Science-backed tips for settling into your new work-from-home routine

This may be the “new normal,” but that doesn’t mean the transition to social distancing or remote work is easy. These techniques can help.

For most people, the novelty of working remotely is wearing off. For a few days, it might have been nice to wake up, forego some of your normal morning routine, and sit in your PJs all day (or to engage in the “business on top, party on the bottom” style required to get through Zoom meetings).

But if you’re working from home, it’s time to recognize that this is the new normal for at least the next couple of months. And while it’s good to remember that remote work is a privilege, it can still be a challenging transition, especially if you are contending with tight spaces and additional distractions. Luckily there are some science-backed tips that can help you adjust:

First, you need to develop a set of actual habits. Research on habits demonstrates a simple two-part formula: consistent mapping and repetition. That is, whenever you perform a behavior repeatedly in an environment, you will ultimately be able to remember what you are supposed to do rather than having to think about it.

That means that you need to develop some consistency to your work routine at home. That doesn’t mean that your routine needs to be the same as it was when you were going into the office. If you have children at home, then you will have to work around their schedule. But, creating a schedule for you and for them will help everyone (even infants and toddlers) to be able to predict how the day is going to go.

Creating habits means picking a particular place you are going to use as a workspace and sticking with it. One advantage to having a dedicated workspace is that it becomes associated with doing work, so that eventually you sit at the workspace and you develop a mindset to be at work.

The next thing you want to do is to create an attitude of work from the outside in. A lot of times, we assume that it is important to feel that something is the right thing to do before we do it. But, one way that any set of behaviors becomes comfortable is by doing them.

That means that it is time to go back to dressing professionally again. Shower, shave, take care of your skin and face. Do all of the things that you would do if you were going to be around an office full of people—even if the only one who sees you is your pet. That will make you feel more like you’re being professional.

It is hard to get much movement in when you work from home. Maybe you have a pet or toddler to chase around. Unlike your typical workplace, though, you probably don’t need to walk the hallways to get to a printer or the conference room. It is all in one spot.

Social distancing doesn’t mean never moving. If you live in a place where you can keep your physical distance while still going outside, then make sure you run, walk, or otherwise exercise. If you have an old piece of exercise equipment gathering dust, then break it out. Or find some exercise videos online and follow along. Research suggests that regular exercise has benefits for your ability to think and also boosts your mood.

If you’re used to working among a group of people, it can be hard to suddenly find yourself alone. The effects of goal contagion leads you to pursue the same goals as the people around you. If you’re around people who are working, it helps to keep you on task.

Get in touch with some of your coworkers. Meet up on Zoom, Skype, or your favorite hangout tool and just work. Keep them up on your monitor so that you can see everyone else doing what they do. The aim isn’t to snoop into other people’s lives— it’s just to be around other people trying to get some work done. Not only can that help you concentrate, it might also make you feel a little less alone.