By JP Madden, Certified Leadership Coach

Working from home is an unfamiliar thing that has become a new reality for many people over the past few weeks. Why is telecommuting such a challenge? You have your same laptop. You’re being asked to do the same work. What’s the issue?

How Our Brains React to Change

Our amygdala, the “reptilian” part of our brain, is hardwired to protect us from strange and unfamiliar things, and working from home is definitely a new and potentially stressful situation. When we feel stressed, our minds go into a “fight or flight” response, flooding our bodies with adrenaline and cortisol to help defend against, or escape from, a perceived danger.

The negative side effect from these hormones is that they stop our cognitive brain function, reducing it by as much as 50%! Our cognitive brain function is the part that allows us to use logical reasoning, i.e., our “thinking brain”, which allows us to think back on past experiences, look ahead to new possibilities, evaluate consequences and plan strategically. In other words, we need our cognitive functions in order to work effectively.

So how do we prevent or reduce these innate, natural responses? How do we “reset” and regain our cognitive function? The answer is to keep as many things “normal” about our work days as possible.

Here are a few tips on how to do just that:

Keep your morning routine.

It starts from the moment you wake up. Get up at the same time you normally would. Shower first thing, or do what- ever you normally do to prepare for the
day. Get fully dressed for work. Resist the temptation to wear “daytime” pyjamas. While fun, the unfamiliarity of working in different clothes will decrease your efficiency. That goes for shoes too. Your feet will sense the change if you’re sitting there in your socks.

Use your saved commute time.

Use the 20-30 minutes, or however long your normal commute would take, to set up and tear down your temporary work station. This will allow you that much needed separation from work and home. Apply a discipline to your schedule. Work time is work time. Home time is home time.

Set boundaries.

Boundaries can be difficult to set but are super important to establish, especially if you are not the only one at home. Establish clear signals of when you are in “work mode” and when you are “at home”. For me, it is my laptop. If it is open, I’m working and not to be interrupted. If it is shut, I’m available for my family.

Value your home time.

When you are “at home”, be present and engaged. Remember that your children and your partner deserve your time, and you deserve it too. And, when you allow yourself to be present at home, it gives you permission to be fully engaged when it’s time to work.

Give yourself time to adapt.

It’s going to be hard to separate your work-home environments and to get those structures understood and accepted by all. Be patient with those around you, and be patient with yourself. Forgive the missteps and celebrate the successes.

Whether you’ll be working at home for a few days or a few months, make the most out of your time and be your best self.

Coach JP Madden is a certified leadership coach who works with high-achieving individuals, from sports professionals to business leaders, coaching them to higher achievement by getting them unstuck and on track towards their full potential. For more information, visit