Smart working during a pandemics

Adriana Cano
6 min readMar 29, 2020


Tips on working from home

The above picture is my current working space; the map hanging on the wall is now nothing other than a reminder of the current situation and how all other countries might go down the same road as Italy, the plant on the left is one I bought to take in the office when I though that the first week of smart working would be the last while the orchid on the right is Amy, the plant that I vowed to keep in life (so far we’re doing alright).

I am now on my fifth week of working from home due to the surreal situation we find ourselves these days, especially here in the city of Milan, and I often find myself to have a headache during or after the working hours which makes it difficult to carry on working.

These days have made my realize that (Cheap) Ikea furniture is not made for long term use nor comfort. At the age of 24 it is unfathomable to imagine having a big house, with more than just a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom or even worse, a house with a garden. Which means that for plenty of people these days of quarantene are spent inside the confinement of small households, like in my case basically my room.

It’s as if the newer generations consider their home to be a stopping station to sleep at night and spend some time once in awhile. The reasons that lead to this go beyond the current situation we live in but the point is that hardly anyone that lives away from home has a fit working space, separate from the bedroom as well as leisure room or kitchen. But as in any other situation, one has to make the best with what it is given, so I went googling (and asked my mom) for tips on how to make working from home easier. Most of the articles with tips about smart working were not written with a situation like this in mind, which means that a great deal of the advice cannot be applicable these days, e.g “Put your shoes on while working” is not a good advice these days, “dress up like you’re going to work” you should remember to wash everything that you put when going outside and not keep it on while at home etc, etc. So I tried to put together what has been useful so far.

The right arrangements

a breath of fresh air

Luckily enough spring is here so temperatures are in our favor and leaving a window open for almost the entire day or at least for periods of time during the day can be a good solution to this. Courtesy of my mom.

short breaks, looking at a point in the far distance and quick stretching

For some reason taking a short break while working from home makes me feel like I’m cheating off work but strangely enough it doesn’t feel that way when I’m in the office. However, I’ve been trying a little harder the last couple of days to take breaks of 5 minutes and have noticed my productivity has increased. In one of the articles I read it said to do quick stretching during your breaks and that indeed does make a difference. Courtesy of my mom which is a curtsy of her reading a lot about people that spend most of their in-front of a computer; courtesy of a random article as well.

be(come) an early riser

I’ve always been an early bird but spending your entire day in a small house, can lead to a reduction of productivity as the day goes by which is why I’m making it a habit of waking up early in the morning to get started early on my daily tasks. The first couple of hours in the morning are my most productive hours. Courtesy of me.

find a comfortable spot

Back and neck pain due to bad posture are no joke. We think that “it’s just for awhile” which turns into a couple of hours and now a couple of days and maybe even months. Unfortunately, we don’t know for how long the isolation will go on. Finding a decent spot and even more importantly a comfortable chair can be a struggle these days. My own personal advice: use cushions for your back if you have them, make your chair as comfortable as you can. It can make the difference. Courtesy of me.

make work your escape

I feel incredibly grateful to work in a field where working from home is easily managed just like I feel incredibly grateful to have something to distract me during these weeks. It’s about having the economic certainty as much as it is about being morally obliged to think about other than the virus for at least 8 hours per day. Courtesy of me.

keep a regular sleeping schedule

Something I’ve found quite helpful is that of keeping a regular sleeping schedule, at least during the week, and with regular I mean whatever is your normal sleeping schedule in your day to day before any of these. Sleeping is without any doubt important to a healthy life and I’m no doctor (nor will i pretend to be) but there are plenty of professionals that write about this, like this article which I found quite helpful.

social media distancing

Being up to date with what is happening is indeed necessary, but we live in the age of oversharing, where the same news will be shared by various sources, where everyone just has to give their intake on the situation, the measures taken but most importantly how a better decision could be taken at any moment. Another aspect that I feel quite close to is that of the sea of forecasts and analysis (so many plots!) of the situation being published daily. What we’re dealing with is much bigger than testing out forecasting models as if it was just any other Scikit-learn toy dataset. The uncertainty involved in the whole thing, being that from the small amount of data (less than 2 months for Italy, very likely biased) to the lack of precision or understanding of external variables like how does the virus spread, the isolation measures taken, how much these measures are being respected, the country being studied and other endless ones make it nearly impossible to reach any kind of conclusion at this point in time. Do not fear missing out, take that distancing. Courtesy of me.

conspiracy theories will get you nowhere

It’s in human’s nature to ponder on the why, on how we got here, on how we might get out of it but the best advice I read on this is to leave the the complicated stuff to the people that have the knowledge and the necessary information to reach conclusions, oversharing your personal opinions on the matter won’t change a thing. Courtesy of common sense.

They say that human beings can get used to everything, you just have to give them time. On my fifth week of doing this I can say with certainty that you do get used to it and looking each day to make your surrounding better it also gets easier.

Remember why we are doing this

Not leaving the house for 7 days at a time can become daunting and make you lose sense of reality, there are times when I completely forget the current situation, what happens outside the comfort of my home, I lose sense of time as well but then comes 6 PM, time when an update on the number of people being infected and those who pass away is released and that is when I remember what we are going through. As a person who works with data I cannot seem to be able to reach a conclusion by looking at the numbers but most importantly at times I fail to associate those number to the people behind them, that a number bigger by one is a person passing away, a family loosing a dear one, a funeral that cannot be held, people grieving without have the space to, the people on the front line loosing yet another patient. It is when I remember all these that I remember that the struggle I am going through is minor compared to what these are people are going through.



Adriana Cano

Senior Data Scientist @UniCredit an avid reader, sometimes writer too