working from home is driving me nuts – can I take a break?

A reader writes:

I’m a full-time copywriter, and I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home during these times. My company has been clear and generous with us about our work and our job security. I’ve been working from home for the past three weeks, and probably will continue to do so until the end of April. I get up at the same time every day, wear my professional clothes, take my allotted lunch break and work my allotted hours.

Here’s the thing: I hate it.

I live in a tiny, narrow studio apartment with zero room for a desk or chair, so I more or less have to work off of the same couch that I typically relax on. Usually I can work remote just fine, since my apartment has conference rooms for residents available, but this has been closed with the quarantine. Our office is being deep-cleaned, so there’s no option for that, either.

I feel like I’m going crazy. My work comes on a contract basis, so some days I’m swamped, and other days I don’t have much to do. Usually when I’m less busy in the office, I’ll work on backlog or pet projects, but right now the idea of having to stare at my computer any longer than I need to makes me want to scream. I’m also afraid to bring this up with my supervisor, because I don’t want to be labeled as someone who can’t do remote work.

Would it be terrible if, when I don’t have any tasks or deadlines, I simply stay online/available and work on something else until I’m needed? I feel like this would be for the sake of my own sanity more than anything else. When the day is done and I close my laptop, I have zero mental energy for any personal projects (creative writing/knitting), which is incredibly frustrating. Even after a weekend off, I feel only dread come Monday.

I’m salaried/exempt, so it wouldn’t be a matter of me not putting in hours — though my supervisor does express that she wants us to be online for seven to eight hours a day (breaks excluded).

What should I do?

Nope, not terrible.

You’re doing your assigned work and meeting your deadlines. That’s a reasonable bar for success right now.

You do not need to fill every spare minute with productive work beyond that.

Normally I’m very “when you’re at work, you should mostly be working” … but you aren’t really at work. You’re in a tiny studio apartment with no room for a desk or chair, in a global pandemic, trapped in your house with levels of stress and distraction that are probably rather high, and trying to keep working moving as best as you can.

Those are not conditions where you need to optimize every minute.These aren’t conditions where you can optimize every minute

You’re getting your most important work done, and that’s enough right now.

Now, would your manager agree with that? Maybe, maybe not. But a good manager would. A manager who can see the situation for what it is would.

Your boss has told you she wants you online for seven to eight hours a day. So stay online for that time. But when you’re done with specific tasks and deadlines, give yourself a break.

You might find that after you ease the pressure on yourself in that way, in a few weeks you’ll have more motivation to tackle things like backlogs or other less urgent projects. If you do, great; don’t goof off just for the principle of it. But your letter is screaming that right now you need mental space. Take it.

P.S. You don’t need to wear those professional clothes at home if you don’t want to! Some people find it helps them, but others of us find we’re much happier in head-to-toe fleece.

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. juliebulie*

    I hear ya, OP. Previously, WFM meant working in JulieBulie’s Funhouse and it was great. Now, WFM has turned JulieBulie’s Funhouse into a great big no-fun zone. (I only work in one room, so I don’t know why the rest of the house is spoiled!)

    I don’t feel like doing anything after my eight hours are up. I just watch TV until I fall asleep.

    Hang in there.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      (I only work in one room, so I don’t know why the rest of the house is spoiled!)

      Okay, so I’m not the only person this has happened to, then. Weird times.

    2. fposte*

      I think I’m out of a loop, because I’ve been seeing WFM instead of WFH–is it just a thing or is it a different acronym?

        1. fposte*

          Oh, okay–I’ve been seeing it a lot, so I was thinking it might be a new acronym, but maybe not!

        1. fposte*

          Ah, that makes sense! It did seem like it was being used a little differently but I couldn’t figure it out.

    3. Master Bean Counter*

      I hear you! I work on the dinning room table. Work for 9 hours eat dinner then pretend the room doesn’t exist until the next morning. I also have many dinners out in the screened in porch now that it’s getting warmer.
      OP can you set up a chair and a tv tray to give you a “work” space? Even the smallest bit of differentiation may help.

      1. LeahS*

        I work in my living room/kitchen (apartment). So… I take the long commute to my bedroom after work just to feel like I can get away a little!

      2. Sparrow*

        Having a “work only” space has been critical for me In my case, it means I’ve pretty much stopped doing anything in my living room that’s not work-related. In an ideal world, we’d all have separate, in-house offices, but city life doesn’t really allow that. I am grateful I do at least have a separate bedroom and a small balcony so I have separate spaces I can retreat to at 5 (well, the balcony will be an option when spring finally decides to come…)

        And still there are days I get very little done (today is shaping up to be one of those days…), but there are other days that are way more productive than they would’ve been in the office. So since I’m keeping up with everything and still marking things off the to do list everyday (even if they’re small), I’m trying not to beat myself up too much over the meh days.

        1. MayLou*

          My house only really has two rooms (the bedroom, and the living room with the kitchen that opens off it with no door – I also have a bathroom and two cupboards) so I don’t have any choice but to work in the living room. I only have a desk and a small coffee table, so I eat at my desk even when not working from home. I’ve been making a distinction between work and not-work by only using my external monitor when working, and only wearing my glasses when working. They’re tiny things but they’re helping! I also have shifted most of my leisure-laptop-use to a laptray on the sofa rather than the desk.

          I’m glad to hear someone else address the issue of not being able to motivate yourself to do non-urgent work during quiet periods. I’ve been moved onto a slightly different project while working at home, and I just have less to do on the new project. Also I can’t do any of my usual downtime tasks, like making up files, printing copies of things my colleagues might need and scanning/shredding documents, because all of that work takes place in the office. So I’m trying to give myself some grace for doing less, while also making myself spend at least a little time each day on the less time-critical projects so they don’t get completely abandoned.

      3. old curmudgeon*

        I, too, have found that I absolutely have to be able to make a break between work and not-work in order to maintain my sanity. And like others have described, I have a really small house (800 sf, four rooms) and it is not possible to reserve a room solely for work. I work at my kitchen table (no dining room) for eight hours a day.

        In my case, the way I create that distinction between working and other stuff is to physically gather up everything – EVERYTHING – related to work, put it in a tote, and carry it to the farthest corner of the house every evening. Papers, file folders, notes, pens, secure fob, laptop/keyboard/mouse, headset – all of it gets bundled up and stuffed away.

        Part of that is simple logistical considerations. We’d never be able to cook or eat a meal if I left work stuff spread out all over the kitchen table.

        But part of it is that by physically PUTTING WORK AWAY, even though I am in no way a tidy person under normal circumstances, that physical act serves as an emotional act to disengage from work and to re-engage in being at home. Yes, it takes me about ten minutes extra each morning to get it all out and set up, and about the same amount of time to gather it all up at the end of the day and put it away, but the payoff in terms of improved mental health is worth it for me.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This is exactly what I do – break my stuff down and put it away at the end of the work day. It really does make a difference in separating work and home life when you can’t see your computer sitting up on the table and papers spread about.

        2. allathian*

          Good for you! I’m glad you’ve found a way to make things a bit easier for you. In any case, twenty minutes per day for your mental health is probably minor in comparison with your ordinary commute to the office. It’s also a great marker for work vs. leisure time.

          I’m fortunate enough to live in a four-bedroom house in the ‘burbs, so I can work in our home office, my husband works in the guest bedroom and my son is in remote school in his own room. The advantage is that we don’t need to clear our workspaces every day, because the rooms aren’t needed for anything else (my son can deal with the clutter in his room…).

        3. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Yes, a break ritual between work and non work is an absolute sanity saver! And you should make it something physical/sensory where you can just allow your brain to function on autopilot while you subconsciously digest your day in the background.

          Aim for a WFH equivalent of driving home, or walking to the bus. You’re probably not getting the downtime you need at the moment because you’re switching from one active-brain activity to another. And that can really wear you out.

          I used to live in a tiny, cold, dark, 1-bed apartment and work from home. At the time I was still getting on my feet and couldn’t afford to go out or do much either. So I was home A LOT. I had a walk/shower/pyjamas ritual that I did every day when I finished up work and that became my “switch-off” signal. It helped a lot.

      4. Liz*

        This is me. My DR is my “office” laptop on table. I really don’t go “in” at all once my day is done, although since its basically and extension of my LR, i can SEE it. but try and pretend its not there.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I have never worked from home before and thought it would be so much better than this! Of course if these weren’t crazy times work from home wouldn’t include watching the baby for half the day, and I could actually leave the house and see other people when I wasn’t works… but still, this is a let down.

      1. Cris*

        Let me say, as someone who has been working from home full-time for four years, right now is not what regular working from home feels like. I love being remote usually, but for the past month it’s been miserable. Don’t let this ruin your view of it!

        1. Dr. Mentos*

          This is helpful, thanks. I too always wanted to work from home and am stressed out and unproductive. I am hoping that after all this those of us who couldn’t wfh before will be allowed a half day of wfh per pay period or per month or something.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Despite how disappointed I am, I am also hoping an occasional WFH day is an option after this. Just for those occasions there is crazy snowfall or someone is coming to repair the fridge and gave you an eight hour window it would be nice for it not to be such a huge ask.

        2. Liz*

          yes. my BFF has worked from home for 10+ years and she also says its nothing like her “normal” WFH. because you CAN go out to run an errand, take the dog to the park, take out trash etc. where now you really can’t. I mean yes, you can walk the dog and take out trash, but nothing else.

        3. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, I’ve been working remotely for years, and working with a pandemic around, worrying about what’s going to happen, it’s not the same as it was.

        4. Malarkey01*

          Agree! I’m a big advocate for WFH, this is nothing like the last decade of WFH. My kids are here, I can’t leave, my coworkers are all stressed, and none of our work is “normal” right now.

        5. Peachkins*

          As someone who’s been working remotely part-time for a couple of years now, I totally agree. I was actually really excited when we were moved to full-time working from home, but it’s just different since I’m hardly leaving the house at all now. And I have a dedicated home office and no kids. I can’t imagine what people are doing with limited space and children to deal with.

      2. Admiral Thrawn is Still Blue*

        I used to think WFH would be so cool. Then, about ten years ago, my sister lived with me for awhile and telecommuted (programmer). And I saw first hand that it wasn’t all that I thought it would be. Cured me from wanting to do it myself.

    5. Roy G. Biv*

      This came up on the Saturday open thread, I think on April 4. The consensus was a lot of us who are new to WFH are experiencing ongoing low-level stress, so that drains those “I’m at home anyway, so let’s do fun stuff” desires. It’s work, veg out, then sleep; and repeat. For me this is compounded by my strong work life/personal life boundary, which has been trampled by the fact that my office is now in my house.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Differentiating your ‘work’ space from your ‘own’ space when they are the same space… I’m fortunate in that I have my own space already at home, but it’s normally used for personal projects (I don’t WFH normally but now I’m enforced) but still find I get downhearted at the prospect of spending more time in the “work area”.

