Coping with COVID-19: Use This Time at Home to Invest in Your Work Future.

home office

As the COVID-19 situation deepens, there are two gigantic concerns: public health and the economy.

Putting aside the enormous concerns about health for the moment, what about work?

The consequences of this time will be devastating in many ways—that’s clear—so of course, we’re all very worried.

Remember, action is an antidote for anxiety. Given that we’re stuck at home, what actions might we take to help position ourselves better for the future? One day, things will start to get back to normal, and we want to be prepared.

Everywhere across the globe, I know, we’re all so worried about the people who can’t work these days—people in the innumerable crucial professions where if they don’t show up, they don’t get paid. And we’re also worried about all the workplaces that will be going out of business, or facing crippling losses. This is a terrible, terrible problem, and I’m very grateful to see that governments and organizations are beginning to take action to deal with these problems. Much more work must be done, and fast.

Some people, like me, are fortunate enough to be able to work from home. And for many people, in many different work situations, this time at home offers opportunities that didn’t exist before. We wish we didn’t have these opportunities, but we do have them, so it’s worth thinking about how to make good use of this mandatory time at home. For instance:

Explore tools that will allow you to work more efficiently in the future. We often know that if we learned to use a particular software/tool/app, we could work faster and better—but we’re working so hard, it’s not possible to muster the time and mental energy to learn how to do it.  For instance, in episode 251 of the Happier podcast, my sister Elizabeth gave herself a demerit for not updating her crucial Final Draft software. This software is absolutely essential to her work as a TV writer, and her writing partner assured her that the update would make her work life easier, but she was so busy she just couldn’t face doing it. Well, now there’s time.

Update your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your website, and any other work-related descriptions. It’s tough to keep these profiles up-to-date, but it’s very valuable.

Take online courses, certification programs, or classes. This kind of mental work will help you keep your mind engaged, give you the atmosphere of growth—and will position you to be a better job candidate when the current situation is resolved. Along the same lines…

Learn to use tools that are commonly used in your field. There are so many sites, apps, platforms, systems, it’s hard to keep up with everything. If you know you’d be better off with some familiarity with a tool, use this time to get a grip on the basics. It’s a great feeling to add a new skill to your resume.

Figure out ways to expand your offerings. My friend Delia Lloyd is a communications consultant, and she wrote about how she’s using this time at home to figure out how to give webinars. Maybe you want to write a book, launch a newsletter, create a website, or start a podcast.

Look at your monthly budget for ways to cut costs. At a time of great stress, it’s tough to think about money—which, for many of us, is an emotionally fraught subject at the best of times. But in the end, you may find it very calming to take action and to think about ways to save money. Speaking of…

Consider a major change. We don’t yet know what the economic consequences of this period will be, but certainly, they will be massive. We’re in an anxious, uncertain time. If you’ve been considering making a change—or even if you haven’t—you might run through some possibilities now. What if you moved to a less-expensive city or neighborhood? What if you found a roommate? What if you moved home for a while—or someone moved back into your home? It can be scary to consider major changes, but often, clarity and a sense of options brings comfort. Sketch out what a major change would require, and begin to weigh the pros and cons. You’re not committing to a change; you’re just thinking through what that change might look like. It’s impossible to know what the future holds, but at some point, we’ll know.

Explore the possibility of a side hustle. Now might be the right time to think hard about the side hustle you’ve been considering, as a way to create more income and more security. If you need help getting started, listen to Chris Guillebeau’s excellent podcast Side Hustle School or read his book Side Hustle. They have lots of practical suggestions and real-life examples.

Create more outer order. While you’re at home, tackle boxes of papers, jammed filing cabinets, or overflowing shelves. A friend brought home five boxes of files when he got a new job—and he still had the same five boxes, unopened, stacked in the corner of his bedroom. In the tumult of everyday life, it can be hard to deal with a task like that. Now’s the time. Look around, figure out what you can clear out. You’ll create more space and clarity for yourself—right now, and for the future. Also, now that you’re spending a lot more time at home, dealing with that stuff will give you extra room and more calm.

Use the time. One of my aphorisms is: Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time. All of us have a long list of things to do “someday.” That’s one reason that a Power Hour list works so well. What’s on your long-term to-do list? Set up that new printer, sort through those tangled cables, get rid of receipts, reports, and records that you no longer need, register a domain name…Now’s the time.

Create opportunities for others. Right now isn’t the time for that, probably, but it’s worth asking ourselves, “When all this is over, if I can, how can I help others find work? How can I support others to achieve financial security and opportunity?” To me, the future seems so murky I don’t know what this looks like. But I want to be asking myself this question.

Go easy on yourself. Guess what? This is stressful! If you’re like me, you may find it difficult to concentrate and to be super-productive. Don’t beat yourself up. Time will bring many things, for good and for ill, and one thing it will bring is more certainty. Hang in there.

This is a challenge for our country and the whole world. We’ll get through this together. Let’s reach out with love.



Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?

From renowned happiness expert and New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, the “Five Things Making Me Happy” newsletter is one of today’s most popular newsletters. You’ll get a weekly round-up of what’s making Gretchen happy, as well as practical tips, research, and resources about how we can make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.