Surviving the New Normal

Five Work-From-Home Tips for Non-Work-From-Home Types

In times of uncertainty, finding structure is instrumental in maintaining productivity. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, finance, or engineering, chances are you have a daily routine that helps you get through your day.

But here we are. The new coronavirus, a force beyond our control, has disrupted our frenzied routines. We’ve lost our structure – our daily routines. Instructions to practice social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19 have changed every aspect of how we interact. We acknowledge that major crises require adjustments, but these adjustments also challenge us. Dun & Bradstreet is developing resources to help businesses cope during this challenging time, but we also realize there are human factors too.

You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you always can control what you do about what happens to you.

In his landmark book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl wrote about his survival during World War II in the face of great adversity. He taught that forces beyond your control can take away many things – except for your freedom to choose how you will respond to a situation. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you always can control what you do about what happens to you.


Frankl wrote about the importance of attitude toward challenges and opportunities, whether large or small. “A positive attitude enables a person to endure suffering and disappointment as well as enhances enjoyment and satisfaction. A negative attitude intensifies pain and deepens disappointments; it may lead to depression or physical illness.”

Businesses and workers who have long relied on the 9-5 office environment are trying to adapt and continue with business as usual in a new, distributed environment. There’s plenty of reason to be positive – many businesses, including Dun & Bradstreet, are technically set up for the distributed workforce. But we must adapt our mindset to work under different conditions. Those of us who are used to going into the office – whether that entails the 40-floor tower, Starbucks, or WeWork – may be having a tougher time focusing on our work.

Creating structure can bring some of the familiarity back to our day, keeping some of the disruption at bay. Structure, organization, and a little creativity are critical to our success.

Across B2B, many workers may be struggling with feelings of loneliness, depression, and time management challenges, and parents are juggling company and family priorities simultaneously. Let’s not forget our pets, which expect to have their bellies rubbed while we’re trying to present on a quarterly investor call.

In the course of my career, I’ve met those who love to work from home and those like me who prefer not to. One reason I point to is that the distractions can be overwhelming. It might be the television or all the other “work” I look at – laundry, vacuuming, dirty dishes.

There are many online resources to help teams succeed working from home, but many fail to address how to confront this new disruption to our daily routines.

Here are some tips to bring some order to the chaos and help us feel it’s business as usual when we need to feel it most.

Five Tips to Keep Your Sanity in Times of Disruption

  1. Set aside a dedicated place to work. Working in your bedroom or at the dining room table is fine from time to time, but you really should have a dedicated location set apart from your living quarters. You want to be able to separate your workspace from your family space. When you’re trying to fall asleep at 2 a.m., do you really want to be staring at your computer in your bedroom?

  2. Keep your daily schedule. If you used to wake up at 6 a.m. to catch the 7:15 commuter train, continue to wake up at 6 a.m., and enjoy the leisurely feeling.
  3. If you enjoyed listening to the “morning zoo” radio program every morning on your commute, why stop? Put on the radio in the kitchen – the cast of characters is still on the air! It can make you feel like you’re with old friends. Or listen to a podcast or the books on tape that you would have listened to on your commute.

    Respect your time throughout the day. Continue with your schedule of work time and free time. I recently explained to my sixth grader that he doesn’t watch TV during the day when he’s in school, so while he is home, he shouldn’t be watching it at 11 a.m. Wait until 4 p.m., which is “after school” time. Try not to give in to diversions, which are all around us at home.

    End your day the same way you would have previously. If you used to leave the office at 5:30 p.m., then stop your work at 5:30. Leave the area you’ve set aside to work, turn off the lights, and consider it closed for business. Greet your family with a hearty “I’m home” even if they are sitting in the next room.

    And if you typically return to your work later in the evening, that’s fine. The point is that you don’t want to be working 18 hours straight just because it’s become easier to do so.

  4. Get dressed! Don’t work in your pajamas just because you can. Get dressed just as you would have if you were going into the office. The way you dress can have an incredible effect on your mood. Sure, you can keep it a little more comfortable, but looking professional helps you act professional. Frankl wrote, “If you want to stay alive, there is only one way: look fit for work. Remember: shave, stand and walk smartly.”

  5. Take a break. Get lunch! If you used to go out for lunch, order delivery. Your local restaurants will welcome the business.
  6. And although you aren’t seeing the usual faces by the watercooler, take a moment to have a quick instant message chat with someone you normally would have seen who isn’t on your immediate team. Keep the human connection going. Who knows what your coworkers are going through? They’ll appreciate your reaching out.

  7. Take care of your family. The reality is that this is a crisis and everyone is disrupted – from our infants in childcare to our school-age children and our partners. We need to acknowledge that this isn’t our “typical” work-from-home environment, and fortunately, most companies have done so. Most employers recognize that we’re trying our best to give them a full day of work and mindshare. Families need to support one another, whether that means checking in throughout the workday or spending time pitching in on home schooling. We need to keep each other safe, physically and emotionally.

The “new” reality is that it’s new

Finally, another mechanism we can use to cope with stress is the discovery (or rediscovery) of passions. Find something new to connect with.

Make time to read the book you’ve been putting off or to focus on your hobbies. Ask your children to start a special journal. Tell them how interesting it will be for their future children to read about what they were thinking and feeling when he had to live through the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

Just relax

We might not know what the future looks like, but we know we can determine how we respond and act. Moments like this remind us that there are some things beyond our control, but with a focus on purpose, we can survive.

With some structure you’ll be prepared to keep business moving and weather the storm. Yes, kids will scream, dogs will bark, and a squirrel is going to peer at you through the window. It’s all good.