      What helped for me is I have a couple of colour changing lights (I have the Hue ones but cheaper similar ones can be had from Amazon) and I have a different setup of light colours for when I am in “office” mode compared to “home” mode which does seem to work.

  2. Kiwi*

    One additional consideration is where your money is coming from. If you’re working on, say, a government contract in the United States, I don’t really know if the government would look kindly on you directly or indirectly billing for the four hours you spent “online” but shopping for clothes. I feel like there’s more wiggle room when you’re in an office, since a big part of most jobs is being “available,” but in the work from home environment I’m not so sure.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I’m not quite clear on the difference here. OP is still being “available” in much the same way. Granted I am not the US government, but I am a small business owner, and if someone is sitting at home filing their nails, that’s fine with me, as long as they are willing to put that aside the moment they truly are needed. Which is the definition of being available.

      1. Paladin*

        I work on gov’t contracts, so I have to specifically say which projects I’m billing which hours to. So I do feel weird being less productive and still billing hours, even if I’m still getting my deliverables in! Especially when I end up on several small-budget projects where there’s not much room for slack.

        1. Senior Accountant*

          It’s tax season, and I have to bill at least 42.5 hours a week.

          I had a panic attack last week and had to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program because I’m so mentally overwhelmed.

          1. Coverage Associate*

            Solidarity. I had a long commute, so I should be one of those people with more time, but keeping up billables is so hard right now.

            1. Senior Accountant*

              In 10 hours, I might be able to bill 7. I know there’s always some friction, but would usually be able to bill 7 in an 8.5 hour day.

              Context switches kill me, and I’ve asked my manager for “focused and directed work” such as return preparation. Anything requiring specific research, analysis, and conclusion is a right gong-show. A veritable tarpit of unbillable WIP.

          2. Liz*

            oh no, i’m so sorry. My BF is a CPA so i get it. He’s self employed, which has its benefits and drawbacks, and is torn between yay, tax season was extended so I don’t have to be AS super crazy, and oh sh*t, i’m making less than normal so will i make enough to pay my bills etc., plus a lot of his small business clients either don’t need him now, or may not ever, depending on waht happens.

            But good for you to realize things were taking over and getting assistance.

        2. Gumby*

          Yeah, the “futzing around waiting for a necessary task to come up” gets billed to overhead, not [gov contract 1] or [gov contract 2]. Which is great as long as your work is not insistent about limiting time on OH. Even if the government didn’t care, which it does, the PIs would be livid because that is money we couldn’t use to work on the actual projects and we really don’t have ‘futz around’ built into the budget.

      2. Kiwi*

        At an active work site, you can justify the idea that “I’m available if anyone needs me” with the idea that people *are* realistically walking up to you and engaging you during the day, and you don’t know when or if that’s going to happen, and you can’t control or anticipate the quantity. If you’re a supply clerk, for example, part of your job is dealing with people who walk up to the supply desk, whether it’s 10 or 100 in a day, and you have no control over that.

        If that same supply clerk is sitting at home under quarantine, a huge chunk of her job has been removed. So it would be incredibly shady (if not illegal) for her to bill 8 hours to the government and say “Well, I was “available” for 8 hours, even though all I did was yoga and paint my nails and clean my kitchen and no one needed supplies.” She needs to have other job-related tasks that she’s doing in order to justify billing that time to the customer.

        1. Jeannalola*

          But what if the management is not giving you anything to do? Some jobs have to have work assigned. There is very little leeway in making stuff up to do. I think the stress/anxiety on this is employers telling you (and trying to document by all of a sudden install Clockify so we can track) when management cannot assign projects. I think it is dooming people to fail.

          1. Kiwi*

            It depends on the industry and on the business. In some places you’d get laid off or furloughed. In some you’d be given a different billing code, rather than using the one to bill a specific government customer for a specific government contract.

      3. Koala dreams*

        Yeah, I have a hard time to understand that too. If your job is to be available, for example answering phones or dealing with help desk tickets, then it’s work time as long as you are on call. It’s just the nature of the work that some days are super busy and some are slow. Some employers do adjust work schedules to cover the busy periods better and let people get off work earlier in slow times, but from the question that doesn’t seem to be an option in this specific job.

        1. Kiwi*

          But that would change if, for example, your job is to deal with help desk tickets from a widget factory, and the widget factory is shut down. Knowing for a fact that no widgets are being made and no one’s going to need help, I wouldn’t feel comfortable billing 8 hours a day because I could technically hear my phone ring if it was going to.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Wouldn’t that be up to the factory to decide? If their factory is closed and there aren’t going to be any more help desk tickets, I’d think they’d lay off/furlough their help desk staff unless they had enough budget to be awesome about it.

            1. Kiwi*

              The factory cannot unilaterally decide that they’re going to have their help desk person continue to direct bill time to a government contract even when no work is coming in. They get to “decide” within the scope of the other options that you’ve described, one of which might be to have the help desk person switch over to billing an overhead code.

              And if the help desk person is for some reason sent home without clear guidance, then the help desk person can’t just unilaterally decide that they’re just going to go ahead and keep directly billing the government because they’re still “available.”

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Right! And if OP’s boss expects her yo be online for X hours that’s the boss’ responsibility not OP’s.

      4. old curmudgeon*

        I believe that Kiwi’s point is that federal funding sources are very, very restrictive in what they can be used for. I work for an employer that receives federal funding, and the requirements that must be met in order to charge a federal funding source are very specific. Charging the feds for time spent shopping online or filing one’s nails would not meet those requirements.

    2. Mockingjay*

      For government billing (I am also a contractor), I have to justify in writing how I spent the 8 hours that will be billed back to the government. (AAM responses come out of my “break” time.)

      That said, there are some aspects of my program which have slowed considerably. Those staff members are doing lots of online training (annual requirements) and catching up on old paperwork, doing long-needed file management and cleanup, drafting SOPs and how to’s.

      I am actually swamped, because the entire engineering team can’t be onsite in labs and install sites. So all 15 of them are flooding me with past due documents. Thanks, guys?

      1. Ann Onny Muss*

        I also work for a government contractor and things slowed down considerably for us. Fortunately there are other programs that are screaming for help, so most of us have managed to stay productive.

    3. hermit crab*

      I left the billable-hours world a while back and I’m so, so glad to be in a “regular” salaried position right now, where as long as I meet my deadlines and keep up with stuff, it’s fine. There is no way I’d be able to meet my old job’s billable hour requirements right now.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m already constantly second hand stressed for folks who work with billable hours and the government. This reminder just gave me an extra shot of not-my-circus-but-stressed-out-anyways D:

      But I’d assume anyone on that kind of strict regulation of hours wouldn’t be asking this question….since you know,you’ve got different rules.

    5. designbot*

      That’s more of an industry thing than a government contract thing. Any profession where you bill specific projects for your time, this is going to be a problem. What they’re discussing in this letter might translate to a timesheet as say five hours of actual billable time and 3 hours of ‘general office’ for a day. Do that more than once and people are going to start noticing. OR if you’re billing actual projects for the time, PMs are going to start being really puzzled by why tasks are taking so long and why their budget is running out so quickly. I think your point about understanding where the money’s coming from is such a good one, and definitely not limited to the government consideration.

      1. Phony Genius*

        And this is where you have to ask your manager for guidance. It’s probably an issue for the whole company, so they probably want everybody to deal with it the same way. Likely, they’ll have to allow for more “general office” hours, which get paid for out of overhead. How long this will be sustainable for will depend on your company’s profit margins.

      2. Cat*

        Yes, this whole situation is a nightmare for billable hours jobs. Nobody with children at home is billing normal hours unless they’re not sleeping, and plenty of billable hours jobs have slowed down considerably meaning there’s not enough billable work.

        1. designbot*

          yep, I just had a conversation with one of our partners the other day about how every week there’s some fresh thing that makes my projects less and less efficient. Like okay, we’re mostly working from home but coming into the office for certain things as needed, got it! Oh no, now we’re completely at home. Oh now I’ve lost a team member. Oh in a few weeks my remaining team members will be 20% furloughed and I have to spread the work out to more people working fewer hours a piece… so, you understand that these projects are all going to be 25% over budget because they now take twice the management that I estimated at bid, right?

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That can depend on the type of contract as well. I was on a government contract until recently. We were paid to be available if any issue arose, and there’s only so much “busy work” I can create. There were times when I was so busy I couldn’t think straight, but there was a lot of down time.

    7. Julia*

      When I worked for a (non-US) government a few years back, we were really overstaffed to make sure there were enough people around during the very few crunch times, and my co-worker spent at least half the day watching TV, doing her nails, and falling asleep reading the newspaper. (And trying to foist the rest of her little work onto me, then coming up with ways to be mean to me because I wouldn’t do it.)
      I tried to look for extra work at first, but government often means work costs money, like if I had wanted to repaint something, we’d have to pay for paint etc. I reorganized all office supplies, volunteered to help everyone with their jobs, but still found myself browsing Ask A Manager for at least a few hours most days.

  3. bennie*

    i have been feeling the same as you, OP. just stuck and uncomfortable and unproductive with WFH. i took a day off work on friday and just went for a super long solo walk/bike ride around my city. it was a really great way to recharge my battery and get away from my computer – would recommend if you have leave time you can take

  4. Amber Rose*

    I bought a Comfy, which is a giant fleece blanket in the rough shape of a hoodie, and I wear it 100% of the time I am working from home. I look ridiculous and I don’t care. It’s warm and soft and attracts my cat for more much needed cuddles.

    I also work on a couch and often have very little work to do so I read a lot and just have my email/chat open beside me. My boss basically straight up said that the only reason she’s having some of us work from home is so we get a break from the creepy silence of the increasingly empty office.

    I gotta say, my back is killing me from working on a couch, so even if I wanted to 100% work, I still need to take very frequent stand/stretch breaks or sometimes lay on the floor.

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      <3<3<3<3<3 the Comfy! I recieved one and thought it was a gag gift. Nope, that thing is awesome! I can take the dogs out early morning !in winter! and stay nice and warm.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Best money I ever spent on myself, seriously. My cat agrees, he loves it when I wear it and give him bear hugs. Purrs super loud.

    2. Laney Boggs*

      I broke down and bought a chair from Walmart last weekend because my back (and by extension knees and hips) finally couldnt take it.

      Still planning on half couch, half chair though!

      1. Amber Rose*

        I actually have a good chair, but it’s upstairs in the game room. I prefer not to work in there, because the temptation to just start up some games and forget I’m working would be very great. If I work on the couch, I can concentrate better.

