If you’ve found it difficult to shift from your usual office-based work routine to the sudden need to work remotely from home (or still are), you’re not alone. While we’re currently living out the crisis of COVID-19, the situation has also managed to dig up a few other crises along with it, like anxiety, depression, and the struggle to stay productive while working from home.

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Regarding the latter, the lingering stigma of “If you aren’t working hard enough, you don’t deserve a reward” may lead you to believe that you need to keep busy during these trying times. But it’s a misguided notion, especially now that the new normal consists of working from home everyday in your PJs. It’s not that you should neglect your work entirely; instead, take stock of the situation and reset your priorities and rethink what’s important to you. For those who are working themselves to the bone, as well as those who lack the motivation to do any form of work, let these Pinay freelancers guide you on how to work from home—the right way. Read on:

Mariella Lao, 27, Graphic Designer

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How long have you been working from home? 

I’ve been working from home for about five years already.

What made you decide to take the freelance route? 

I decided to do freelance work in the hopes of enhancing my skills and gaining more experience. Through freelance work, I was able to earn extra income, plus I was able to learn how to deal with different clients, too. 

What does a typical day look like when you work from home? 

Working from home is a blessing, especially for an introvert like myself. While I’m in the comforts of my home, I can be extra productive as I have more time to work, and I can do house chores or take naps during my break time.

How do you avoid working long hours and feeling burnt out? 

You need to stick to your set work hours. Eat at a deliberate time and take a walk around the house or do a quick exercise so you won’t feel sluggish while you’re still hard at work.

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How do you separate your personal and professional life when working from home? 

Stick to your work schedule. Communicate to your family so they’re aware of your “Do Not Disturb” time, and let them know if you’re still busy and may need more time to work alone. You should also be responsible and set your priorities straight. When it comes to work, always make sure you send your projects on time. Be aware of your deadlines and learn how to balance your daily workload.

What’s the best advice you can give to boost productivity while working from home? 

Before you start your day, eat breakfast and have a cup of coffee in the morning. Use a planner or a to-do list to list down and keep track of your tasks, so that every time you finish something, you can put a check on a box—this always makes me feel better and even more motivated because I can see what I’ve accomplished so far.

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Kate Alvarez, 30s, Writer and Commercial Model

How long have you been working from home?

I’ve been working from home since 2007. I used to be a full-time magazine editor at a media company, back when print was still in its heyday. 

What made you decide to take the freelance route?

Back then, there was no such thing as influencers or digital nomads. Slasher careers (ex. chef/model/MUA or lawyer who’s also a crafter and TV host) was a fairly new concept. The media company I worked for at the time had a strict rule of “No acting, endorsing, or coming out in commercials or print ads if you’re one of our employees!” and the only time I could come out on TV was when I’d be interviewed as a magazine editor. 

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I was miserable knowing that I couldn’t attend VTRs or accept projects my agent was offering. But after building my portfolio for years, I realized I could earn more with freelance projects while having time to pursue other passions on the side. I still wanted to write for magazines and newspapers while having the freedom of modeling, acting, and traveling whenever I wanted. Yes, I was young and ambitious, but I also couldn’t stand being in an office cubicle anymore. I felt that I had enough connections with many publications, so I became a freelancer.

What does a typical day look like when you work from home?

I wake up at eight or nine A.M. for breakfast, then I do research and write for the publications I contribute to, edit my blog, and drown in social media until lunch break at 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. After lunch, I continue working until 5 p.m., then take my dogs out for a walk, practice yoga, follow YouTube dance workouts, do a bit of gardening, clean my room, or help my mom with the family business. Finally, I have dinner at 7 or 8 p.m.

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While on lockdown, my schedule remains the same. I’m not in charge of going out to buy groceries because I’ve turned into a germaphobe. When I walk the dogs, it’s inside our lot. 

How do you avoid working long hours and feeling burnt out? 

When I started out as a freelance writer, I was always stressed out because I had no sense of time management. I would write until 3 a.m. and say yes to all the projects, and it even got to the point where I sometimes forgot to take a bath for one to two days. 

Now that I’m older, I’m better at saying no to projects that aren’t worth my time and companies that lowball their rates. I try to stick to my schedule. I love taking notes and using my organizer to help me keep track of things. I also make sure to get enough vitamin D by stepping out to sunbathe, even for just a few minutes a day. 

