How we as Canadians, and indeed, citizens of the world, have experienced COVID-19 are vastly different, intertwined, and connected. We are all dealing with loss on a large scale: loss of income, loss of livelihood, loss of loved ones, loss of normalcy. We have all heard the phrase, “This is a difficult and unprecedented time for everyone”, but, what does that truly mean? It means that collectively, we are living in an atmosphere that is unlike anything that modern society has seen before. Words that were rarely uttered previous to COVID-10 – “self-isolating”, “social-distancing”, and “quarantine” – are now ingrained into our day-to-day vocabulary as we all try to define this strange reality we are now a part of.

When it comes to employment, some of you bravely continue working on the frontlines, whether this be in healthcare, sanitation work, agriculture and food production, community services, maintenance, transportation, and much more. Every evening at 7pm the core of downtown Victoria, and places all across the world, cheers and thanks these workers for the amazing contribution and sacrifice they are making for our community.

Others have lost their livelihoods due to the virus, whether through closure of a business or through layoffs. Our hearts go out to those who have lost their businesses or incomes due to COVID-19.

For those of us fortunate enough to still be working from home, it is also important and valid to acknowledge that our work days are extremely altered. We are not merely working from home, we are at home during a crisis trying to work. We are now faced with numerous distractions from work, ranging from infiltration of news, to kids at home 24/7. Viewing productivity as a challenge is not only okay, but normal. If you’ve found it challenging to stay productive at home, here are some strategies that have helped me stay focused and on track.

We are not merely working from home, we are at home during a crisis trying to work.

1)   Develop a routine

Before we were asked to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, it’s likely that we followed some sort of routine that provided us with structure throughout our day. Maybe this included a morning coffee, commute to work, an evening workout class at the gym, a team sport, or a walk around the neighbourhood with family. Our routines have now been greatly altered, but deciding what a new, temporary routine looks like for you, and sticking to it, is imperative.

See what you can safely take from your old routine, and re-incorporate it. Have snacks and/or meals for your work day ready-to-go in the morning. If it’s still feasible to do your morning stretch, make coffee, and read the news, then continue to do so! Or, try and develop new aspects of a routine that fit into your life now. If you enjoyed exercising in a gym every night, tune into an equipment-free live-stream of a workout class hosted by your local gym. If you met with friends every week to play board games, check out online options. Adaptability is the key to navigating change and challenging circumstances.”

2)   Create a “working space” at home

Try to carve out a dedicated place in your home that resembles a productive working space. This might include a comfortable chair, desk, keyboard, noise-cancelling headphones, and proper lighting. Of course, some of these aspects might not be available to you, so incorporate whatever parts or revisions are necessary for you to remain comfortable and focused.

Be creative. I have a friend who lives in a small apartment with no dedicated workspace. She and her partner have created a workspace defined by their noise-cancelling headphones. When either of them are wearing them, it signals the other that this is productivity time, and interruptions are not allowed.

3)   Stay connected

Social distancing could more accurately be described as physical distancing; staying socially connected is now more important and meaningful than ever. Platforms such as Slack and Zoom are great for keeping communications between colleagues flowing.

Now is also a great time to reach out to people who are important to you. Sometimes, we can never know who around us is struggling. Check in on your loved ones who you haven’t heard from, or even from ones you have. Reach out to old connections, as well. Is there an old friend you’d like to reconnect with? A family member you don’t often speak to? Send that message, or make that phone call. Staying connected to those you love will help you feel supported and contribute to your overall well-being and productivity.

4)   Be patient with yourself        

Most importantly, allow yourself to feel any range of emotions you may be feeling, without judgement. Whether these be guilty feelings for gleaning anything positive from this experience, anger that you have to go through this living by yourself, regret for reverting to bad habits, frustration over finances, exhaustion no matter how much sleep you get, or loneliness no matter how many video calls you have. Giving yourself the space to feel what you need to feel gives validity to each of our varied experiences, and we all need that right now.

Stay informed, but you may find it useful to limit the amount of news you consume. The constant media and overload of information can be exhausting. Dedicate a certain amount of time per day to update yourself on COVID-19 from reputable sources, then turn it off.

Understand that while productivity may be difficult right now, being patient with ourselves is a great foundation to work from. Focusing in on the little things, such as routine, a comfortable work space, and staying connected, may help us all feel a sense of normalcy in the unusual.