    3. iliketoknit*

      I have the same couch/back problem! I ended up getting a little laptop desk and I’m sitting at one of the kitchen chairs. But it’s a metal chair and gets cold so I bought a seat cushion off Amazon. The cats loooooove the seat cushion so now when I get up they steal my chair. Not exactly the obstacles I thought I’d face during WFH…

      (But I’m also really glad to see Allison’s answer to this question because it has been so. so. so. so. hard to focus, especially since a lot of my deadlines have gone away/been pushed forward.)

    4. draftXdiva*

      After a spinal cord injury, I got a creation called a comfysack, which is essentially an 8 foot memory foam beanbag chair. I pretty much existed only in that thing for the first year, as that was the only time when nothing hurt. It’s still my favorite piece of furniture, and a lot of my friends have gotten them after experiencing mine.

    5. Jend*

      I’ve got one of those Comfys and they’re absurd. But so warm and comfortable that I don’t care.

  5. Pretzelgirl*

    I had a job that had a ton of flexibility and the work ebbed and flowed. Some times (and times of the year) I would be swamped. Other times I would have only a few hours of work to do at a time. I keep Skype and email up all day. I checked them a few times per hour, but otherwise did other things. I got a workout in, ran a quick errand (pre- Corona virus times), cleaned the house did laundry etc. I always made sure to finish the things that I needed to get done that day and other projects I could. Spring time and early summer was particularly slow for us. There is no way I could I have filled a whole 8 hours of work.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This is currently where I’m at. I’m a full-time writer and editor in the proposal space, so like OP, the work regularly ebbs and flows. Right now though, there’s not much flowing going on since a lot of companies are pushing back submission deadlines because they can’t buy anything right now. I’m doing a lot of independent reading, binge watching TV shows, cleaning, and doing yoga in between intermittent tasks my manager gives me to stay busy. There’s not much else we can do right now other than stay available and do what we can to keep sane.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I definitely count cleaning the bathroom as work time. My logic being that if I were at work, I’d have a nice clean bathroom that they’d be paying the cleaning staff to clean. Since I am my home office cleaning staff, they pay me to make sure I have a nice clean bathroom.

      It’s weird how this tiny bit of logic helps me get by in times like these.

      1. zebra*

        I *love* this framing and I had never thought of it this way. Thank you!! Maybe I will actually clean something today………

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Tidying up the workspace is valid under 5s rules : sort, set in order, standardize, shine, sustain.
          In a normal WFH that doesn’t mean clearing kid clutter off my coffee table, but if that’s the space I need to spread out the TPS reports for work, it counts now!

      2. Parenthetically*

        Also love this framing! Taking out the trash, dusting, clearing off/setting up your workspace should also count for similar reasons.

    3. miho*

      same. I am an entry-level event planner at my organization, and I’ve been asked to be “on-call” (as my manager calls it) while working from home. I’m doing all the backlogged admin tasks that I can do, but there’s simply isn’t enough work when all of our events are getting cancelled.

    4. Spreadsheets and Books*

      This is where I am. When things are slow, I turn my Jabber and Microsoft Teams alerts up loud and watch TV on the couch for a bit while recharging.

      Like OP, I live in a studio I share with my husband and out cat. It SUCKS.

  6. oyeahigotipz*

    Hi! I work from home even when there’s not a plague on, so here are some tips:

    – Don’t wear professional clothes unless it’s psychologically helping you. I started out doing that, then slid into Slob Mode, and now I’m happy wearing the clothes I like most…to work! (I throw on a pullover if I need to be on camera, and I’m lucky to be able to get away with not wearing makeup over Skype, so it’s easy)

    – Schedule breaks, unless you think it makes you watch the clock.

    – This is a great time for some autodidactic professional development! Being on the clock with no set task is vastly improved by learning a new work-related skill, or even doing research.

    – What can you do on paper? It’s amazing how refreshing it can be to do drafting by hand, or even writing a to-do list. Use a pen that feels good to write with in your favorite color (I like the hot pink pens from MUJI the best!)

    Also, talk to your apartment management and see if you can get clearance to use a conference room. If you’re the only one in there, clean up anything you bring in, and are careful to wear a mask and gloves, it may be possible to wheedle them into it.

    Best of luck!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      As far as the apartment goes, the LW can ask, but in some cities she won’t be successful. My building has common spaces and amenities that I used to use quite frequently– I work from home full-time– and they’re shut down by order of the mayor. Even the ones that are outside. It’s so tempting to just sit down on one of the outdoor tables, but I will be asked to leave immediately and it’s not worth the hassle. So it’s one of those things where the LW should tread carefully before investing too much in that option.

      1. oyeahigotipz**

        Right, which might be why I said “see if you can” and not “just bust on in there!” :)

      2. Phony Genius*

        Also, if this were allowed, the apartment manager would probably get similar requests from multiple residents, so there would be no practical way to do this, between fairly allocating the time, and sanitizing the room between users.

    2. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I literally packed all of my professional clothes into my closet and am now exclusively wearing workout gear. Leggings and tank tops for days. I’m happier when I’m comfortable, and I’m comfortable in stretchy fabrics. I put on a blazer before meetings, but sometimes I’ll show my direct team what crap I’m wearing under said blazer on catch-up Teams calls for the laughs. Like my awesome Kitten Lady tank.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’m in workout gear all day now as well, mainly because I do yoga during the day and don’t want to get dressed in my cute business casual/professional stuff early in the morning and then have to change into yoga pants later in the afternoon, then back into my early morning outfit.

        But I do miss dressing up and putting on makeup, not gonna lie.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The flipping mayor of Washington DC gave a news conference today wearing a crew neck knit and a casual cardigan. If SHE is relaxing the suits & statement jewelry, we can too.

    3. UKDancer*

      Interestingly I still wear my professional clothes because I feel more professional and savvy when I do. I think you’re right that the thing is to wear what you feel most comfortable working in. For me that involves a suit. Also, I’m a control freak and there’s so much at the moment that I can’t control, that my appearance is one of the things I still can.

  7. Quill*

    OP I’m currently struggling with balance too, because during slow times at the office I’d be able to find relatively work-related things to do – even if it was duolingo, because speaking spanish is part of my job.

    But now a lot of my job is being on call to do emergency data analysis or track down paperwork.

  8. Jedi Squirrel*

    Take a break.

    I have a reasonable-sized apartment, and I resent the way work has invaded even a small corner of it. Your work is invading an even larger portion of your home—basically your relaxation place.

    As I keep saying, these are not ordinary times. Take a break, do some self-care, and do not feel bad in the least about it. Some day this will all be five years ago.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yes, I keep saying to my husband, “Boy, we’ll have some stories to tell in ten years.” And I find myself wondering what, if anything, of this my almost-three-year-old will remember.

      1. alienor*

        My daughter was almost three when 9/11 happened and I wondered the same thing, but she remembers nothing about it; to her it’s just a historical event that she studied in school. I would guess any kid under about 10 right now will have vague memories of this time at most, unless they’re directly affected by someone in their family being ill.

  9. Cobol*

    OP, how many hours do you usually work? To me 7-8 hours is a short day, so if I told my reports to be online for that amount of time it would really mean; be around for the majority of the day, but don’t stress about me expecting you’re doing everything you normal would.

  10. Smithy*

    In addition to what AAM has said, I have found that taking PTO has been really critical. Whether it’s a case of having really bad allergies and taking a sick day, planning for a day off to buy groceries during the week, or marathon baking and Netflix – whatever. Having no kids, not being seriously ill, and having nothing “fun” to do on vacation can make it feel like it’s the wrong time to take PTO. But over the past 4 weeks, I’ve taken two days off, planning to take off another few in the coming weeks – and it’s been really helpful.

    1. Ama*

      This. Right before everything shut down I went on a six day business trip (which I take annually). Usually I take a long weekend the following week but because that was the week we were in the process of transitioning to work from home I didn’t — and I really regretted it until I finally went ahead and took my long weekend a couple weeks later. I’m going to take another long weekend at the end of next week which was something I planned back when I thought I’d be flying to two different meetings next week (running one and speaking at another), and now that both are virtual I’m still going to take that Friday off, I’m also about to mark off two weeks in July regardless of what travel is possible by then. Assuming things get back up and running by fall, my fall months are very busy so if I don’t take time off now I’ll be completely burnt out right when I can’t get a real break for 8-12 weeks.

      Just because you can’t really go anywhere doesn’t mean you don’t need a break from work — I’d argue you are MORE likely to need a mental break every now and then in order to maintain some sense of separation between work and home life.

    2. Rachel Greep*

      Absolutely, take time off! I had a vacation planned right when everything was shutting down. My cruise got cancelled, and at that point we were just being encouraged to work from home. I made that transition to WFH, then took my planned days off anyway. That ended up being the week that my state shut everything down and put in a stay at home order. It was wonderful to just be paranoid and worried about my family that week instead of having all that worry while dealing with work!

  11. The Original K.*

    Professional clothes are a hard no for me right now. I work out when I get up, which forces the “shower and get dressed” issue (I generally wear jeans), but I’m not about to put on business casual at home.

    I feel like there’s pressure to avoid acknowledging that we’re living through trauma, but: we are living through trauma. The psychological impact of this will stay with us the same way the Depression did for our grandparents and parents. The goal now is just to make it. So if what you need to do is take a break from working at home, do it! Of course you should do it!

    1. Malarkey01*

      THIS about the pressure to avoid acknowledging trauma and the reality of the current situation. In some ways it’s suppose to be business as usual just WFH like normal and order from Amazon….in other ways we are living under a cloud of death and and a mounting ticker of death rates on TV while not having any certainty on when things will be normal (or what that even means). It’s like this is just a bad power outage can’t go to the restaurants today moment, instead of the next year is going to look so different like WWII or the Depression. I think the focus on when we’ll suddenly revert to normal and how it’s just weeks away has made it hard to grasp that this is anything but business as normal (plus human condition to not acknowledge when you are in the middle of an emergency).

      1. The Original K.*

        I’m reminded of what one of the essential workers said in that thread last week: “This is not a holiday, it’s a crisis.”

      2. juliebulie*

        You’re right… it’s like we’re experiencing two realities in the same time and space. No wonder we’re exhausted.

        1. Malarkey01*

          And normally in a crisis there is action to take…but the action here is “stay home”. So it sort of feels like a normal lazy weekend and that is really distorted with what’s happening. I read an article that talked about the similarities of jail- NOT to say they are the same at all, but the loss of freedom and agency and for some the lack of touch and lack of control. It really is hard..even for those of us doing reasonably well.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      This is such a good point about trauma. I worked from home full-time at my dining room table before this pandemic, and I loved the flexibility it gave me. I could start work whenever I wanted, take breaks as often as I wanted (and I usually took at least two a day to go walk outside and run errands) – now, I’m stuck in the house all day every day. While my current studio isn’t unlivably small (my last one was only 415 sf – there’s no way I could have WFH there – I didn’t even have a dining room table due to lack of space), it’s still too small for me to be in it every day all day with no breaks from it. But all of our common areas, like our rooftop courtyard, are closed down and I don’t feel safe walking around outside in my city right now – it’s definitely putting me on edge. Add to it all of the severe weather we’ve been having lately, and I’ve been crying a lot more than usual. I’m definitely going to need to go back to counseling soon.

