The Ultimate Guide To Staying Sane:

How To Work From Home And

Social Distance Like A Pro

Last updated: April 19, 2020

In a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, many companies have decided to institute either a full or partial work from home policy. On top of that, social distancing has become the call of the hour as well. While this might make social introverts happy in the short-term, the restrictions can cause frustration.

At the same time, as nice as the idea of lounging in your pyjamas and working in bed might sound, the fact of the matter is that working from home requires some adjustment. Since we, at TCR, have a flexible work from home policy, which our team often makes use of, we have some experience with this. Even as we currently work from home, we have our processes in place to be able to ride this enforced social isolation out indefinitely.

If you’re wondering how you will stay disciplined and focussed or how you can set boundaries with your family, we’ve got you covered. We’ve got ideas on how to communicate effectively, how to stay connected to your colleagues, and even how you can entertain yourself when you’re not working. If you’re looking for ways to prevent yourself from pulling your hair out or climbing up the walls due to social distancing, we’ve also got you covered there. 

Stay safe!

If you are a parent, we’ve created a special guide just for you. Take a look at it here.

Bookmark this page as we will keep updating it with more resources. If you’d like us to add a topic to this page, tell us here.

Table Of Contents

Stay Informed

In this age of fake news, it is important to not only stay informed but to also make sure you consume and share accurate information. Here’s a list of resources you can use to stay abreast of the situation.

How To Stay Productive While Working At Home

Working from home comes with its own set of challenges especially if this is the first time you are actually doing it. Here are some tips on how to navigate this new form of working.

Mindset

Here’s the thing. Working from home doesn’t mean you’re on holiday. Cutting out your commute, spending the day in your pyjamas, spending time on social media sites or on Netflix while working from your bed – it’s easy to become undisciplined when faced with such a deviation from your routine. Who’ll know, right? Just because your manager isn’t sitting at a desk around the corner (or behind you), doesn’t mean they won’t notice the sharp dip in your productivity.

So, you need to discipline yourself from the beginning. Remember, work from home is a privilege and if you don’t follow through, you may be asked to come into office and risk exposing yourselves and others to coronavirus. 

Here are some easy steps to ensure you’re in the right mindset to work.

  • Get dressed to work: No, you don’t have to wear formals but simply having a bath and changing out of your pyjamas can help you get into the working mindset. Make sure you’re ready on time to begin work.
  • Stay distraction-free: This includes putting your phone on silent, closing your social media apps, turning off the TV in the next room, or even shutting the door to where you’re working. Apps like Freedom and Go Fucking Work (yes, that’s really the name) are great options to help you stay off distracting websites while working.

Setting Boundaries

It is important to set boundaries at home with flatmates and family. Let them know that you are working and should not be disturbed. This is especially true for women who get roped into a lot of domestic duties when they are working from home. 

Here are some tips on how to navigate this:

  • Have a conversation with your family and let them know that you are not to be disturbed while working. Oishani has made it clear at home that she is not to be disturbed during work hours.
  • Let them know that you will not be available for things like cooking the meal, setting the table or dealing with the plumber. 
  • Have a conversation with your children and explain to them that you are not to be disturbed. 
  • Nirbhay actually says ‘bye’ to his family before heading into his workspace and doesn’t speak to them except during lunch or after work. 
  • Remember- it will be an adjustment for them also, so if they do end up involving you in household activities, say no and explain to them that it’s not possible. Repeat it till they get used to it.

Setting Up A Proper Workstation

Have a dedicated space for your work. No, you don’t need to go out and buy a desk and unnecessary stationery like staplers (pick up the gorgeous notebooks and funky pens though!). Just clear out a space for yourself from where you can work effectively. It could be your dining table or a comfortable spot on the couch or even your bed. Devanshi and Oishani work from their beds while Nirbhay has a separate desk to work from.

If you have flatmates, try to work in separate locations, so you don’t distract each other.

Once you’ve found your space, set up everything you need to be productive there. A useful addition could be this nifty folding bed-desk to help turn your bed into a more comfortable workstation. Keep some water nearby so you stay hydrated without having to make frequent trips to the kitchen. It’s also a good idea to keep biscuits or a bag of trail mix nearby for moments when you feel a little peckish. Get up every hour or so to walk around the space you’re working in.

If you miss the humdrum of office, you can use a tool like Coffitivity to mimic the background noise of a coffee shop. Devanshi uses this tool often and absolutely loves it because it helps her focus. Alternatively, you can also listen to some of your favourite music or try out one of the tools here.

Video Calls

If you are using video calls to host meetings, make sure you’re in a place with good lighting and less to no background noise. Doing it in a place with children running around or your flatmates playing beer pong really does not speak well of you. Make sure you’re appropriately dressed at least from the waist up. (At the same time, if you do choose to be casually dressed waist down, avoid getting up during the call!)

Your screen should be adjusted properly during the call. Remember, it doesn’t shout ‘professional’ if your team/manager is forced to look up your nostril or spend the entire meeting looking at your chin.

Keep everything you need for the meeting ready, so you don’t have to step away from the screen. That includes notebooks, pens, your talking points, and water.

