In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has dramatically changed how we live. Businesses around the world—both large and small—are adapting to new challenges every day, and the majority of the workforce has suddenly found themselves working from home for the foreseeable future.
While millions of people were working remotely (at least part of the time) prior to this shift, it’s still a big adjustment for most. As the country continues to settle into our new work from home reality, you may be looking for some work from home tips to help ensure your days are just as productive as if you were in an office.
In this guide, we’ll break down how to work from home successfully so you and your team can continue to produce your best work, while also staying engaged and in high spirits. Keep reading to learn more.
Tip 1: Establish a Morning Routine
Before you head to the office, there are a number of things you likely do at home. Get up, shower, get dressed, feed the pets or kids, pack a lunch, grab your laptop, and commute. When you work from home, many of these morning tasks can go right out the window.
While the morning rush to get to the office on time can feel chaotic and stressful, it also serves a purpose. Your morning routine helps you to wake up and prepare yourself for the day. If you skip your morning routine, it can leave you feeling foggy and unfocused.
An important work from home tip is to create and follow a morning routine. Now that your commute is just from your bed to your workspace, you can use that time differently. Your new morning routine is up to you, but here are a few things we suggest you incorporate.
Your body needs fuel—especially in times of stress. While working remotely might be fun at first, the news, change in routine, and social distancing will have a continued effect on your mood. Starting your day with a healthy meal will help you get your day started right, while also keeping you focused as you dive into the day’s to-do list.
Sure, you probably spent the first few days working from home in your pajamas, but most people feel more productive, awake, and ready to work when they’re wearing “real” clothes.
While you don’t need to adhere to your same office dress code (unless you want to), putting on pants and a clean shirt helps put your mind in work mode. Not to mention, it makes all those video calls less awkward.
Move Your Body
Just because you’re staying home doesn’t mean you can’t get a workout in. Starting your day with movement will help you wake up and get ready to focus.
There are tons of online workout class options—from yoga and meditation to bodyweight and cardio classes—that you can access for free and that don’t require any equipment. Alternatively, you can also take this time to get outside for a morning walk or run.
Tip 2: Stay in Touch With Colleagues
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected to your coworkers. Between phone calls, Slack, texts, emails, and video conferences, there’s really no excuse to be less connected than you were when you were all working in an office.
That being said, don’t forget that connecting with colleagues is about more than just work. Don’t forget to ask how colleagues are doing, spend some time talking about non-work-related (or corona-related) topics, ask for photos of their kids or pets, and share what you’re doing to keep from going stir crazy while in quarantine.
And besides your typical work-related meetings, consider adding some virtual happy hours or lunches to your team’s calendar as well to stay connected and keep morale up.
Tip 3: Hone Your Digital Communication Skills
Consider your time while working remotely an opportunity to practice your digital communication skills. It’s easy for things to get lost in translation when you’re unable to see someone in person, but these tips can help you and your team communicate effectively.
While it will be tempting to try and transfer every aspect of the modern workplace to digital life, that doesn’t always work. Yes, Zoom and other video conferencing tools are great, but they’re not everything. Don’t forget to go old-school sometimes and call your colleagues. A lot of information can be lost in a short, quickly written Slack message. Hopping on a call can often help you resolve an issue quickly while also providing an opportunity to check in with your colleague.
Use the ACE Method
Without the benefit of in-person body language, facial expressions, and tone, it’s easy to miscommunicate via digital channels. To solve this issue, Intercom came up with ACE to help their remote employees better communicate digitally.
- Assume positive intent: It’s important when receiving a message from a colleague that seems short or cold to take a step back and assume positive intent. Research has shown that we generally have a bias toward reading written messages as harsher than the writer intended them to be.
- Clarify ambiguity: If you’re not sure what someone is saying, ask! If you think your message might have been misunderstood, take a moment to clarify it. Sometimes you can clarify over text, but other times you might just want to jump on the phone.
- Express yourself: We all have a personality and voice—let that shine in your messages. While the office is a professional environment, that doesn’t mean you can’t share your personality. Use the tools at your disposal to best express yourself. You can do this through creative punctuation, emojis, GIFs, and more.
Batch Send Emails
Overcommunication can be a common problem for remote teams. If you find yourself sending multiple, quick messages to the same few people every time you have a thought, consider batch sending those messages at a certain time of the day so your recipients aren’t receiving a constant stream of messages from you. The exception, of course, is for time-sensitive information, but if it’s not urgent, consider holding it.