      1. The Original K.*

        I was watching Top Chef last week and their challenge was to get stuff from the farmer’s market and I thought, “man, remember when you could just stroll through a farmer’s market? I used to love that!” And I teared up thinking about it. I miss going to the library. There were a bunch of movies I wanted to see. I haven’t touched another person in any way in over a month. The grocery store makes me anxious now.

        I’m actually good re: working at home; this isn’t my first time with that and I don’t miss commuting at ALL. (I was job-searching before, which terrifies me now. That’s a whole other issue.) But all the other things we’ve lost are really getting to me. I keep thinking about the people who have lost people and can’t even come together to grieve.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, that makes me very sad too thinking about the people who have lost loved ones who can’t give them proper burials right now. I try to watch stuff that makes me laugh and lifts the spirits, but then I read a news article and go right back in that black hole. *sigh*

          1. Not a Blossom*

            Two friends lost grandfathers and a friend lost a father in the past week and a half. My friend who lost her dad was particularly close to him but hadn’t been able to visit in person for a month because his nursing home locked down early. My heart completely breaks for them.

        2. Filosofickle*

          Our farmers markets are actually open, there’s one a block from my house that started its season last week. It isn’t something you can leisurely stroll through, of course — you have to maintain distance and the vendors have to choose/bag everything for you — but at least it’s there so you can get some groceries and air at the same time. (If you feel comfortable with that risk. Which I do.)

      2. Tic-tac*

        I have the best immune system of the three of us, so I do most of the dog walking, wearing a mask. I need the break to get out of the house, and I’ve been putting all the books I’ve meant to try to sell into the free libraries on our walks, trying to help the neighbors.

        On one walk I saw a sad bit of nature and ended up crying behind my mask. And it’s happened on several other walks, with no sad nature events. We’re all coping with whatever we have on our plates due to the pandemic + WFH if we’re lucky to still have jobs.

        I try to focus, and find work helps take my mind off things, but even knowing this I can’t concentrate.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup, my concentration is shot to hell right now. Last week, a couple hours before I was supposed to go to bed, our city’s tornado sirens started going off, so I spent two hours before bed sheltering in my bathroom crying on the floor because I was terrified we were about to be hit and I’d lose everything in the middle of a damn pandemic. And today we have a high wind advisory in effect until 8pm they say can cause power outages.

          I’m just…so tired.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I hear you on the wind… I may need to move my work setup from my LR corner to some place else because my beloved plate glass window is creeping me out today.

          2. Tic-tac*

            I’m so sorry, Diahann C. I hope things calm down weather wise for you, and that you can get some good rest soon.

            I’m supposed to write how to directions for some of the back room duties and I’ve never written directions before. It makes sense to do this now, but I’m having to learn how to do this while doing it.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Thank you. I hope I can get some real rest soon as well. All of this stress has caused my acid reflux to start up again, eight years after I got it under control, and it’s really not great to feel like you’re having a minor heart attack all day long.

              I hope you figure out your how-to guide as well. Just remember to keep it simple.

          3. Avasarala*

            Same fear here–we had an earthquake the other night, small one, but just reminds you that if we get a natural disaster right now we’re all sheltering with each other in a temporary shelter. How awful would that be. At least now we’re at home with our belongings.

            We’re going to make it, hang in there!

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              I wouldn’t even know where to go for shelter – that’s the scary part (well, one of the scary parts).

              Stay safe wherever you are.

              1. nonegiven*

                I would look for a hotel that is open if something happened to my house. There are essential employees that have to travel, so some need to be open.

          4. Julia*

            We had an earthquake a few nights ago (minor one, but you never know until it’s over) and I just thought, of course this is happening now.
            I’m so sorry you have to be scared right now.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Very very good point about the trauma.

      As for showering, I find that since I don’t do any kind of sweaty exercising these days, it’s fine to go a day without showering. It saves time and means I don’t have to sit around with wet hair for an hour (because if you think I’m blow-drying my hair when I’m sitting at home all day…well, that’s amusing). OP, you may actually really enjoy showering and you may actually enjoy wearing your work clothes every day, and if that helps you get through this then go for it, but I would recommend you look at the things you’re doing because you think you should and see if there are any that are not necessary and aren’t helping you cope, then cut those out of your routine for awhile and see how that works for you.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Random side comment that may or may not be helpful: when I wash my hair I wear a robe over my clothes. It keeps my shirt dry plus feels nice and cozy. I also hate having wet hair – it’s part of the reason why I only wash it twice a week. Also because it gets mad at me if I do it more often than that.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I wear a towel draped over the back of my neck: I worked in fitness and had to take many a quick shower in the middle of my workday. It catches all the wet drips from your hair and keeps your clothes dry.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I used to do that when I was younger. Even held the front closed with a clothespin! I just find the robe more comfy and convenient. Mine is soft and fluffy but not too warm.

            I don’t work in fitness but I do run and lift weights on my lunch break. That’s when I break out the dry shampoo. :)

    4. Quinalla*

      Agreed, trauma and we are all experiencing grief too. It really is amazing how well most of us are doing considering!

      And yeah, my office was already pretty casual unless you were meeting clients, but I’m definitely not dressing up. I am making sure to get dressed every work day after I exercise and shower as that puts me in “time to get going” mode, but I’m not dressing up because to me that isn’t helpful and makes me uncomfortable. I’m also happily wrapping myself in a blanket when I am cold which is something I just don’t quite think I can get away with at the office, though I’ve been sorely tempted :) And I’m not wearing a bra either which has been wonderful! I don’t wear make-up except on a very occasional basis, so that’s something I already wasn’t doing that a lot of women are dropping now.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        Meanwhile, I’ve been wearing increasingly absurd lipstick colors while I’m home. At work I pretty much stick to mascara and the occasional concealer for those lovely bouts of adult acne, but right now catching a glimpse of myself with electric violet or bright teal lips is strangely therapeutic. It’s like a mini Halloween. (I also live in sweats.)

  12. female-type person*

    My work has to do with being available to other people. No one says fire fighters aren’t working when they are waiting for a fire to break out or for someone to call 911. I’m not taking anything away from my availability if being at home makes it possible to work on creative projects at the same time.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Yeah, but there’s a lot of jobs where there are things to fill most of your hours. It sounds like the LW has backlogged projects and pet projects which do need to be worked on but don’t have urgent or firm deadlines. For people like that/us, we are responsible for filling our hours reasonably and deciding to do personal project would be frowned upon or worse.

      1. Salsa Verdant*

        Under normal circumstance, sure. These are not normal circumstances, and anyone who isn’t able to see that they need to adapt their expectations accordingly is being wholly unreasonable.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          That’s up to boss to the if she’s okay with you as her employee saying that to her.

          My point being: LW can’t decide on her own that this situation warrants it without her boss’s approval.

  13. Nina*

    I’ve been debating doing 10 minute yoga workouts from an app during lulls in the workday, WFH is driving me nuts too, glad to hear I’m not alone. And I think what you’re proposing is fine.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I’ve been doing this and I love it. My personality, though, is such that I am hugely incentivized by rewards. So if I know I’m going to do a short workout at 2:00, that becomes the reward and I work hard until I can get to the reward. I fully recognize that I am 100% the person all the workout apps are geared to with badges and whatnot (yay! I worked out 7 days in a row! I get an in-app reward!), and that not everyone is wired this way.

      1. SP*

        Ok, so I am also that person that is easily incentivized by digital badges and whatnot. Which apps do you like??

        1. Delta Delta*

          I like Map My Run because it’s got challenges to sign up for. I love the challenges because it’s something to work on and achieve. I also just started using Peloton (free for either 30 or 90 days). I don’t have the bike but it’s got really good classes with really positive (but not sickly-sweet) instructors. It’s also got badges. I’ve roped Mr. Delta into doing classes under “I’m doing it anyway and if we do it three more days in a row we get a badge!” and then he reluctantly does a yoga class with me.

          I’m such a nerd.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          I’m a huge fan of Zombies, Run! for this sort of thing. It’s basically a radio play where you have to run to get more story (or walk, or bike, or clean the basement — the story clips are just time-based, but it feels more immersive if you’re actually running or walking).

    2. Donovanable*

      I’ve been doing these regularly; almost every work day. I’m a total novice, but it’s remarkable how much it’s helping.

  14. NW Mossy*

    I’m not loving WFH either for much the same reason – too much time spent at loose ends when the work’s not coming in fast enough. I’m someone who needs to have a few things in the pipeline all the time to keep my motivation up, and that’s just not happening right now. It’s also having the unfortunate knock-on effect of sapping my creativity, making it even less likely that I can invent something to do to keep myself occupied!

    I don’t have any pro advice right now, but definitely commiseration. For every person who’s thinking “I never want to go into the office again!”, there’s one of us who’s thinking “I can’t believe I actually miss my cubicle.”

  15. SomebodyElse*

    I’m a fairly regular wfh person, and the past few weeks have been a different animal. Firstly, now that my entire company has been kicked out of the office, I’m seeing less and less meetings. It’s also our traditional slow time, we just ended our fiscal year, so usually 1/3 of the company is on PTO since they haven’t been able to take any time the previous 3 months.

    Add to that my typical job is reacting to all the shenanigans that need addressed NOWWWW! I have a lot of open space on my calendar and not a lot of deadlines to work toward. So yes, I’m not as busy or productive as I usually am, but still puttering along. I’m trying not to go down the slippery slope of doing not work things during work time though, because failure for me lies down that path.

    As a manager, I expect that it’s largely the same for my teams. Get the important things done, get some of the ‘want to dos’ done, and be available when needed.

    1. Pigeon*

      I feel this hard. All my meetings have evaporated, work has slowed to a crawl so there’s nothing to triage and my backlog is actually cleared out. Which was nice for all of five minutes and now I have little to do. It’s driving me nuts. And I love working from home in normal circumstances!

  16. Person from the Resume*

    Why don’t you take some days off? I did that Friday because I has planned to take if off and even though I wasn’t able to go where I planned I decided I still deserve a break from work.

    I’m a bit concerned with you asking/getting permission to do this from Alison instead of your boss. Alison is correct it is a weird time, but the person to allow you to be on the clock waiting to work and not working instead of working on the backlog is your boss. If you get “caught” and reprimanded, you can’t say “AAM said it was okay.”

    This is something legit to ask you boss about, but your boss is the decision maker/authority. And if you know that your boss is stickler and would not approve you waiting to work even in this stressful time then there’s your answer. If you want time off, you need to take it off.