Maintain eye contact when you are talking and make sure you are attentive while listening to others talk.

And please, don’t eat during the meeting!

In short, behave the way you would during an in-person meeting. Remember, people can see you.  

Scheduling

While it is important to be on time even if you are working from home, it is equally important to ‘leave’ on time. It can be easy to let your day stretch later than usual because you don’t have a particular train to catch or any other social commitments to meet. So, make sure you decide on a time when you will switch off from work and do your best to stick to it. 

At the same time, ensure you carve out time for lunch and inform your team that you will be unavailable during that time. Don’t forget to let them know once you’re back. However, lunch hour does not mean that you use that time to cook yourself a meal as well. Instead, plan ahead and cook your meal in advance. 

Prasanna does all the household duties including cleaning, cooking and laundry. But, she plans for it and does it in advance so she isn’t distracted during office hours. She keeps lunch ready so all she has to do is heat it up when she’s ready to eat. This way she doesn’t panic about lunch nor does she end up eating junk food. 

Here’s a handy guide on the building blocks of a good schedule.

Staying Connected

It is easy to feel isolated while working from home. You don’t end up taking a tea break to speak with your colleagues about the latest injustice done to you by your boss. You can’t just walk over to a team member and ask for help. However, you can still use virtual tools (like WhatsApp) to chat with each other and even collaborate. You can schedule that into your day or just have an impromptu chat after work. 

For work purposes, we highly recommend asking your managers to set up a Slack workspace. The TCR team uses it on a daily basis and it is one of the reasons we work so well even when we are all at home. We love the neat inbuilt tool which allows us to send GIFs to each other. This helps us destress. Although there are times when we wish we could unsee the GIFs, especially the ones Prasanna sends.

Eating Right

Working from home can also lead to excessive snacking between meals. At the same time, skipping meals is not the solution since you do need the energy to help you stay alert and focussed. 

  • Set timings for meals: Follow a schedule here. Do not skip breakfast as it sets you up for the day ahead and also helps you avoid snacking before lunch.
  • Meal prep: Since you don’t have a long enough break to prepare lunch during the day, plan for it the night before. Keep your raw ingredients cut and ready in airtight containers and cook them in the morning. You can even work with your flatmates and set up a schedule where you take turns cooking. 
  • Hydrate yourself: Always keep a bottle of water handy. Try to keep drinks like buttermilk, watermelon juice, coconut water around since they have a cooling effect on the body and are good options as the temperature rises.
  • Have healthy snacks ready: Hummus with carrot and celery sticks, nut butter sandwiches, and banana smoothies can keep you full for a longer time and tide you over till your next meal. Lock up your unhealthy snacks like candy, biscuits. Instead keep handy snacks like nuts, trail mix, fruit around. Rhea suggests making small servings of them; do not eat straight from the packet as you may end up finishing all of it.
  • Use sugar substitutes: If you’re a sugar fiend and crave the rush, opt for healthy substitutes to processed sugar like jaggery or dates.

Mastering The Art Of Social Distancing

While social distancing might sound like fun for a day or two (especially when it’s out of choice), an enforced period of the same can work out to be the reverse. Let’s face it, we depend on our interactions with our social circles, in one form or the other. But, there are still ways to have fun while you’re stuck at home and to make the most of this time.

Learn New Skills

With your commuting hours now available, use them to up your skills. Spend your now-free time learning something new.

  • Use Codeacademy to learn to code. Devanshi learnt HTML and CSS on it and she can’t recommend it enough.
  • Use Duolingo to learn a new language.
  • Take a course on Coursera, Udemy or edX.
  • Take a free course from an Ivy League.

Read Long-Form Articles

This is also a good time to catch up on some of those over five minutes reads that you’d bookmarked a while ago but never got around to reading. If you’re looking for resources to find good long-forms, try:

Read Books

Let’s face it, the TCR team loves to read. We wouldn’t be doing what we do if we didn’t. And, we always make the most of any extra time to do more reading. Here are some options to help you read (or read more!).

  • Looking for a book to read? Take a look at the options here.
  • If you’re still lagging way behind on your 2019 reading, here are 12 Indian authors recommending their favourite reads of 2019.
  • Looking to explore a new genre? Check out these roadmaps.
  • Good non-fiction on how society has dealt with pandemics.
  • What Bill Gates has been reading since 2012.
  • TCR Recommendations:
    • Rhea: Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett- an absurdist play where two old men are waiting for one who will never come.
    • Oishani: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – a feel-good, quirky romantic comedy.
    • Devanshi: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – a book that might just change your life.
    • Prasanna: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman- the quirky tale of an angel and a demon racing to stop the apocalypse.
    • Nirbhay: Timeless Tales From Marwar translated by Vishes Kothari – a translated collection of Vijaydhan Detha’s educative, comical, entertaining and eye-opening classic Marwari folktales.
  • This is probably the best time to invest in a Kindle Unlimited subscription! The best part? You don’t need a Kindle to read on, your smartphone works just fine. Explore their catalogue here before you buy the subscription.
  • Alternatively, try out the audiobooks available on Audible or, if you’re looking for regional content, Storytel.
  • Juggernaut has made its entire catalogue free while the lockdown lasts.
  • Take a look at BYOB’s master list of sources for free e-books and audiobooks.