Tip 4: Set Boundaries With Partners, Pets, and Kids
Working from home always presents a set of challenges, even when conditions are ideal—for instance, you have the house to yourself and can focus uninterrupted on your work. However, when you’re trying to juggle a new work from home schedule with your partner’s work from home schedule, your kids are home from school, and your pets are running wild, things can get even more difficult.
One of the best things you can do is to communicate your needs and set boundaries early on. While you may have to adjust these boundaries down the road and accept that you’ll never have eight full hours of uninterrupted work time, you can set yourself up for success by establishing certain hours that you aren’t to be disturbed or certain signals to tell your partner when you’re on a call and need quiet. Ask your partner to do the same so you can both respect each other’s needs and create a more harmonious workspace.
Tip 5: Keep Kids Occupied
The best way to keep kids out of your hair while you’re trying to work remotely is to give them something to do. While it will be nearly impossible to keep them constantly entertained while they’re unable to meet up with their friends or go to the local park, there are lots of resources online.
Many museums are now offering virtual tours, colleges are offering free classes, artists are sharing craft ideas, and I’m sure your kids would love to learn how to make slime. The options are endless, so get creative.
Tip 6: Invest in the Tools You Need
If you’re going to be working from home for the next several weeks or longer, you need to make sure that your setup is comfortable and conducive to work. If there’s something you need that you’re used to having in your office, consider buying it for yourself or asking your boss if you can be reimbursed.
Anyone who works on a computer all day, every day knows that the right keyboard, mouse, and headphones can make all the difference. If you don’t have what you need at home, consider buying it. The expense very well might be worth your comfort and ability to focus.
Similarly, you may be used to a larger monitor or another piece of equipment that helps you work better. This is as good a time as any to check out what affordable options are out there to outfit your new home office.
If you don’t typically work from home, you may not have a desk or table suited for the activity. And while working from the couch may seem like a good idea at first, this can get old fast—plus, it can be hard to stay in a work mindset when you’re in an environment where you usually relax.
Consider investing in an inexpensive desk to create a designated work area. Not only will you work better in a traditional workspace, but it can also help you separate your work time and your personal time, which can be especially hard to do when your home becomes your office.
Comfortable Place to Sit
Having the right chair can make all the difference when you’re trying to work from home. After all, eight hours is a long time to spend in a chair with no back support, and you don’t want to find yourself in pain three days in.
Besides looking into a supportive chair, don’t forget to get up and move around periodically. Consider whether any surfaces in your home are conducive to creating a standing desk. If you don’t have the ability to buy a new chair, switching where you’re sitting and spending part of your day standing can help keep you comfortable.
Tip 7: Schedule Breaks
When you work from home, it can be hard to remember to get up and move around. After all, there’s no walking to the coffee shop around the corner, going out for lunch with coworkers, or walking to the bathroom on the other side of the building.
Not only should you put time on your calendar to remind yourself to step away from your computer, but you should also try to make these breaks as active as possible. Consciously adding movement when you take breaks can help you to stay mobile and healthy while working from home.
Tip 8: Set Your “Office” Hours
While many bosses worry that remote employees will slack off and work less, research has shown they actually work more than in-office employees. As you make the transition to working from home, make sure to start tracking the hours you work. Just like when you go into the office, it’s important to set your “office” hours and not work outside those hours. This can be easier said than done, but it’s important you keep to as much of a normal routine as possible.
That said, if you have the flexibility, you may want to consider shifting your work hours to when you’re most productive. Maybe you’re a natural night owl and would rather start your day later to maximize your productivity. Customizing your schedule can make a big difference for both your output and overall mood.
Tip 9: Choose a Designated Work Area
One of the difficulties faced by people who work from home is the blurring of personal and professional spaces. This can make it difficult to not think about work at home and vice-versa. One way to avoid this is to choose a designated work area. Preferably, this won’t be your bed. Try to keep your bedroom a space that’s reserved entirely for personal time.
If you don’t have a separate office, consider the kitchen or living room to set up your office. Having a designated workspace will help you to get into work mode and transition out of it again when you sign off for the night.
When you’re choosing your workspace, don’t forget to think about lighting. This is important for video calls but also for your comfort. Being in a room where there is plenty of natural light can help you to feel awake and happy. If you don’t have natural light, choose a well-lit room and consider bringing in additional lamps if you find you’re straining your eyes.
When you’re working from home, it’s especially important to draw the line between your personal, or play, space and your workspace. Another way to reinforce that is to not eat at your desk. When it’s time for a meal, stop working, step away from your desk, and take a break to eat.
Creating a separate space will also help others respect your work boundaries and know when you’re not to be disturbed.