    1. Uncle Waldo*

      I don’t think OP is substituting Alison’s “permission” for their own manager’s. I read this more as a way to get a feel for how appropriate their desire may be, specifically whether they are completely off-base.

      Office norms can be rather nuanced, even when they seem fairly obvious to others. I know I would appreciate some form of validation or warning in several situations, and this is a great place to receive sound advice without any permanent consequences on my relationship with my manager.

  17. Chili*

    This depends on the field and nature of your job, but I’ve been approaching this situation as a marathon, not a sprint. Taking some days where you are consciously outputting less but actively replenishing your figurative batteries is a smart approach, especially since the nature of your work means your days vary a lot in intensity. If this were a week or two situation, I’d be more inclined to try and power through, but this is looking to be a months-long endeavor.

    I’d also see if it’s possible to take a half day or full day off-0ff. I took one recently and it was incredibly restorative to have a day to just focus on whatever I wanted and completely take my mind off of work. Because even if you are knitting with your laptop open to stay active on Slack, it’s easy for your brain to stay in “work mode” and you’re not getting the full restorative effect of true time off.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I’ve been encouraging this as well to my team… I feel like the WFH people are in this weird no-man’s land right now. We’re not in our normal go to the office world and we’re not in the don’t have a job to work at mode either. So it’s like we have all the downsides of working with none of the perks of being at home.

      I think that a true downtime day is still needed from time to time to get out of the new normal of hazy work time.

      *obviously the paycheck and job is a perk…

  18. OP's Twin*

    This is very much how I am feeling. I am the director (and only staff member) for a nonprofit that does advocacy/community engagement/education. My work is very much self-driven and nearly everything I do (task-wise) is either something I need to do (grant writing, planning for Board meetings) or something I’ve made up for myself to do (because that’s what my work is). During normal times, my work is very on-the-go. Meetings, presentations, talking with people, fundraising. I do a lot of driving around to do stuff in the community.

    I wouldn’t say I am bored, per se, but I am bored. Sure, there is stuff I CAN do, but the impact of that work (on our mission) pales in comparison to my usual work. I am trying to motivate myself to do all the things I don’t usually have time for, but this is not the type of work I am accustomed to doing 40 hours per week. I have absolutely no idea how to sit at my computer for this amount of time and it is crushing my productivity.

  19. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I processed similar thoughts when I first began working remotely; it was a challenge to create my ‘new normal’, even though I lobbied for it. It helped that I had a boss who didn’t confuse activity for results; he knew I produced and didn’t monitor my time online, saying only that he wanted me to produce and manage work as much as possible. Even so, for the first two months I kept to a rigid schedule of 8 to 5, with an hour for lunch. Once I got past the idea of feverishly working for hours at a time lest someone think I was slacking off, working and flexing my schedule from my home-as-office was easier. It’s only been 3 weeks for you, so be patient with yourself!

    The thing is, I could at least go to my local Starbucks for a change of scenery. I can understand how your comfortable space can feel like a jail cell, especially since you can’t freely change scenery right now. Maybe you could set up virtual coffee breaks with your colleagues – or even your boss! It’s a nice break in the day and gives you much-needed comraderie. Likewise with a weekly lunch or Happy Hour on Friday. If you don’t have or can’t use a conferencing app, get Skype (cheap!). Time your virtual break, and see if that helps make your work easier to tackle. Good luck!

  20. LGC*

    So wait, what’s your work arrangement? There’s three ways to think about it, although they’re all the same answer:

    If you’re salaried, you’re really working for results, not time. As long as you’re providing the expected and necessary results, you’re good.

    If you’re hourly, you’re…actually working for time, and being available is part of that.

    If you’re a contractor, then you just have to turn around your deliverables on a set schedule and they can’t argue too much with that.

    For what it’s worth, I’m in the second bucket. I’ve tried to make myself as available as possible during normal work hours – I’ll log into the VPN, turn on our VoIP phone, open Mail – and then I’ll try to do what I’m able to do. (Heck, I’ve even installed our VoIP client on my phone in case I leave my apartment.) Although there are some downsides – Thursday, I started out for a run at 4:30 (after business hours) only to get interrupted at the beginning by a surprise situation.

    1. John Boy Walton*

      You got it. Because they are paying you to be available during A and B hours does what you see as an interruption they see as a work request. Your scenario is a touch away from the privilege topic. Regardless, don’t stop planning your runs. Self-care is almost a requirement during these times.

      1. LGC*

        To be fair, they’re still only paying me to work for them between 8 AM and 4 PM, so I wasn’t entirely joyful about this!

        (I still answered the call, which might not have been the wisest decision. It turned out that the situation could wait until the next business day and would have been very involved to fix right then and there anyway. It actually got fixed this morning.)

  21. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I WFH regularly and have a similarly cyclical job. Sometimes it’s nuts and I’m constantly busy, sometimes I’m waiting for other people to get back to me before I can proceed, sometimes it’s just dead. A long time ago I realized that being available is the most important thing, though oddly I was more ok with that before the whole company went remote. Maybe I feel more visible now that everyone else is in my boat? It’s weird. Anyway. Last week I had a terrible, terrible day that came with crappy news, and on top of that I had an open afternoon with no meetings and no deadlines. I had nothing in my own pipeline. So I got into bed and watched a movie, and every few minutes I checked my messages. I answered the few that came in. But I gave myself permission to let it go. Be nice to yourself. If it makes you feel better, take PTO. But so far you sound like you’re doing fine.

  22. 5 Leaf Clover*

    Thanks for this response, Allison. I’m a healthcare admin in an non-essential clinic that is closed until June, and so there’s a weird flow right now where sometimes it seems there’s so much to do and sometimes there’s very little, but there’s still the expectation that I will work 8 hours every day. Having to make up projects to fill time is so demoralizing. I have found it helps me a lot to take short breaks to do small personal things, like clean up a little, have a snack, listen to a song, write a few lines in a journal, or just curl up on my bed and pet the cat. It makes me feel like I am not just a clock-punching robot, and I don’t feel bad about it because when I don’t do this, I end up wasting work time anyway just staring at my monitor feeling depressed. I hope this is helpful OP! Hang in there, you’re not alone in feeling this way.

  23. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Solidarity from someone also trapped in a studio apartment working on the couch. Someone here saved me early on by reminding me I can sit on the floor too, that has helped stretch my back and let me “change it up”!

    I always get up and walk around a bit frequently because if you don’t, you’re going to seriously screw your back up and you don’t want what happens when your sciatic nerve gets tweaked, I promise you.

    Just repeating that these aren’t normal times and as long as you are reachable and responsive, you should make everyone who is also in a crappy spot as well happy enough!

    1. LeahS*

      Ohh thanks for passing this on! The floor is a great idea just to break things up a little tbh.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yesssss, it seems like one of those nuggets of forgotten wisdom.

        I only think of siting on the floor when all the seats are taken and not as an option for when you need to move around. It helps so you can stretch out a bit too.

  24. High School Teacher*

    I am working from home, and I’m a teacher so it is VERY different from actual work. I don’t like it at all. Obviously the major reasons are that I miss my students and the organic nature of in-person classes. But I am also the type of person who works hard at work and then relaxes hard at home. Usually I go to work, teach, use my planning periods to get everything done, and then I come home and watch TV or read until bed. It is so hard for me to focus on getting work done at home.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      One thing that has helped me is to do some of my usual morning work habits… I typically listen to a news program on the radio on my commute. I’ve been doing that in the mornings before I log in and after I log out in this afternoon. I’ve also heard of people taking a walk around the block in the morning, and one the opposite way in the afternoon.

      I know myself well enough that I have to be self disciplined in not doing ‘home stuff’ while I’m working. That means that I won’t let myself listen to audiobooks during the day because I don’t do it in the office. Funny… wasting time on sites like this and few others are ‘work’ activities so I’m allowing myself to still do it.

      I think it’s just trial and error to find the right balance.

  25. Delta Delta*

    I’ve been WFH for a few years and I totally get this. I’ve found that it works best for me (and this is just me) to make sure I put on some clothes every morning. I feel icky if I wear my sleep clothes too long. So even if I’m just swapping sleep shorts for running tights, it’s different clothes and for me it feels like the start of a new phase of the day. No need to go full business-casual, though. I also mentioned upthread that I’m a person who loves rewards. I’ve tried to bring in short workouts throughout the day (or going to the mailbox or whatever) as a reward. “At 11:30 I’m _____” and then I try to make myself work solidly until I can do my reward. And at the end of the day I’m done. My work is such that I might get a client call or message outside normal hours, and if it’s important I respond, but otherwise when the day is done it’s done. And I try to be screen-free for a while in the evening. If Mr. Delta and I go for a walk or something, other than logging the mileage (because more rewards! give me all the app-based rewards and badges!), I don’t use my phone at all.

    If any of this helps, I’m glad to have helped!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I don’t know what it is about clothes vs. PJs, but I feel exactly the same way. Lots of people seem to think a day spent in PJs is a win but I hate doing that. I thought I was the only one.

      But hey, OP, if all-day PJs make you feel better, do that!

      1. UKDancer*

        Me too. I am happy wearing casual clothes for days around the house but I take my nightwear off because that divides the sleeping time from the waking time.

        I also do wear my office wear to work in because I feel more professional and in “work mode” but that’s my choice. My company has made it clear they are happy for us to relax the dress code but I don’t want to. I think it’s good to give people the choice.

    2. Edible currancy*

      I am still going in to work some days, and am allowed casual wear in our now closed to the public space. I come home and shower and wash my clothes to try and prevent getting the virus if I was exposed.

      At home, I wear my work clothes because I don’t have enough jeans to wear them at work and at home. So my wardrobe has flipped for the time being.

  26. Yarnftw*

    One of my favorite things about yarn is that you can easily pick it up and put it back down. Knitting on your lap, Ravelry open in the background, and work on your project when there’s a break – I’ll even put on a movie while yarning as long as it’s something I won’t mind pausing.

    Knit away when things are quiet, put it down when work comes in. As long as it’s not complex beaded lace, it’s an excellent between tasks activity.

    If you’re available when the work comes in, no one on the other end knows whether you’ve been staring at a screen or playing with yarn while waiting.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      THIS^. And if you’re working on something that’s just stockinette or garter, you can practice knitting without looking at your knitting while you’re reading something else.

    2. Jam Today*

      I may have spent at least one conference call pulling out stitches on a couple of prototype projects so I could re-use the fabric later that evening.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oh yes, I forgot also about the beauty of being able to knit while in meetings (which is exactly why I started knitting years ago when I WFH full-time). It’s nice to get to do that again (silver lining in an otherwise scary world).

  27. Miss Muffet*

    Any reason you aren’t working from like, your eating space (kitchen table or counter) rather than the couch? I agree that “relaxing” spaces should stay sacred (couch, bedroom) if it’s at all possible.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Uh…the eating space is the couch for some of us. What’s a kitchen table, I literally haven’t had one before [I know what they are, I’m just saying that not everyone has room for one.]