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I’m also a mental health advocate (I’m a survivor of clinical depression and general anxiety disorder), so I practice good mental health care. I even share mental wellness tips with my mental health group, SOS Philippines.

How do you separate your personal and professional life when working from home?

Have boundaries! Just because you live with certain people doesn’t mean you need to talk to them and interact with them 24/7. Maintain boundaries with the people you live with. Respect their space and schedule in the same way you want them to respect yours. 

I set up my workspace away from my mom’s workspace to avoid clashing with her. When the house gets chaotic (ex. the dogs are barking at everything and the employees are in the house), I take my portable office to my room, but I DON’T work on the bed. Once you start bringing your food and work stuff to the bed, your mind will no longer be accustomed to relaxing when you lay down. You need to train your mind and body into believing that the bed is a magical, safe space for snoozing.

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What’s the best advice you can give to boost productivity while working from home? 

Create a schedule as if you’re still in the office (except that you’re in pajamas or shorts). Include waking and sleeping hours, bathing and skincare regimens, proper food breaks (Don’t snack while working—eat only during your allotted schedule!), exercise, and hobbies. 

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Ginyn Cadavillo, 28, Writer

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How long have you been working from home?

I've been working from home, full-time, since August last year—but I've been a freelance writer since 2016.

What made you decide to take the freelance route?

At first, I decided to take it just so I could focus on writing about things I'm super passionate about, like Korean dramas. Eventually, I actively sought out more freelance gigs for extra income. 

What does a typical day look like when you work from home?

I currently hold a full-time remote job that requires me to clock in eight hours every weekday. In that line of work, I occasionally attend video call meetings, but most of the time, I conduct research and write blogs for our brand. 

Outside my regular job, I pitch story angles for one of the online magazines I write for, and I sometimes receive assignments from other online magazines. I also handle the social media accounts of a small e-commerce brand, so I regularly monitor the activities and think of more engaging content for that brand. In between all of that, I eat, chug down coffee, take care of and play with my energetic baby, and try to catch up on an episode (or two) of K-dramas

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How do you avoid working long hours and feeling burnt out?

Whenever I feel tense or high strung, I unwind through playtime with my baby, watching K-dramas, and—due to recent events—baking at the end of long work days. 

How do you separate your personal and professional life when working from home?

I try to stick to a schedule as best I can. When my husband comes home from work, he takes on the babysitting duties, so I can focus on refining the articles I’ve written during the day. When I'm not working, I try to unplug and spend time with family. It's so difficult sometimes, but I try! 

What’s the best advice you can give to boost productivity while working from home?

Definitely set up a home office. I have one—just a basic desk, laptop, office chair, and that’s it. It’s become that part of our home that switches on my "business mode". Aside from that, you should take advantage of your flexible hours, too, if you have that benefit. On slow days when I log in for a half-day in the morning, I have early lunch and take a nap around noon, then work for the rest of the afternoon or evening with a refreshed mind.

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Donna Cuna-Pita, 44, Writer and Speaker

How long have you been working from home?

I left my full-time job at a media company in 2006 and have been freelancing ever since, about 14 years already.

What made you decide to take the freelance route? 

After having my second child, my husband and I agreed that I needed a more flexible work schedule as he was always out of the country for work engagements.

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What does a typical day look like when you work from home? 

Before the quarantine, I usually start work after I drop off the kids at school in the morning at around eight in the morning and finish up just before I pick up the kids in the afternoon at around four in the afternoon. Now, there hasn't been that much work since the quarantine started so I enjoy spending most of my time with my husband and kids.

How do you avoid working long hours and feeling burnt out?

I make it a point not to take on too many work assignments or events in a week. I usually allot three or four days a week for work, at most.

How do you separate your personal and professional life when working from home?

During the quarantine, my kids keep to themselves most of the time since they’re teenagers (14 and 16 years old). When I need to write, I just tell them I'll be in my work area and they can just go there if they need me. Unless I have a Monday deadline, I don't work on weekends because that's when the family’s all together. I also have a designated work area at home, so I automatically go on work mode when I'm there. 

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What’s the best advice you can give to boost productivity while working from home?

Have a fixed daily schedule to accomplish work assignments. That way, you have a rhythm to your daily life and to manage the expectations of your family members with regard to your availability while working from home.

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