Working from home during coronavirus? 6 tips to make it work

With the call for social distancing, Elsevier employees share insights on working from home

By Catherine Adenle - March 31, 2020  7 mins
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At Elsevier, we recognize that the spread of coronavirus may be unsettling for many of our employees, customers and partners around the world. Among the measures we’ve implemented is encouraging our employees to work virtually to stay connected to customers and colleagues. (On that note, if you’re a researcher or editor, you may be interested in our resilience centers, which have a range of resources to support your work at this time, and you can find out about remote access to ScienceDirect here).

In these challenging times, here are six tips from our employees for maintaining sound health, contentment and productivity while working from home.

1. Have a comfortable and healthy workspace setup

When working outside the office, basic health and safety measures that we are accustomed to can fall by the wayside. To ease eye strain, minimize glare on your laptop and make sure you have good lighting. Sit at a proper distance from your screen, about an arm’s distance. Ideally, you should position your computer screen so windows are to the side instead of in front or behind.

Most computer users find that their eyes feel better if they avoid working under overhead fluorescent lights. If possible, turn off any overhead fluorescent light and use floor lamps that provide indirect soft white LED lighting instead. Also, ensure that your chair is in a comfortable, upright position for you.

Developing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) or back pain is the last thing you want to happen during this period. Make sure you have all the preventative measures covered. Even if you do not have an office chair, you can adjust your seating position. Place a cushion, a rolled-up jumper or blanket behind you to bring you forward in your seat to create a good posture. These considerations are often overlooked when working from home.

Nelly LukwoNelly Lukwo, Reporting Lead for Global Customer Services in Oxford, writes:

One of the things I struggled with initially was to find a place where I could work effectively because I didn’t have a proper workstation. As as a result, I found myself with tension on my back. After a few experiments, I have found that standing while working seems to be better for my back, and I have persisted now for a few days and I can say it is great.

Routine is something else I have decided to continue with; instead of going to the gym, I go for a run. But all this seems so trivial in light of death, infections and job loss that we read about daily. My heart goes out to everyone who is being severely impacted. Great that we have an organization that’s supporting us through this. Let’s keep safe and follow government guidance.

2. Make time for yourself before your work start time

Do you usually commute to work by walking, biking, train, bus or car? Why not set aside the time you'd normally spend commuting on self-development?

There are a couple of options to consider for your "me" time during this work-at-home period. Exercise is good for mental health and for maintaining a “can-do” attitude. You could also spend time focusing on a hobby or expanding your knowledge in your field of work.

Without injecting some creativity into how you self-isolate or work from home, work-life can become challenging. Through personal development time, you can maintain good mental health and wellbeing whilst also unlocking new potential.

Sara ValentinoSara Valentino, Editorial Project Manager based in Oxford, wrote:

It’s amazing how Elsevier and its employees have come together to ensure that we have all the support we need, be it technical, logistic or mental health-related.

These days, I am taking advantage of the scheduled virtual meditation sessions that the company put in place for us, as well as video calls with my manager and team – and I am looking forward to the remote gym classes!

3. Find a dedicated workspace in your home

While the idea of working from your bed or sofa may seem appealing, it is far from ideal. If you opt to work from either of these places, you may find that you are unable to separate work from leisure. There is also a risk that working in these places may result in thinking about work when you need to relax. What’s more, having your laptop on your lap while you work for a long period may sound easy, but it can cause strain in the long run.

To guarantee work-life separation, set up a desk or table to work from, and only sit there during your working hours. Take intermittent breaks, and when the end of the day arrives, walk away from your laptop and do not check your emails from any of your chill-out areas at home. By working in any designated relaxation zone, you may inflict unnecessary work pressures on yourself. This may impact your mental health and wellbeing, which could potentially cause anxiety, stress and lack of sleep.

Don’t break one of the cardinal rules of working successfully from home: remember to set boundaries for yourself and anyone around you.

4. Dress comfortably – but for work

When in the comfort of your home, don’t give in to the temptation of rolling out of bed and working in your nightwear. Don’t give your brain the wrong signals. Although working from home is convenient, try not to change your daily work routine. Set boundaries to ensure work-life balance whilst putting your brain in gear. Be ready for noticeable productivity, and seize the workday.

5. Take regular short breaks

If you are working on a lengthy task, take regular breaks to stretch your legs. Being super productive for a long period is difficult, so make sure you take short, regular breaks to re-energize. Breathe, grab a cup of tea, go for a short walk or do something else relaxing and not work-related, and your brain will thank you for it later.

One simple method to enhance productivity is the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the technique uses a 25-minute timer to divide the day. After each 25-minute stint, you get a short break.

Any breaks you take should be away from your work desk at home. So whether you are making a cup of tea or reading a newspaper, the aim is to take an intermission from work.

6. Communicate!

It’s safe to say that even when in an office, effective team communication for some is the hardest thing to achieve. When you maintain a distance from others for a long time, it's especially important to find a way to touch base with colleagues. So schedule work-related phone calls and video conferences. Online platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype are handy for maintaining a line of communication.

Jagannathan VaradarajanIn addition to using these platforms for work meetings, we are scheduling virtual coffee breaks and happy hours at Elsevier, bringing together our colleagues from around the world.

Outside of work hours, it is also important to communicate with your friends and family, particularly if self-isolation is in progress.

Jagannathan Varadarajan, Supplier Development Manager based in Chennai, India, wrote:

Elsevier always care for employees' wellbeing and safety. With all the measures they have put in place for employees during this coronavirus pandemic, I am confident that we’ll successfully manage any challenges we encounter through this tough COVID-19 period. Our efforts as an organization to keep contributing to the scientific community regarding the pandemic and the flexibility afforded to ensure that employees, customers and the communities we serve are safe have increased my confidence level and demonstrated some of the values we add as an organization.

What are your best tips for working from home?

Hopefully, these tips are useful to you. My colleagues and I would love to hear from those of you working remotely on how you are adjusting and what you're doing to maintain wellness and productivity.


Catherine Adenle
Written by

Catherine Adenle

Written by

Catherine Adenle

Catherine Adenle is Director of Employer Brand at Elsevier. She is also a well-known blogger for change and career management. Based in Oxford, UK, she joined Elsevier more than 20 years ago from Heinemann Books International.

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