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup. For seven years, I lived in a studio that had zero space for a dining room table and I took all of my meals from my bed or couch (didn’t have much counter space to eat from either). I upgraded to an almost 600 sf studio nearly two years ago (love it!), and I finally got a drop leaf dining room table and chairs! This is where I work full-time, even prior to the pandemic, because I have no space for a proper desk (and at the time I moved, I didn’t realize I would need one – I hadn’t decided to find a fully remote job at that point).

        If I was still in my old apartment, I’d be working from either my bed or my couch, which is in fact awful. My mom is doing it now from her apartment (because her kitchen bar is too high and she can’t find barstools high enough for her to sit at it comfortably), and she’s been complaining about what it’s doing to her body. So I feel all of you right now and sympathize.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeassssssssssss, this lockdown has broken me and I’m upgrading to a 1 bedroom when my lease is up. It’s no longer worth saving $100 a month [yes, I’m frugal to the point of discomfort because of my upbringing, I mean I could have a lot more space if I wanted to live in a trailer park…….don’t make me go back!!!!]

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            You sound like me, lol. I stayed in my shoebox of an apartment for so long because a) I couldn’t afford a one-bedroom for years due to the terrible economy (I graduated into the ‘09 recession) and b) when I could afford to at least upgrade to a bigger studio, I absolutely refused to spend an additional $100/month on a space that really wasn’t much bigger than what I was currently in. I finally found a building that was in a semi-decent area in my city that was considered “luxury” and happened to be running a 4th of July special on apartment rentals, and decided to bite the bullet and spend the extra $100/month on a much larger studio – I still can’t afford one bedrooms where I am, smh.

            Now I’m looking around this apartment and trying to decide what furniture I actually need and what can be replaced so I can get a proper desk (I’m seriously considering getting rid of my bed and just sleeping on a sofa sleeper, lol).

            1. lemon*

              Ooh, a horizontal murphy bed might be a good option. When the bed is folded up, the top of the console can become a desk.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                That’s a very expensive option, lol. But I love the look and idea of Murphy beds. I’m saving all of my bonuses from work, the stimulus check I’m supposed to receive from the government, and all of the money that was supposed to go towards my now deferred federal student loans – I was planning on that being my emergency fund. If I don’t end up using it this year (in the event my job doesn’t get cut), I may actually use that money to get a Murphy bed installed in my unit. That would solve so many problems I have in one shot and free up extra floor space during the day so my apartment will feel bigger.

                1. lemon*

                  I feel you on cost. The ones on sites like Wayfair are beautiful but ridiculously expensive. There are some bare-bones kits out there that are about half the cost, although they’re just the frame that lifts the bed against the wall, no cabinet. There are some DIY plans out there for the whole megillah, also at about half the cost of what you’d pay for a pre-assembled piece. Might be worth looking into. Any sofa bed that’s worth sleeping on on a daily basis will be about the cost of a DIY murphy bed (if not more).

            2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I have been quite happy sleeping on a couch-style futon for several years now. If you’re considering a sleeper sofa, I really recommend also considering a futon. I find it a lot more comfortable than a typical hide-a-bed. I recommend shopping at a place that specializes in futons and getting a wooden-frame one rather than getting the cheap aluminum frame kind at Walmart.

              Mine’s held up for over a decade with only minor DIY repairs (one of the boards cracked a few years back, which, since it was a wooden board, was something easy to replace with a new board using simple tools), including many years as the main couch and several as the main bed. I can also move it all by myself in a pinch, although it’s easier with two people. One of the things I like about it is that since it’s built to be a couch, it doesn’t start to sag if you sit on the edge of it like a bed would.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                I had a futon and it almost destroyed my back and made my acid reflux worse. I couldn’t go back to that.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Seriously. I live in a 175 square foot studio – there *is* just one space, which is my bed and a tiny table next to it, for sleeping, eating, relaxing… and working. And no, I can’t afford more! A lot of us can’t!

      3. MA marketing assistant*

        Ditto, although at this point it’s because I’ve gotten used to eating on the couch and sitting at a table feels oddly formal. I had to buy a kitchen island at my past apartment (huge kitchen. Zero counter) and that now lives in the “dining area” of my open plan living/dining/kitchen current apartment, as an extra prep space/clutter collector.

    2. Mina*

      Hello! I am the original poster. My apartment doesn’t have an eating space. It’s pretty much just a very narrow kitchen counter and stove, a small bedroom, and a small living room. The joys of post-college living…

      1. 40 Years In the Hole*

        Our first apt (tiny 1 bdrm), no balcony, no dining space, and the kitchen was just (barely) big enough to cook in. With only 3ft+ of wall space, and through the magic of “a certain Swedish big box store” we found a tiny, wall-mounted, drop-down 1/2 table & 2 folding chairs. Perfect! Not sure if it’s still in stock and if they deliver in your area but that – or something similar may work. If you have the wall space/ok to mount, other online companies have similar options – google “floating desks.” Maybe your company can subsidize? Think “work peripheral/support, OHS, etc. And if you have a balcony there are little folding tables that you hook over the railing. But…weather…pigeons.
        I also have a cushioned laptop support tray that you use on your lap; the cushioning forms to your lap, whether you are sitting on a couch, or propped in bed, keeps your lap from getting over heated, and much better for your posture than hunching over or having the laptop slide off your lap. Google “laptop support desks” for tons of options/price ranges. Good luck!

        1. Jiya*

          The drop-down table is called BJURSTA and it’s absolutely still available. IKEA also has a nice stand-up teeny desk right now with hooks and shelves that I’ve been eyeing covetously.

    3. Betty (the other betty)*

      It’s ok to take breaks and take time off! These are crazy times.

      Something that might help, if you can squeeze the space out, is to split the room into zones. I did that when I worked out of my apartment. The living room was just big enough to move the couch closer to the tv, leaving space behind it for my desk (at first just a small table and chair). So when I was working, I faced the wall. When I quit work to go to the “living room” I faced the other direction. It helped me feel more separation between work and relaxation.

      The downside was that it used up most of the floor space, so I had to put the coffee table on the couch if I wanted to exercise on the floor.

    4. The Original K.*

      The kitchen is one of my relaxing spaces (which is part of why I hate that grocery shopping is so anxiety-provoking now). I’d sooner work on my couch than in my kitchen. (I do neither; I work at my desk in a corner of the living room.)

    5. Cat*

      Depends on the person. I have worked from home full time for two years and the couch works best for me.

  28. Archaeopteryx*

    Definitely ditch the professional clothes, and it may help to spend 10 minutes of each hour getting up and stretching. Maybe pick 7 – 8 songs and listen to I’m one per mini break.

  29. Bookworm*

    I can relate, OP. I’m also lucky enough to remain fully employed, WFH with flexibility to do errands if we need to shop for groceries or do other things to cope during this time. Some days I’m reasonably productive, on par with a “normal” working day in the office, without a pandemic. Some days I’m just there, doing the bare minimum.

    Don’t know if this is for you but finding a low-maintenance show on a streaming service/TV to have on as “background noise” could be useful. Something you’ve seen before or something that doesn’t need a lot of investment could be a good way “be online” that you can also turn off and on depending on your needs and moods.

    Wishing you and everyone else in a similar situation all the best.

  30. LeahS*

    I am working from home and struggling a little. I have been given two tasks during this time… one is at the point where it cannot be worked on until I hear back from vendors.

    The other is simply a list of (I have to be vague for anonymity) of a certain type of spots all across the country. That is all that I have to do. Literally just typing what I’m looking for into google and going down the line listing the businesses it gives me. I now have over 1000 places on this list.

    I am hourly and this is all I have to fill my 8 hours a day. I am really struggling with focus and feeling like I am cheating my employer if I am not working on this spreadsheet for 8 hours. There are a few tiny things that I do need to be responsive to from my co-workers so it makes me feel a little better that at least I am in front of the computer at all times.

    But yeah… this has been stressful and it’s hard for me to be kind to myself.

    1. MA marketing assistant*

      Oof, that sounds BRUTAL. My longrunning (seriously, I’ve been working on this for like six months now) background task is checking all of our company websites for broken links, etc, and I can only do that for an hour or two at a time before I start losing my mind. We have some big sites.

    2. John Boy Walton*

      Working on a spreadsheet for 8 hours would drive me nuts. If you were in the office would you be working on it for 8 hours. Give yourself a break. No really, many of them throughout the day.

    3. nonegiven*

      If you were in an office doing that, you wouldn’t be sitting there typing for 8 solid hours. You would have breaks. Besides regular breaks you would talk to other people, go to the bathroom, get coffee, walk around and stretch, look out the window, tidy your desk, rest your eyes, talk about other business, etc.

  31. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    I was JUST saying to my husband the other day how happy I am that we were not still in an apartment when this broke out. Working from my dining room table day in and day out is mentally draining in a really weird way, but if we had to share our small living room and coffee table on separate couches (he works upstairs in his office) it would be an absolute nightmare. Having a setup in our dining room (which we really only use when we have large gatherings or company for dinner which obviously we aren’t right now!) makes it mentally easier to “separate” from work when I am not working.

    And, yeah, I’m in hoodies and leggings or sweatpants every day, no makeup and a ponytail and I am NOT SORRY. Being able to be in comfy, cozy clothes is the one thing making me happy about working from home!

  32. Nuke*

    I’m working from home in my basement, which is normally my relaxing space with my computer and my pets. I can’t sit for 8 straight hours (with my breaks ofc) and do Solid Work without going nuts. Sometimes I just get up and check on one of my critters, or freshen up their food/water, or just take a second to tidy up. That’s how I keep sane during all this because I’m trapped in my house with my grandmother, haha. Just try to do the little things you wouldn’t always be able to do during the day.

  33. SomebodyElse*

    I’ll offer another tip… Background noise.

    My house is soooo quiet during the day that I can’t stand it. I can’t do podcasts, tv, or music as noise (they all annoy me to no end if I’m actually trying to get something done). I have found and have been enjoying an app/website that does different background noise. – I have no affiliation to this site other than being a user, but you can choose background noises from sailing ships and cozy libraries to industrial sounds and horror (although the last one may not be the best for work). If I find I need something done I find a nice busy background noise that I can match my effort level to.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I use that too! I have one that’s set up to sound like I’m sitting in a forest listening to the wind rustle the leaves, a softly burbling creek, and birds chirping periodically. It’s one of my favorite soundscapes in nature so I love that I can recreate it at home and feel less isolated.

