The ability to work from home is often seen as a luxury, especially given how bad the daily commute can be for so many people. Traffic is a major time-waster all over the world, depriving employees of precious hours they could be spending with their families or resting, or on more productive pursuits instead.

Since the World Health Organisation has officially declared the novel coronavirus as a pandemic, more and more companies have now shifting to remote work as a way to keep employees safe as they work from home. However, workers would do well not take this opportunity to lightly, and to become complacent. Working from home seems easy, but convenient access to so many creature comforts can impact your effectiveness and productivity. Actually, for some, it can be a very isolating experience that can have adverse consequences on mental and emotional health. Learn how to telecommute efficiently and maintain your sanity with these tips:

Tip #1: Stick to a routine

Most employees transitioning into a work-from-home setup for the first time often end up suffering from a lack of structure. That’s because most people view their home as one of the few places where they aren’t bound to a specific schedule. You can do whatever you want at home, and how much you time you spend on your own projects is entirely up to you. As such, it can be tempting to stay in bed an extra hour or put together an elaborate breakfast for yourself and your family. After all, you’re technically already in the office, right?

Without structure, first-time telecommuters could end up wasting half their workday. But you can get these hours back by following a routine, which can help put you in a “working” mindset. It doesn’t have to be too different from your usual morning practice: wake up at the same time every day, do an indoor workout, then have some breakfast while catching up on the news. What you choose to do isn’t as important as doing it at the same time, every day, in the same sequence. After while your mind and body will become comfortable with this routine, and you won’t find yourself hitting the snooze button as often.

Tip #2: Designate a space for work

A lot of workers think that there couldn’t be anything better than being able to work without leaving the bed or a comfortable spot on the couch. While comfort should definitely one of your top priorities while working, it shouldn’t become a situation where you can be tempted to go for a nap in the middle of the day.

Dedicating an area of your residence specifically to work helps form structure, too. Having a designated workspace will trigger that same “working” mindset we talked about above. It could be a separate room, a desk, or even the kitchen table – anywhere you can concentrate and be productive. Putting some effort in the ergonomics can make your experience working at home healthier and more enjoyable while boosting productivity. An empty box or a pile of books can be used as a laptop stand or a footrest in a pinch. A beanbag travel pillow can be a great cushion for an uncomfortable chair. Finally, position all of your tools so that they are within easy reach.

Tip #3: Keep an eye on the clock

Time management is crucial, especially when you’re working at home. It’s so easy to get distracted and let the hours go by. Before you know it, the workday is over, and you haven’t accomplished anything.

Using a list to map your day out can simplify your workflow and make you more productive. Clearly defining your work hours also gives you a sense of urgency that can help keep you on track. Starting your work at the same hour every day is just as important as ending it at a specific time, too. It will keep you from overworking and allows your brain to transition from “work” time to equally vital “rest” time.

Keeping an eye on the clock will also alert you when it’s time to take a break or have a snack. Most office workers use social cues from their colleagues to remind themselves to eat or to get up for a fresh cup of coffee. Without those cues, you’ll have to remind yourself,so you don’t skip lunch.

Tip #4: Keep moving

You may have already heard about the dangers of remaining seated for extended periods. “Sitting is the new smoking” is a new slogan being used by health professionals to warn the public against its risks.

In addition to putting undue pressure on your hips, lower back, and shoulders, sitting too long has been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Keep yourself from becoming sedentary by taking breaks in between work tasks to get up, walk around, and stretch. You can set a recurring reminder on your phone or smartwatch to prompt you to stand up and move at least once an hour. Working on a tight deadline? Prop your laptop up on a stand so that you can keep going while standing.

Those new to working remotely might experience feelings of loneliness at first. Reaching out to colleagues and continuing to collaborate on projects together can alleviate this. Use email or chat apps to contact your work peers, even if it’s just to ask how they’re doing.

The current situation might seem dire, but we’ll get through it – together. In the meantime, take care and stay safe out there.