Staying healthy when working from home

Master the art of working independently — and dialing down stress. 


Now that the COVID-19 outbreak has become serious, many workers are being asked to work from home. The goal is to protect one another and help keep this disease from spreading.

Many workers may enjoy working from home. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is familiar with telecommuting. Nor does it mean that they’ll enjoy it. Below you’ll find strategies to mastering the art of working independently — and dialing down stress, if need be – during this time.


Telecommuting is the practice of working from home. Your employers may suggest it to help contain COVID-19. Many workers may find themselves trying this for the first time. When working from home, you may have trouble staying focused, or you may feel isolated.


Working and caring for family at home

Working at home during the COVID-19 outbreak may bring new challenges, such as:

  • Trying to work in a crowded space with a spouse or partner who’s also working from home
  • Dealing with kids who are home from school while you’re trying to keep up with your workload
  • Feeling isolated at home because public health officials are telling you to stay away from crowded areas

All of these can cause stress and burnout that we may not be able to control.


Keep burnout away

Burnout is caused by ongoing stress. And stress that may not let up just because you’re working from home. It can put your “fight or flight” system into overdrive. This can trigger your body to release hormones that are damaging to your physical and mental health. If left unchecked, it can lead to heart disease, depression and severe anxiety.

What causes burnout?

Working from home, with little chance of getting out, can lead to feel burned out at work.

You may also be at risk if you:

  • Find your work doesn’t challenge you
  • Feel you have little to no control over your work
  • Aren’t rewarded or recognized for your good work
  • Have unclear, multiple job priorities or overly demanding job duties
  • Don’t have a good support system where you can talk about your stress and challenges

Your personality traits and lifestyle habits may also add to burnout. For example, if you expect too much of yourself, you’re more at risk for job burnout. Also, if you don’t have supportive, close relationships, you’ll also be more likely to suffer burnout.

Ways to help manage stress while working from home

  • Be aware of stress. Working from home may cause more stress. Look for ways to relax, such as deep breathing, stretching or meditation. There are also apps that can help you deal with stress.
  • Create regular routines. Make time for what you need, including time to shower, get ready, work, eat lunch, go for a walk, and so forth. It may be tempting to skip some things because you’re working from home. But don’t let work take up your entire day.
  • Get set up for success. Find a practical spot in your home for your workspace. If you already have a home office, that’s great. If not, look for a spot that’s comfortable and organized. Take time to make it your own. 
  • Declutter to help de-stress. Did you know clutter can cause stress? Try organizing your workspace. You'll feel more in control of stressful situations when they come up.
  • Have a game plan for kids. If your children will be with you at home during the day, make sure to plan ahead. Create a regular schedule to help lessen distractions during your workday. You can find suggested schedules online to help keep children busy with schoolwork or learning and other activities throughout the day.
  • Stay connected. Make time for friends and family. You can connect through text, phone calls, online or mail. Try apps that will let you chat “face to face.”
  • Set boundaries. Limit how much news you watch. Social media, too. Find good sources of information, like your state health department. Or, try the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
  • Keep up with healthy habits. Your physical health is an important part of your mental health when you’re working from home. Eat well and get plenty of rest and physical activity. These are the building blocks of health.
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  • American Psychological Association. Coping with stress at work. apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  • HelpGuide. Burnout prevention and treatment. helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. Fact sheet on stress (5 things you should know about stress). nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What others can do to help older adults. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  • National Institute of Health. How to Prepare. nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  • World Health Organization. Helping children cope with stress during the 2019-nCoV outbreak. who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/helping-children-cope-with-stress-print.pdf?sfvrsn=f3a063ff_2. Accessed March 17, 2020.

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.