How to Stay Productive in the Virtual Workplace

How to Stay Productive in the Virtual Workplace was originally published on Idealist Careers.

If you’ve never worked from home before, switching to telecommuting can certainly be an abrupt transition. This is particularly true for the thousands of social-impact professionals who have recently made the switch. On top of all the fear and panic associated with COVID-19, suddenly you’re thrown into a virtual workplace and you’re expected to stay productive.

If this sounds like your current situation, we can help. Here’s how you can make the most of your workday during these unprecedented times.

Maintaining structure

Without your normal morning routine and commute, it might be tougher to shift into work-mode. Perhaps self-quarantine has the days blending together, or maybe your old deadlines are now up in the air. Although you are not physically in the office, you can still structure your workday to resemble your prior routine.

This might mean waking up for work at the same time you did before, keeping the meetings you had scheduled and working toward the same deadlines, and (especially) changing out of pajamas and into clothes that help you feel more put-together. Sticking to your normal work schedule (including your lunch break) may help you feel motivated and on track, even if your “office” is your couch or dining room table. If a lunch break wasn’t a part of your routine prior to your work-from-home days, now is the time to add something new to your schedule.

Staying focused

No one can blame you for the distractions you’re bound to have at home, where your family, roommate, or pet may be competing for your attention. This is where boundaries come into play. These can be physical boundaries (like working in a specific room), or time boundaries (like scheduling breaks to put work aside and deal with things at home).

If you’re using your personal computer, it can also be helpful to set up a different login to keep your personal business separate from your work (no more Facebook notifications popping up!). And if you usually keep your phone on silent during work, keep it on silent at home, too.

Communicating effectively

Now more than ever, it’s important to maintain communication with your team throughout the workday. Just because you are not in the same physical location, your level of communication should not decrease. With technology on our side, it’s so easy to stay in touch and carry on normal activities. If your team does not use a communication tool like Slack or Skype for Business, it may be a great time to suggest it. And if you need to step away from work at any point during the day, remember to let your team know how long you’ll be away.

Practicing self-care

With all that is swirling around in the news, layered with the uncertainty associated with the next few months, this particular point in time may be very anxiety-inducing. But this is also a great time to practice self-care. Start by separating your work life from your home life. Although your work is literally at home with you, when you log off for the day, make a conscious effort to be present.

Turn off the news and go outside (with hand sanitizer), listen to music you love, read that book that has been sitting on your night table, watch your favorite show, exercise, call your best friend, or take a long bath. Do whatever you need to in order to de-stress so you can get through the day and log into work each morning feeling calm and capable.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, think about using the START formula for a mindset reset.

Doing your part

By staying home and practicing social distancing, you’re already taking the necessary precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, if you suddenly have extra time and are looking to support others, there are plenty of ways to get involved. Check out the virtual volunteer opportunities available on

Together, we will get through this time—and before we know it, we’ll be back in the office longing for the days we didn’t have to commute!


What are you doing to stay calm and productive during the pandemic? Tell us about it on social media!