  34. Sparky*

    I’m WFH and my immediate manager is not giving us any grace around filling eight hours each day. My job is normally not possible to do from home, so I am watching tutorials, etc. I think the manager above her and maybe the one above that wouldn’t be so strict. It helped me to read the thread just about WFH during this situation, people are home, trying to work. I talked to a relative who is a social worker who reminded me that people are dying. I need to get my work done, step up and be available when needed, but this is a blip in a long career. I have a long track record of being productive and reliable. Dealing with the new situation, living with two vulnerable people takes so much time and energy. We are wiping down delivered groceries after letting the dry goods sit for several days. This is new and scary. I’m trying to learn new skills (write procedures) on a small screen with kids and dogs bouncing off of me. I am trying, don’t judge me like I’m at the office with normal amounts of stress.

    1. Ashley*

      It can be helpful to keep perspective by thinking that other people have it worse, but it’s also true that we can’t discount our own experiences. This is hard. It’s hard for everyone, and we shouldn’t have to “justify” our stress. Be kind to yourself. <3

      1. Sparky*

        Thanks, Ashley and JBW. This morning has been stressful yet boring, if that makes sense. Maybe I mean tedious. I hope you can both do nice things for yourselves too.

  35. scamper12*

    I’m there too with the work that ebbs and flows, OP. I think there are a lot of us.

    Many at my organization (we provide an essential service) are slammed 24/7, even those working remotely. We hear about the hours they’re putting in a lot. And I agree, those colleagues amazing and wonderful! But I also feel like a leech on humanity for having downtime when they’re so busy. So I ask how I can help and again and again, the answer boils down to…be available. It can be hard to accept that this is an important function, but it is.

    Before this all happened, we were big planners at my organization and stuff took forever. Now things change by the hour, and we need to respond to requests on a dime. Those “swamped 24/7” colleagues need support from people who have the bandwidth to respond NOW.

  36. Saberise*

    I think we are all struggling with this a bit. I finally gave myself permission to make sure I just do something constructive for 8 hours. Every now and again I will spend a bit of time in the overflow room trying to get it a bit more organized. Earlier I cleaned the bathroom since I figure it’s being used more since I am WFH and the custodian staff isn’t stopping by like at work. :-) That is of course on top of taking care of anything work related and some courses I’m taking on LinkedIn learning that are work related.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Just commenting to say that I also clean the BR on work time for the same reason. It just makes me feel a million times better to have a clean bathroom and to *immediately clean it the second I decide it’s too dirty.* If that happens at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, then that’s when the BR gets cleaned.

  37. Jam Today*

    I used to WFH 1-2 days a week anyways: always on Fridays and other days depending on how early my first meeting was and whether or not I had drive-time. I live alone, so that’s one or more fewer complications than others, but I do live in a small city apartment with one “livingroom-dining area”, plus my bedroom, kitchen, and a tiny side room that has a guest bed in it and no room to set up an office space there. I have my laptop on one side of my very small dining table that gets opened between 7-8 (first meeting time dependent) and closed not one second later than 6pm, although around 5:15-5:30 my cats begin the “ok food lady time to wind down the workday” process by sitting on my keyboard, lying down and putting their tails on the keyboard, or just standing right next to the laptop and staring at me. The other side of the table is now 100% dedicated to my sewing projects (all masks, all the time), so despite the small space there is a very clear delineation between “work area” and “life area”. Before 7am I lounge on the couch and drink my coffee while scrolling through social media, then make the move to my little workspace when my “workday” starts. For me, its important to have ritualistic start and stop times and physical position in my little apartment.

    I will say that as much as I’m starting to go a little stir crazy because I can’t go out into social spaces *at all* — I do not miss sitting in my car for 45 minutes each way. I never minded commuting by public transit, but driving is one “ritual” I’m very happy to give up.

  38. MA marketing assistant*

    This is me right now. Only I literally don’t have enough work to fill the day, so I stay logged in to my company’s chat software and handle the tasks I get immediately. I work faster than they expect me to but they’re happy with the quality of my work, so *shrug*. I’m so grateful to be working from home right now because it would be MISERABLE to sit at the office for 8 hours a day and have nothing to do.

    Right now I’ve been filling the gaps with too much Animal Crossing but I’m starting to get bored of that so I will probably get a Skillshare or Udemy membership soon and brush up my Photoshop skills, which has the benefit of being tangentially work-related.

  39. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Hey OP, do you have a sliding glass door or window at a reasonable height?

    It looks like you’re using a laptop? Could you get one of those thingies that stick to the window to use it as a ledge to convert to a “standing” desk?

    Yeah…my “I saw something on Shark Tank once.” senses just kicked in. I don’t have a laptop so I’m still ef’ed but anyone with a laptop and proper window/door could think of that setup. I can’t promise if it’s affordable or not though. Perhaps something an employer would help pay for if they’re buying equipment of any kind?

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I once had just moved into a new apartment… plenty of room. But had no real furniture at the time I had an unexpected couple of months of wfh. (and not a lot of money to buy anything)

      I ended up using a cedar chest I had and a camping chair… It more or less worked out… luckily I was young without back problems, though!

      I’m thinking maybe the OP could see if there’s opportunity for creativity with the ‘desk’ setup. If nothing else the experiments could help add some interest into their day.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah I once had a place with so much room I had an entirely empty room. It was going to be an office but then we decided to move on up to the “Big City” and here I am in a studio without even a camp chair.

        And I did think each summer since we moved I should get a camp chair for the patio but “nah, you’re never home, B.” [And now I’m readily seeing the importance of SPACE and furniture. Thanks, Rona!]

    2. Zona the Great*

      Just imagining that burns my retinas but what a cool suggestion! I would bet many would love that set-up!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Awwww I’m on the shady side of our building but we’re also have tinted windows as well to help with our heating/air conservation. I forget that some folks are facing the sun, yeah that wouldn’t be a good thing.

  40. Lucette Kensack*

    How would this advice change if the employee were hourly/non-exempt?

    I love this: “You’re doing your assigned work and meeting your deadlines. That’s a reasonable bar for success right now. You do not need to fill every spare minute with productive work beyond that.”

    That’s true for hourly folks, too. But how do we offer them the same grace?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The majority of our company are hourly and we always have grace about it though. Just like we don’t count bathroom breaks or coffee breaks or chat sessions in the hallway at work, I’m not asking our hourly folks to account for their time. As long as they’re available, deliverables are done in their somewhat regular speed, etc.

  41. Zona the Great*

    I have never had enough to do at work. Busy times for me last just days. This is so great being able to do my dishes while I’m bored rather than pretend to work or search the annals of the work-safe internet all day.

  42. hbc*

    Any manager who is expecting normal productivity within the normal boundaried work hours right now is delusional. Unfortunately, now would be a difficult time to confirm that your manager is one of the worst of the worst, but it’s unlikely you’re in that boat.

    I see behavior multiple times a day that I wouldn’t accept under normal WFH or office situations. Heck, someone two levels down from me had to put a break in our group meeting because he had to pull bacon out of the oven. It’s just…nothing is normal now. Don’t be the person in pajamas *and* with the screaming kids/pets/roommate *and* already be a suspected slacker, and you’ll be fine.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      For me it was the opposite this morning. My husband slept until 10am, so I had to let my bosses know I was fine with emails but couldn’t place calls.

  43. Third or Nothing!*

    Oh this is exactly the letter and answer I needed to read today. I’m working from home and my husband is on unpaid leave so he’s taking care of our toddler. She keeps running up to me in my little corner of the dining room and begging me to play with her. She’s not used to having her parents present but unavailable and it breaks my heart to have to constantly tell her I can’t do anything with her until my lunch break or until I log off for the day.

    One day last week I took several breaks throughout the day to do stuff with her and felt so, so guilty about slacking off from work. I’m getting everything done that needs to be done…but I can’t shake the feeling that I have to be on the computer at all times, you know?

    1. JustMyImagination*

      I was feeling guilty every time I got up from my computer. I took a step back and thought about how much time I spend in the office walking to the bathroom, kitchen, small chats with coworkers about weekend plans and things like that. Once I had that thought I tried to apply a similar principle to home. It’s OK to chat with my husband for 5-10 minutes here and there throughout the day because now he’s my only worker. It’s OK to take 15-20 minutes to unload and load the dishwasher because that’s time I spend waiting in line in the caf for lunch.

  44. zebra*

    I think these issues are really common when working from home, so please be kind to yourself! I’ll add a few specific suggestions:

    1. Is there any part of your work that might be reasonably done old-school? Last week I had to read some documents, so I printed them out and went to go sit outside in the sunshine to read them, making notes on paper like it was 1999. I felt so much better afterward just from having been out in fresh air for a while. If there’s anything like that you could do, I highly recommend it!

    2. I know you’re working with limited space, which is frustrating. But if you can think of a creative way to rearrange your space, it’s worth the ask to see if your company would pay for it. Like a fold-up table, or some other convertible piece of furniture. They might not agree, but it’s certainly reasonable for you to ask.

    3. If you haven’t already, and depending on your boss — I’d think about being more up front with them. If you don’t complain about it much, they might not realize HOW small your apartment is and how hard it is to be trapped in there all day. What if you just explain that on your less busy days, you’ll start taking more of your breaks while in a park/jogging/biking/walking/sitting on your stoop? I’m trying to do that and it’s helping a lot. My boss is really understanding and she’s trying to take more neighborhood walks, as well, so we are just changing our modes of communication a bit and texting if the other person’s not at their computer. It’s working well so far.

    Good luck!

  45. MonteCristo85*

    I’m really struggling with this because work has invaded every aspect of my life. We are utterly swamped and have been for the entire 3 years I’ve worked here, and we just lost our most senior to another opportunity. We fortunately had another candidate on deck for a new position that we were able to switch over, but this is a two person department, and the other accountant has only been here since Jan 1. So I’m managing a shoestring staff of two brand new people, over the phone. I’m stressed, scared, exhausted, and my morale is in the toilet. I’m having trouble just maintaining a reasonable work day, much less being able to take breaks during the day. I worked 70 hours last week just M-F. Management tells me I can take a break, but the work is still there and still piles up, so any break I take just makes it worse later. They are listening, and have finally agreed to get me a 3rd person, but it will take a while to find them, plus that just leaves me with 3 newbies that need training (something that I find utterly exhausting in any case). I’ve only been a manager since August, so this is all new to me, on top of the insanity that we are dealing with currently. It’s all I can do not to just bail, and go home and run my family’s hardware store.

    1. MonteCristo85*

      Piling on top of all this, I foolishly moved into a house that I’m remodeling, and while I’m utterly swamped with work, I’m sitting in the midst of a disaster. Cabinets half built in the kitchen, bathrooms half built, missing trim, etc etc. I don’t have time to work on it, nor do I have the mental energy even when I do have time, but sitting in this unfinished mess is NOT relaxing. But if I just work and go to bed, I slowly spiral back into depression and anxiety. I can’t even express how much I hate all this right now.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’m sorry you’re having a hard time. Do you have a yard you can go sit in and take a break from time to time? If so, you might want to do that so you won’t have to spend all day looking at the remodel.

