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On March 19th, California's Gavin Newsome became the first U.S. governor to ask people to stay at home. "This is not a permanent state," he promised. "This is a moment in time. We will look back at these decisions as pivotal.”

Other governors and local leaders followed suit. Today, at least 42 states, three counties, 10 cities, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico — totaling 316 million people — are under similar orders.

That's a lot of empty offices.

Much has been made about the phenomenon that Time magazine calls, "The World's Largest Work-From-Home Experiment." Everything from morning news to late-night talk shows are being broadcast from living rooms. Zoom meetings are so ubiquitous they rated their own skit on NBC's recent all-virtual SNL. And, pretty much every industry from technology to health care to education to financial services is offering advice on how to stay home, stay at work, and stay sane.

We thought it was time to jump in.

At B Direct, the so-called "new normal" isn't so new. We founded the agency in 2003 as a virtual business. Back then, this raised some eyebrows. "So, where is your office?" people asked. Home, we explained. "But, waitaminute, where do you work?" "How do you get mail?" "What if we need to meet in person?" Etc. etc. etc.

These days — and by that, we mean the last few years, even before COVID-19 — no one blinks when we explain that we work remotely. Smart clients understand that if we're not paying rent, they're not paying rent.

When this is all over at some unknown future date (and almost certainly not as soon as the White House would like), many of our clients won't just understand working from home firsthand; they'll probably continue to do it. Companies are fast realizing that they can operate with a remote workforce, cut costs, and increase employee satisfaction.

If you're new to all this, here are some tips that can help you be your best at work while you're at home:

Carve out a home office
Create a space that's designated specifically for work. If you don't happen to have an extra room (and, let's face it, most of us don't) it can be any area that offers good light, comfortable seating, and sufficient storage. Try to use this virtual office just for work, not for streaming movies or online shopping. Not only will this keep you organized, but it will trigger your mind and body to focus and get to work.

Stick to your routine
Just because you can work in your pajamas doesn't mean you should. Get up in the morning, take a shower, put on (clean) clothes, comb your hair, brew yourself a nice cup of coffee. Again, you're flipping an internal switch that will help you transition from personal time to professional time.

Set aside non-negotiable "me time"
When your desk is just a few yards from your kitchen, it's tempting to heat something up and work through lunch. Similarly, a lot of newly remote workers find themselves back at the grindstone after dinner and on weekends. Resist! Whether you choose to pursue a hobby, do an hour of yoga, or just "hang out" with your family, time away from work makes time at work more productive.

Practice self-discipline
The flipside to the above is that when you need to work ... well ... you need to work. Between laundry, social media, and the episode of Real Housewives of New York you DVR'd last night, you'll find more ways to procrastinate than ever before. Set time limits for goofing off. Break daunting work tasks into small, manageable chunks. Reward yourself for a job well done. Whatever it takes.

Remember, that you're not alone
Stay connected to your coworkers through frequent communication whether that's email, phone calls, texts, Webexes or other digital meetings. The single complaint most remote workers have is loneliness. Enjoying the company of your coworkers takes a little more effort when you're off-site, but it's worth it.

Once you adjust, working from home will reward you in lots of expected (no commuting) and unexpected (less gossip, more focus) ways.

If you're like the Bs, the new normal will soon just feel ... normal.



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