Fears of COVID-19 are driving a large number of employers to close down their offices for the next few weeks and instead have employees do their jobs from home. It's a smart move on companies' parts, both from a safety and continuity standpoint. But if you're someone who's never worked from home before, you may find it difficult to stay focused when you're used to the structure that comes with reporting to an office. Here's how to maintain your productivity if you've suddenly landed in a work-from-home situation.

1. Stick to your regular business hours

A good way to stay on track work-wise when you're doing your job from home is to maintain a steady, predictable schedule. If you're normally at your desk by 9:00AM, commit to doing the same, albeit from your living room. And if you typically leave the office around 6:00PM, stick to that shutdown time as well.

Man at table typing on laptop while young boy across from him writes in notebook


2. Don't get distracted by the news

There's a new story out about COVID-19 every 19 minutes, or so it seems. And with so many Americans being on edge, it's easy to see how you might spend a good chunk of each day reading the news rather than doing your work. But for the sake of your sanity and productivity, don't do that. If you must, designate a few 15-minute breaks during the day -- the same breaks you should, in theory, be entitled to when you report to the office -- and check the news then if you're so inclined. If there's a major development surrounding COVID-19, you'll hear about it without visiting CNN 37 times a day.

3. Carve out a dedicated workspace

Maybe your home doesn't have an unused room that can suddenly serve as your office while you're working remotely. But if that's the case, figure out what space in your home is the most conducive to working, and lay out it so you have access to the tools you need to do your job. At the very least, you'll probably need a table or desk that can accommodate a laptop, phone, and whatever physical files or documents you may have brought home. Also, if you don't have a comfortable, supportive chair you can sit in all day, invest in one. You don't need back problems to make the current situation even more trying.

4. Do your best to eliminate distractions

If you're not used to working from home, you may find that it's awfully easy to fall victim to distractions -- things like your living room TV or your laundry piles just begging to get done. As such, do what you can to avoid getting sidetracked. That could mean unplugging your TV during the day, or locking your laundry detergent in a closet as a reminder that you're supposed to be focusing on work tasks, not household tasks.

Working from home can be challenging when you're new to it. But if your employer has told you to work remotely for the time being, chances are, you'll be doing it a while. The sooner you get used to your new arrangement and learn to thrive in your new setup, the better a job you'll do of staying productive.