  46. lemon*

    Might be a good idea to look at Apartment Therapy’s studio tours. They feature a lot of very tiny studios (200-400 square feet), so it’s a good place to get inspiration on how to create a productive layout in small space. Added bonus: it’s just a nice mental break to look at pretty things, too.

    I’ve been doing this because I’m currently going nuts working in my 11×11 bedroom because my roommate, who teaches yoga and dance, has completely commandeered our living room (our only common space) to teach online classes. I moving into a 250 square foot studio in May, and have been worried that it’s not going to be enough space to be able to WFH productively.

    But seeing how other people tackle their small spaces has given me hope. I’ve also discovered folding wall desks. They look like just a basic wall cabinet, but they fold out into a pretty decent-sized desk. I’m planning to get one to have a dedicated work space in the new apt. Might be an option worth looking into?

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      A folding wall desk is a great idea if OP has the space for a wall (I know every wall in my studio is currently covered) and can put it up herself.

  47. Carly Patterson*

    I hate working from home too because I’m lonely. Also, there is so much time at the office you spend NOT working. I realize I’m far more productive at home because I’m not asked questions a lot (I enjoy personally coaching so this is not an issue for me there), and also just random chattiness. And waiting for printer, and having more in person meetings that take longer, etc etc.

    I also have a weird area to work to get my connection and it’s not comfortable. I don’t have a printer so I used to print out some stuff and highlight and amend wording, etc that I no longer can do. And our connections are slower because we are all using a VPN.

    And I have to homeschool, and it’s just…not ideal.

    I definitely dress comfortably though, I wear stretchy black pants, and then change into different stretchy black pants at night.

  48. Fabulous*

    P.S. You don’t need to wear those professional clothes at home if you don’t want to! Some people find it helps them, but others of us find we’re much happier in head-to-toe fleece.

    Came here just to say this! I can’t remember the last time I wore real pants to “work” and have been much happier because of it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I found a nice balance. I don’t make myself get out of my pajamas immediately but I do “upgrade” to clean/better athlesuire attire around mid-morning snack/coffee time. Because not changing clothes or having some kind of “normalcy” in a way can trigger depression episodes in some folks. I’m one of those people.

      I just put on earrings because I personally just need to, lol.

      But I agree, please don’t do this because you feel you have to! Find what is good and feels right to you.

    2. Dr. Mentos*

      The temperature here dropped 50+ degrees in the last few days. I’m wearing two pairs of socks, jeans, a flannel shirt with a sweatshirt over it and a cheerful knit cap with tassels. And I’m still cold. No one can see me (except the pets) but it is sorta working for wfh today.

      1. nonegiven*

        It was 90F one day last week, today it was 45F and they’re talking wintery mix, tomorrow.

  49. Sunset Maple*

    Not to hijack, Alison, but how does the general of a cat army have a wardrobe of fleece? I cannot for the life of me get cat hair out of it without a tweezers, so I donated it all.

  50. LeighTX*

    I can relate to this so much! I usually WFH 2-3 days a week, but doing it every single day (with husband and children also at home) when I don’t really have enough to do for 40 hours a week is kind of making me feel bananas.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes. I think there’s a huge difference between working from home to some extent as choice and the current situation of being under lockdown.

      I work from home 1-2 days per week as a rule and I run a few errands. We’re on flexi time so I can usually adjust my hours if I want to get my nails done or to go a ballet class and if I want to meet up with local friends for tea and cake that’s also easy. Under lockdown I can do none of these things so it feels a lot more confining and stressful with fewer outlets for my energies. This isn’t the same as the normal working from home experience so it’s not surprising people, even those who do work from home, may be finding it harder.

  51. Amethystmoon*

    On slower days at home, I absolutely do things like chores to keep myself busy, but only when there isn’t actual work to do. I do make sure to move the mouse or hit a key every 15 minutes so it doesn’t say away though. As for dressing nicely, I save that for days when I have Zoom meetings.

  52. Alton*

    I don’t think I have ever “noped” out of a piece of advice faster than when I first read the tip to dress professionally while working at home. Hell no. If it works for some people, great. But I’m so much happier wearing jeans/pajama bottoms and t-shirts.

    1. Tic-tac*

      I feel my most professional in spats and a clown nose!

      Heh, I kid, but that advice to dress professionally is not for all of us.

  53. In the Same Boat*

    I can relate so much to the LW. I’m also salaried exempt, and my employer has all of us working from home. I have a larger space than LW, but I’m struggling really hard with motivation to do anything and my pre-existing anxiety has ramped way up. A lot of my work is on hold right now due to COVID, so I don’t have nearly as much to do as I would normally would this time of year. I’m trying to do what I can, but there’s only so many LinkedIn Learning or other webinars or cleaning out my inbox I can do. I’m staying online the full day and promptly responding to IMs and attending video calls, but other than that–I don’t have much going on. And I’ve been feeling guilty thinking that here my employer is paying me to basically sit and stare at my screen all day. I have a feeling other members of my team feel the same way I do because their work has been paused as well, but nobody wants to admit it. I’m not surfing the internet during the day (I’m on my lunch break now), but at the same time, I worry my company is going to figure out I’m not accomplishing much.

  54. Lovecraft Beauty*

    I’m struggling with something similar: normally I work from home a couple days a week, and find that a useful chance to really dive into long-term projects. But right now (a) I do not have the focus required for that and (b) my apartment is under construction, the crew has left the space I work in a filthy mess, so I’m stuck in my bedroom, and basically I am losing my mind.

  55. blink14*

    I’m basically doing what Alison’s advice is – I’ve been working from home for over a month, and it’s tedious and boring and tough. I’m online for my normal office hours and keeping my lunch break around the same time, but I’ll be honest – I’m doing some reading, laundry, making phone calls etc throughout the day just to break the time up. I’ve been doing my work mostly in chunks – do 30 minutes, take a break or do an hour, take a break. I know the times I’m least productive in a normal environment, so I’m trying to let those times be a break time, and fitting in work tasks before or after.

  56. J*

    My boss regularly asks for updates on what we have been working on, with hours spent next to each item. The expectation is clearly that that hourly total had better be 40. (I am salaried exempt, but also a federal employee who is required to punch a time card.) I am home with my husband and two cats in our small apartment, working on a folding table. My grandmother is dying of COVID-19 half a continent away. My mind is not exactly 100% on task all of the time. The amount of micromanaging that’s going on is breaking my spirit.

    1. Important Moi*

      Since so many more of us are now working from home given all that is going, I’ve developed an extra intense of dislike of micro-managers and those who defend them – there are many. Be kind to yourself.

    2. MonteCristo85*

      My hope is that at least some managers learn from this experience.

      After becoming a manger myself, I honestly don’t understand where people find the time to do all this micromanaging.

  57. Kettricken Farseer*

    I’m in week 6 of working from home and I’m losing my mind as well. At first, I was getting up and showered and dressed (even makeup) and that kept me going for a while. Now I’m just wearing pajamas all day. I do some chores here and there, but I’ve lost motivation to even do that. I live alone and have a separate workspace so at least I can disengage when the day is over, but I’m not particularly engaged when I am working. Despite being in management, I don’t have enough to do nor do I have the motivation to start on any new initiatives like I would if I was in the office. I’m really lenient with my staff as well because these just aren’t normal times.

    I don’t have any particular advice LW, just know you aren’t alone.

    1. In the Same Boat*

      Same here, although I’m not in management. I wear pajamas every day, except if I’ve got a video call where I need the camera on and then I put on a decent top and fix my hair. I don’t have enough to work on right now, and I flat out don’t have the mental/emotional motivation to start any sort of organization-type projects, like cleaning out old folders, updating departmental documents, etc. Things that need to be done and I hadn’t had time to do in the past and now I have the time, but not the mental bandwidth to do them.

  58. TechWorker*

    I have none of the excuses w.r.t space (I am lucky enough to have a spare room which is now my ‘office’, and my productivity is also way down so only solidarity here.

  59. Nacho*

    Something that’s really helping me WFH is reasonably long walks, about a mile or two, before work and during lunch. Walks mean I have to put on pants, get fresh air and sunshine, and not just sit at my desk all day, which are 3 things I wouldn’t otherwise do.

  60. lazy intellectual*

    This letter makes me feel a lot better. I’ve actually been more productive the last couple of weeks, but the first 2 weeks of lockdown I was probably only being productive for half the day. It made me feel guilty. I’m still getting things done, but I was feeling back for not consistently working straight for 8 hours. I also had major trouble sleeping the first couple of weeks. Now, I think it was my brain adjusting.

  61. Sansa*

    OP, I feel that. Currently typing from the couch on which I have to spend my work day as well as my relaxation time.

    I worked from home a couple days a week before all of this, and being always “on” (whether signed in or doing some offline work) was actually impossible, even *without* pandemic conditions. When I did go into the office, it was acceptable to go make coffee, take a ten-minute walk, or chat with coworkers about non-work topics, all while on the clock—thus, I had no qualms about doing the same or similar things at home. Doing small things like that is even more necessary now, I think, because knowledge workers can’t go camp out at a coffee shop for a change of scenery or look forward to dinner with friends after a workday. We have no other recourse for a shift in focus, especially if you’re in a location or a health situation where you can’t go outside for regular walks.

    Focusing on anything is hard atm. Your mind and body need breaks now more than ever. If your boss is not giving you some grace right now, she’s wrong. Everyone who’s WFH is struggling, from people with kids to people like us who are climbing the walls of our tiny studios.

    I would encourage you to push back a little on that hard 7-8 hours requirement, from the angle that such stringency causes the work to suffer….because it does and it likely is right now. And if your boss still refuses to acknowledge that some flexibility is important for your ability to produce quality work (not to mention mental health), give yourself permission to be logged in but mentally logged off at times. Do the dishes/laundry and glance every so often at whatever device needs to be on Slack, Skype, etc. Watch a YT yoga video or do some stretches and meditation. If your boss is like “why didn’t you respond immediately to my Slack/text/video call,” tell her you were in the bathroom; she can’t police that.

    And at the end of the day, put all your work stuff away. Yes, even though you’ll need to set it all up again tomorrow. Develop an end-of-day ritual to signal to yourself that, even though you’re in the same space physically, your work day is done. And remember: Your first priority is to take care of yourself, not to let capitalism squeeze you dry.

  62. Marie*

    There are desks that are attached to the wall and can be folded away when not in use. When we had to convert our office into a nursery we added two wall-mounted desks to another room. The ergonomics are so much better than using a laptop on a sofa. If OP is renting, this means they may need to get the landlord’s approval (patching holes in drywall is easy). At this point, I would rather fix the drywall later than deal with the physical & mental damage.

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