Are you still trying to figure out the best working from home tips? You’re not the only one.
The coronavirus pandemic forced knowledge workers to adapt to remote work. And for most, this is their first time working from home.
Skipping commute and setting your own work hours may seem like a dream. But these benefits come with added responsibility. You have to be your own boss and stay on task, even when your bed is calling from the next room over.
It’s easy to get distracted or disorganized. Projects can drag into the night and the lines between work time and free time start to blur.
Working from home may not be for everyone, but because of the COVID-19, it’s a necessity. And so you’re left to learn how to work from home.
Here are 7 working from home tips from a home-office veteran.
They will teach you everything you need to know about remote work. Keep (or even increase) your productivity while maintaining a work-life balance.
1. Have a Separate Space for Your Home-Office
I know it’s tempting to work from your bed. But you’ll be far more productive if you have a separate home office space.
There are two reasons for this. First, it helps you get into the work mindset. And it also allows you to “turn off” at the end of the day when you need to return to your home life.
The human brain has trouble with categorization. That’s why you shouldn’t mix productive spaces with relaxing ones. It can lead to distraction, trouble sleeping, and higher stress levels.
Set up physical cues for your mind and body by reserving a space just for work. You don’t need a whole room. With the proper setup, any corner can feel like an office.
Here are the essential items that set the tone for productivity during your workday:
- Fast Wi-Fi. The keyword here is fast. Nothing kills productivity like lag. In many countries, the internet used for working from home is tax-deductible, so it’s worth spending a little more to have a guaranteed connection
- A writing space. Standing desks, workout desks, tables or laptop trays – the possibilities are endless. Customization is key. Just make sure that whatever you’re writing or typing on is reserved solely for work
- A place to sit. Use what you’re comfortable with and pay special attention to ergonomics. Some people need the back support of an office chair, while others prefer a couch. Like desks, there’s a number of options out there. The important part is that it is reserved only for work.
- Lighting. Choose a space with natural light and invest in a good lamp
- Computer. This is a given. Know the specs you need to optimize your workflow and invest in a computer for the long term
- Mouse. Trackpads can cause wrist strain when overused. Many computer mice are specially designed to reduce the risk of injury
- Headphones. This is especially important if your work relies on conference calls/video chat. Noise-canceling headphones reduce noise feedback and guarantee that you won’t be “that guy” with the distracting background noises (I use these)
2. Have a Routine When Working From Home
Wake up. Brush your teeth. Take a shower. Eat breakfast. These are the little things that get us up and going in the morning.
Maintaining routines is essential when working from home because there are endless distractions. There’s laundry to do and dishes to wash. Netflix is just a click away. And there’s no boss around to tell us to stay on task.
Having a commute forces us to separate our home and office routines. How do you keep that line as a remote worker? By keeping up common office practices, such as lunch and coffee breaks.
Routines make our day more predictable and thus more efficient. Setting times for lunch, the gym, and other essential activities give us a rhythm to follow. We’re better able to plan and get in the zone when we have a schedule.
Commit to working during your regular hours – and to stop working when office hours finish. Even though there are a million chores and errands you could do, pretend like you aren’t at home while you’re working.
Likewise, when you “leave” work, be done with it. Shut off your computer, get up from your desk, and move into your home life.
3. Complete Tasks in Batches
Batching is a time management technique that works by doing similar tasks all at once. Grouping related activities keep our brains in one flow.
It takes time to switch between activities. Why? Because different tasks use different parts of the brain.
Answering emails will use the part of the brain responsible for reading and writing.
But phone calls or video calls use the parts responsible for socializing, listening, and speaking.
By grouping similar tasks, we cut the amount of time our brains take to make these switches. And that saves us time in the long run.
A little organization on your day will help you knock out assignments. Don’t randomly move through emails, messages, and calls. Process them in batches.
You can use batching on almost anything:
- Emails and messages. Instead of being distracted throughout the day, check-in at set times
- Meetings. Try your best to schedule meetings within a set time frame and, if possible, early in the week. This ensures that teams and clients are on the same page and makes it easier to prioritize tasks
- Meal prep. Cook all your meals for the week on Sunday
4. Use the Right Equipment for Remote Work
Most people working from home will have a working laptop and cellphone. And while other equipment may not be necessary, it can make a big difference in productivity.
