So, you’ve been at home for the past week doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Starting to feel a little restless? Sure. But there’s no need to feel isolated while keeping yourself and your neighbors healthy.

Here are more than 20 ways to start connected: with friends, for kids, and while working remote.

STAY CONNECTED WITH FRIENDS

Get creative with virtual hangouts

While it may be a while until we can all hang out in person, there are plenty of ways to get together virtually. Some ideas to try:

  • Virtual happy hours: Log off from work, designate a time, choose a favorite beverage and chit chat over Google Hangouts, Zoom or FaceTime. Support local breweries by raising a pint of local beer from a drive-through or to-go option, or have the group make cocktails using at-home recipes from Liberate Your Palate.
  • Virtual game night: Try services like Jackbox, Heads Up on Houseparty or Mario Kart Tour to get your competitive juices flowing. Find more ideas here.
  • Virtual karaoke night: Yup, you read that right. Start a group FaceTime or Google Hangout, then bring up YouTube videos of the karaoke versions of your go-to songs. It’s almost as good as your favorite bar.

Create your own masterpiece, together

Thanks to Painting with a Twist’s take-home kits with supplies and step-by-step instructions, you and your besties can create together, despite being apart. Grab a bottle of wine to-go (Winestore is open for curbside take-home orders), set up a FaceTime and get to work.

Get streaming

Just as you would fire up the group text to attend a concert or show together, gather a group to enjoy streamed live music and performances. Start with Music Anywhere CLT, a virtual music series for and by the Charlotte music community, where you can find Charlotte-area concert live streams.

Blumenthal Performing Arts’ “Get to Know the Show: Home Edition,” with short episodes streaming on Facebook, is another great way to stay connected to Charlotte’s art scene.

Outside of Charlotte, many major acts are streaming concerts online, and the Metropolitan Opera will also stream select prior performances. Watch together and discuss over FaceTime.

Want to binge-watch together? Try Netflix Party, which allows you to watch shows and movies with a designated group of besties and chat about it along the way.

Try a virtual dinner party

Using FaceTime or Zoom, make your favorite dinner (or even better, enjoy take-out from local businesses!) and then FaceTime friends in instead of gathering together in your dining room. Make it even more fun when you invite everyone to follow a theme, play games or require participants to use a secret ingredient in their menu.

Learn a new skill with SkillPop Anywhere

Make plans to attend a virtual SkillPop class with a friend or family member. Then, have a virtual coffee or dinner date to chat about what you’ve learned.

Start a virtual book club

With many audio or electronic book platforms offering discounts or free access, it’s never been easier to pick up reading as a hobby. Make it social, and even more fun, by coordinating a virtual book club to discuss what you’ve read. Wine and cheese optional, but encouraged.

Connect and challenge friends in virtual fitness classes

Whether you’re a solo workout gal or live for your group classes, it’s rough when gyms are closed. Keep your physical and mental health in check by challenging friends and family to fitness challenges via apps or by your Apple Watch. Not a competitor? Sign up to take one a virtual class offered by many local gyms and studios.

Here’s our post on 15+ free streaming workouts plus tons of discounts and deals at local studios.

FOR KIDS

For even more ideas for kids, view our post on activities to do from home.

Try your hand at DIY

Feed your (and their) creative sides with all ages DIY kits available to-go from AR Workshop. Simply view and choose your design, select your DIY package and paint colors, then pick up at their front door during designated times. FaceTime with friends to create a class-like virtual experience.

Experiment with virtual play dates

You’ve done video conference calls for work, why not video conference calls for play dates? Sync up with other parents to try playdates by Zoom or FaceTime. We can’t guarantee it will look the same, but we bet there will be a few laughs and adorable moments along the way.

KidTime from Levine Children’s Hospital

Tune in to the Levine Children’s Facebook page every day at 11 a.m. to join KidTime, featuring music therapy, virtual bingo, story time and more.

Free online resources from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Digital resources include e-books, audiobooks and videos, plus specific resources for kids like online storytime.

Free virtual experiences from the Arts and Science Council

Head to the ASC’s website to browse multiple online events perfect for kids, including Facebook Live events from Carolina Raptor Center’s Avian Home Adventure and Wing Haven.

Virtual cooking classes for kids

From the Food Network, let your kids explore the joy (and fun) of cooking with virtual cooking classes for kids. Use what you have in your pantry to create and learn tips for cooking at home.

CONNECTING WHILE REMOTE

Setting up a new home office? Understand the ergonomics of your new space with our recent post here.

Staying connected with clients and co-workers

Communication and collaboration tools

Keep client and coworker communication going strong by connecting over tools like Zoom and WebEx. WebEx has video, audio, screen share and chat features, while Zoom boasts many of the same functions, plus a handy touch-up feature. Looking to collaborate? Tools like Miro make remote brainstorming possible.

Virtual lunch breaks

Who ever thought they’d miss gathering in the office break room? Try a virtual lunch with co-workers to break up the workday and ensure you get a social break in your day. Make your own lunch and connect over the video conference tool of your choice.

HOW OTHERS ARE WORKING FROM HOME

From April Smith, Owner of Social Ape Marketing:

Clients who rely on Social Ape Marketing and are feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic may soon be relying on owner April Smith and her team in a new way. The firm plans to release online marketing courses for business owners to help them through this time.

“We’ve always wanted to offer online courses so there is no better time than now with many people stuck at home and their businesses on hold,” says Smith.

As for her team, they use Trello for client project management and to stay connected and on track.

From Corri Smith, Owner of Black Wednesday

Black Wednesday, a PR and marketing firm serving a number of local businesses, is taking community action into their own hands. Owner Corri Smith and Garrett Tichy of Hygge Coworking created SLOE (Support Local Or Else) to highlight current promotions of local businesses as they face uncertainty in the coming months.

As far as day-to-day work, Black Wednesday teammates are using Zoom for video calls and meetings, as well as freeconferencecall.com for non-video calls. They are also staying in touch by using Slack to communicate across our team and with some clients. Another tool is Calendly, a site that allows you to book time with people through their Google calendar and also take payment.

When it comes to setting up a home office, Smith recommends “isolating yourself from any interruptions, keeping the coffee and music on, and taking breaks to go outside and get fresh air.”

She’s also a fan of lighting candles and burning sage, and recommends not trying to multi-task by doing laundry or other domestic tasks.

PRODUCTIVITY HACKS

While many of us are figuring out how to work remotely for the first time, other have mastered the best practices for working from home. General tips for maximum productivity include:

  • Setting up a designated work space. That means no working from your bed (I know, it’s tempting) or couch.
  • Get dressed and ready as you normally would. It sounds great to work in your pajamas, but it’s likely you’ll be more productive and it will feel more like a workday if you put on your business casual.
  • Log on and off at your normal hours. Working from home can mean the line between work hours and personal time can blend even more. Be sure to communicate with your work team when your standard hours will be and when they can reach you. Then, stick to your plan.