Exercise

Just because you can’t go to the gym, doesn’t mean you can’t exercise at home. Build it into your schedule. Set aside a time to exercise. This can also be a good way to segue from work mode to home mode or just a great way to kickstart your day.

  • Take a walk. If your building has a terrace or a garden, you can take a walk there. Avoid going to a public place.
  • Use an app or YouTube videos to do different workouts. Try the 7 minute workout (Google Play | Apple Store) or Zumba (Google Play).
  • Nerd Fitness has a bunch of fun workouts you can do without any equipment.
  • Complete home workouts during isolation.
  • Celebrity trainer, Yasmin Karachiwala, is releasing videos of quick workouts that you can do at home on her Instagram page.
  • The Nike Training Club, Nike’s fitness app, is brilliant for home workouts. (Google Play | Apple Store )

Stay Healthy

Exercising isn’t the only way to stay healthy; eating right and living right is just as important. Check out these resources that will help you do just that:

Cooking

Unless you live at home, you probably have a bai to cook food for you or you tend to live on take out. Assuming (and hoping) you’ve given your bai some paid time off and are avoiding take out, you’re now left to fend for your own meals. Why not try to cook during your free time instead of eating junk food (and yes, Maggi is junk food even if you add vegetables to it)?

  • Cook in bulk. Save time by cooking enough to eat for 2-3 meals at one go.
  • If you live with others, you can take turns to take on cooking responsibilities.
  • Make simple meals you can cook in less than an hour. Find recipes here, here and here.
  • Find healthy Indian recipes here and here.
  • Experiment with new cuisines and new foods. Find recipes here and here.
  • Indulge your inner bartender with these cocktail recipes. But drink responsibly.

Clean Up Your Life

  • Digital:
    • Use this time to clean up your digital life and appreciate the beauty of uncluttered devices. Remember, you really don’t need all those Good Morning/Good Night memes and photos (on your phone or backed up on your drive).
    • Get rid of old photos and free up space on your devices.
    • Delete old apps which you no longer use.
    • Update your software and apps.
    • Get to Inbox Zero.
    • Clear up your desktop. Create folders, sort through your documents and send them where they belong.
  • Physical: 
    • Marie Kondo your life! Spend your extra time getting rid of what you don’t need or use anymore.
    • Clean out your closet. Divide your clothes into three piles: Keep, Throw and Donate.
    • Get rid of old papers. If you need a copy, you can digitise them before discarding or, even better, recycling them.
    • This is also the best time to organise your home library. This handy guide tells you how.
  • Mental:
    • Get rid of all your mental clutter. Spend some time introspecting.
    • Meditate. If you are a beginner, use Headspace or Calm (Apple Store | Google Play) to learn the basics.
    • Catch up on your sleep now that you have some extra free time. It’ll do wonders for your stress levels.

Engage In Your Hobbies

Hobbies are great for keeping you occupied while indulging your creativity. Devanshi likes to engage in some form of crafts when she has some extra time. It gets her creative juices flowing as she creates something new. Rhea likes to put on music and dance her stress away. Oishani likes to bake and experiment with salted caramel sauce. It helps her focus while creating something new for her family (and the TCR team) to eat.

Use this time to discover a new hobby or rediscover an old one. Read. Paint. Cook. Dance. Dust off your guitar. Indulge in some photography. Write. Here are some ideas.

Having Fun

Watch

Screen Adaptations Of Books

  • Watch Game Of Thrones (Hotstar Premium) and His Dark Materials (Hotstar Premium) to get your dose of fantasy shows.
  • Netflix has everything ranging from The Umbrella Academy to To All The Boys I Have Loved Before.
  • Amazon Prime is here to help you binge watch adaptations. Re-watch Harry Potter and LOTR to pass the time.

A More General List

TCR Favourites

  • Devanshi: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (Hotstar Premium), Billions (Hotstar Premium) & See (Apple TV).
  • Nirbhay: 24 (Hotstar Premium), The Good Wife (Amazon Prime) & Shameless (Amazon Prime);
  • Rhea: The Handmaid’s Tale (Amazon Prime), Sex Education (Netflix)  & Modern Family (Hotstar Premium);
  • Oishani: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Ugly Delicious & Patriot Act (All on Netflix);
  • Prasanna: Parks and Recreation (Amazon Prime), The Office (Amazon Prime) & Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai (Hotstar Premium)

Listen

Play

  • IRL Games
    • Monopoly, Settlers Of Catan, Cards Against Humanity (or even its desi version, Cards vs Sanskaar) – trust us, everyone will have a good time.
    • Play Kodenames on your phone and bring out the Sherlock in you.

You can also organise a virtual happy hour with your friends and indulge in multiplayer games via video chat.

 

Corona Memes

Bookmark this page as we will keep updating it with more resources. If you’d like us to add a topic to this page, tell us here.

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