Tip 10: Have Some Quick Pick-Me-Ups
No matter how well you design your workspace or stick to your morning routine, there will be times when you hit a wall while working from home—the same is true when you’re working at the office, after all.
When these unmotivated moments strike at home, though, they can be especially dangerous, as the options you have to distract yourself are endless: your kids, pets, TV, a new recipe, the list goes on.
Keeping some quick pick-me-ups in your office space can help you refocus. These include:
- Nice-smelling room spray
- Lighting a candle
- Fidget spinner or putty
- Hand lotion
- Brewing a cup of tea
This way, you can take a minute to let your mind wander and then get back to the task at hand.
Tip 11: Focus
While many bosses worry their remote employees will spend their days watching TV while monitoring email, there are actually benefits to letting employees work remotely.
And honestly, working from home has about the same number of potential distractions as working from an office, they’re just different distractions. Whether it’s the laundry timer, your kids, or dirty dishes on the counter, there are any number of distractions you’re going to run into at home. To help you keep distractions to a minimum, consider these work from home tips:
Close Non-Work Tabs
If you’re trying to work, close any non-work-related tabs. And if you can, close your inbox and turn off notifications when you really need to get into the flow.
You may be tempted to start prepping dinner or put in a load of laundry in between emails, but it’s best to focus on your work during your designated work hours and save your housekeeping and other chores for when you’re off the clock.
Avoid Social Media
We all know that social media is a time suck. While working from home, it might be tempting to keep constant tabs on your Instagram or Twitter feed, but resist the urge to check these channels until your lunch break or when you sign off for the day—just as you would if you were at the office.
Keep Your Workspace Tidy
Another way to help yourself focus while working from home is to keep your space tidy. If you’re working from the kitchen table, it can be distracting to see dirty dishes on the kitchen counter and unfolded laundry on the couch. Try to keep your workspace distraction-free and tidy as much as possible.
Tip 12: Check-in on Your Mental Health
During these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to check-in with your mental health as you make the transition to working remotely and spending more time at home. Be sure to prioritize time for non-work-related activities in your day, including:
Stay in Touch With Friends
Isolation doesn’t mean you’re without friends, you just have to switch up how you interact with people. Ask your friends to join you for a virtual happy hour or just call people on FaceTime. Most of us are at home trying our best not to get cabin fever. Reach out, ask your friends and family how they’re doing, and commiserate together about this craziness.
Snuggle Your Pets
Is there anything that makes you feel better than snuggling your pets? Take some extra time to play fetch with your dog or soak up some quality time with your cat. Animals are a great stress-reliever, so take advantage of this as often as you can.
Seriously, go outside. Take a walk. Soak up some sunshine. Breathe the fresh air. Put your feet in the grass. Nature has a positive impact on our well-being, so don’t underestimate how much of a difference a walk around the block or sitting on a park bench can have on your mood, as well as your productivity once you’re back to work.
Now that you get to skip your daily commute, spend that extra time doing something nice for yourself. Whether that’s journaling, crafting, trying a new hobby, meditating, or anything else, take some me-time. You deserve it.
Find Some Joy Online
While the online world isn’t always the nicest place, these uncertain times are also bringing out people’s compassionate sides. Twitter is full of people posting photos of their new furry colleagues sleeping on the job, the Shedd Aquarium is taking their penguins out for adventures, and people are having Netflix parties—just to name a few.
Tip 13: Write Tomorrow’s To-Do List
Before stopping work for the day, assess everything that you accomplished and what still needs to be done. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on what you completed and then add everything else to tomorrow’s to-do list. Then when you sit down to work the next day, you’ll be able to dive right in.
It’s important to keep everything you need to get done organized in one place, but don’t try to do it all at once. Your daily to-do list should ideally only have three to five items so you can reasonably complete it. Tasks beyond that should be punted to the following days or kept on your master to-do list.
Tip 14: Have an End-of-Day Routine
Normally you have your evening commute to tell your brain it’s time to go home. Just as important as a morning routine is your end-of-day routine. When you work from home, it can be easy to just never stop working—or thinking about work. An end-of-day routine can help you transition out of work mode into “home” mode.
To shift modes, consider taking a walk, listening to a podcast you typically listen to on your commute, changing into “home” clothes—just to name a few. Even small gestures can help your mind to make the shift from work to home, but it’s important you differentiate the two parts of your day in some way.
The Bottom Line
Right now, we’re all learning how to work from home more effectively. For some of us, this is the first time doing so, and for others, it’s business as usual. Either way, these work from home tips should help you make the most of each day so you don’t skip a beat and can continue crushing your work goals.
While working from home may feel weird at first, implementing these tips can make this strange time just a little bit easier.