them. Don’t let a day go by without communicating with the outside world. 

Experts agree that the solutions to this include as much interaction online as possible. It can be reaching out to customers with some inspirational messaging, a video, or even just some freebie industry tips. Your customers need this as much as you do and it will contribute to loyalty in the long run.

Can’t work remotely? Use this time to plan for the day after

We realize that the nature of many small businesses does not allow them to work at home.

 If this is the case, you can still set your business up for success. First and foremost, keep yourself present online. This will maintain a sense of security and trust in your company and in your work. If you are a business that typically works in-person, explore the possibility of moving your business online. For example, fitness instructors can upload virtual workouts, therapists can hold sessions over video chat and restaurants can offer online orders and delivery services. 

You can also take this time to regroup and re-strategize. Our regular day-to-day routine rarely gives us any free time to review past performance and identify points of optimization or change. This will help inform future strategy and which direction you will move in when you’re back at work.

You can also research leads you’d like to pursue or any other information related to your business that you can look up online. Although you aren’t physically at the office, you can still move your company forward and be ready for a post-corona world.

Let’s end with a note of optimism 

As disheartening as the reality of the world may be, it’s important to look for the silver lining. On March 20th, the last coronavirus hospital was closed in Wuhan, China. A 103-year-old Chinese grandma has made a complete recovery from the coronavirus. Apple has reopened all 42 stores in China. Most notably, there are many countries already making significant progress in finding a COVID-19 vaccine. 

So, don’t get too comfortable with the ‘new normal’ because hopefully sometime soon, you will be able to leave the screen behind and join your coworkers for an in-person happy hour.

Visit our COVID-19 Small Business Support Hub to for free resources for your business

About the author

Yael Klass

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