For example, a tablet. It’s perfect for taking notes or presenting projects to clients.
Gadgets tend to have high price points. But consider what you save in time and convenience by having all your documents sync up. Or having your headphones tune out the construction happening outside your window.
Figuring out company policies and tax rules can these purchases more affordable or even free. Many employees can negotiate how to work from home by asking employers to reallocate expenses from other benefits.
And the right equipment does not have to be tech-based. In some cases, earplugs or a pen and paper can do the trick. What’s important is that you are aware of what helps you work smarter.
5. Find the Best Digital Tools (and Learn How to Use Them)
During the coronavirus, there’s been a boom when it comes to software. Especially in professional communication platforms and organizational tools. And so it can be hard to figure out what meets your needs.
In general, determining the best tools comes down to the volume of work, the number of team members, and cost.
Digital companies obsess with user education. And most have blogs or YouTube channels to guide users through their products and offers. This is the first and most thorough resource for learning about these tools.
Another way to research tools is to use the keyword search on Facebook or LinkedIn groups. See what other users recommend and learn potential glitches or limitations.
Digital must-haves include:
- Task managers/To-do Lists Software. Examples: Asana, Trello or Todoist
- Video-conferencing platforms. Examples: Zoom, Skype or GotoMeeting
- Social media automation and analytics. Examples: Sprout, Hootsuite, Later or Buffer
- Web analytics. Examples: Google Analytics or Hubspot
Note that some of these tools have many uses. Take advantage of free trials to explore features and learn what works for you and your team.
6. Stay in Touch with Your Team Members
Working from home doesn’t have to mean total isolation. In fact, the water cooler talk is still important. It maintains a sense of connection with your team.
Since you can’t get face-to-face time, you can try to take the water cooler online.
Take a few minutes before professional meetings to check-in with your team members. Ask them about their weekend, travel plans and families. Have casual Slack threads for sharing interesting links and humorous posts or messages.
If all your team is working from home, consider planning virtual happy hours or game nights. Here are some ideas for virtual happy hours:
- Cocktail Party. Everyone submits their favorite cocktail recipe to a Google Doc and makes their drinks at home. Then have a virtual happy hour over a video call on Zoom or Facetime
- Games. You can play Classic games like Catan and Scrabble online. If your team is into it, you can even organize a tournament. Use Discord so that everyone can hear each other as you play
- Trivia Night. Two or three people are the “hosts” and come up with trivia questions. The other members form into teams. Winners choose the theme for the next happy hour
7. Remember to Schedule Breaks
Sitting in your personalized home office may be more pleasant than a traditional setup. But moving, stretching and taking mental breaks are still just as important. Scheduling breaks keeps us healthy and happy, and also makes us more productive.
You should schedule breaks to give you a boost when you are least productive. Use a time tracking app like Toggl to track your productivity. After tracking your time for two or three days, it should become clear when your body naturally slows down.
If you notice lulls in the afternoon, schedule 15 minutes after lunch to move, stretch, and wake up your mind. If you’re slower in the mornings, wake up a little earlier to exercise or meditate, so you can jump-start your day.
Figure out what energizes you. Traditional offices might limit options for grabbing a coffee in the break room or going out for lunch. At home, you can create your own space. Spend time with your pet, take a walk, or relax with your favorite hobby.
Just remember that breaks should feel refreshing. If possible, avoid doing chores or running errands. A proper break boosts our mood and allows us to re-engage with our work.
Making Working From Home Work For You
Adjusting to remote work will take some time.
But with the right preparation, it can lead to more flexibility and freedom to do more of what you love.
Working from home saves you time and gives you the liberty to customize your space and routine. It’s a great option for those looking to start their own side hustle or need more time to spend with family.
Remember: these working from home tips are suggestions.
Everyone is different and it takes some trial and error to develop a system that works for you. Keep track of your preferences and challenges to figure out how to work from home in the most productive way possible.