Are you getting ready to work from home? For many of us, it sounds like a dream come true – but it’s a major change from working on-site every day. Many of our staff and writers have worked from home for years, so we’ve put together a list of our 14 best tips to help you hit the ground running and do your best work from home. Let’s get into it.
1. Set a Schedule
Even though you’re working from home, it’s important to set a schedule for yourself, just as if you were commuting to the office. Structure is the foundation of a productive workday and setting a schedule can help you fall into a routine that works best for you. Take every part of your day into account, including breaks, and do your best to stick to it. Falling into a reliable routine will help you make the most out of every day you’re working from home.
2. Dress for Success
Sure, you might be able to get away with working in your PJs, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. A big part of successfully working from home is the mindset you begin the day with, and that starts with how you dress. If you’re getting ready for work, choosing clothes that match the task is an important milestone to mentally prepare you for the day ahead. Likewise, should you suddenly be asked to hop on a video call, you won’t need to rush to get dressed.
Just as importantly, dressing for success creates an important distinction between “home time” and “work time.” In the beginning, it’s tempting to let these lines blur, but clearly defining each part of your day is one of the earliest hurdles work from home employees must overcome.
Keep up Good Work Habits
Working from home has many perks, but don’t be tempted into bad habits. If you set a block of time to type of reports, stick to it. Don’t take extra coffee breaks or lose hours browsing Reddit. There is a lot of freedom when you work from home, but that also means there are extra distractions.
Likewise, keep up other good work habits. Communicate with your colleagues. Reach out for support when you need it. Take good notes. Follow through on documentation. If you had a habit that helped you at the office, or made you stand out from your colleagues, try to bring it into your work from home life too. Not everything will fit, but you might be surprised at how well many things do.
4. Stay Organized
Setting a daily schedule is important, but consider using tools to organize the things you would like to get done in your workday. Creating lists is a great strategy to get more done and ensure you don’t leave work behind you intended to finish. Simple apps like Google Keep can provide basic checklists, but if you want added functionality, Any.do can help you organize your entire day. Want to monitor your productivity? Consider giving ATracker a try. Each of these is available on iOS, and there are many options besides, but staying organized is a key element of staying productive.
5. Minimize Distractions
Take stock of your environment and try to remove things that might be a distraction. That also applies to the computer you’re using for work. Create a hard rule that you won’t open distracting websites during certain hours of the day. Without fail, whenever I sit down to work, that’s when Discord starts going off. Don’t be tempted to open Facebook or Twitter. You may fall down a social media hole you’ll have to work late to climb out of.
6. Set Boundaries With Roommates and Family Members
Remember how I mentioned that working from home can mean extra distractions? That applies double if you share your living space with other people. One of the earliest lessons I learned when working from home is that other people didn’t recognize the negative impact multiple interruptions were having on me. Don’t make my mistake: set boundaries early. Clearly explain what you need and why. Once my family understood these things, my productivity went up and I no longer found myself working late in my home office.
7. Have a Set Workspace, Even If It’s Not an Office
Try to carve out a set area in your living space for your work. If you can dedicate a room to a home office (preferably with a door), that’s best, but even if it’s just an area, that’s good too. Having an area set aside is an important step to mentally separating work from home, but it can also allow you to keep your most used tools right on hand. You don’t want to search for Post-It Note or other staples that would usually live right on your desk.
8. Take Breaks – Stretch, Exercise, Decompress
When you’re working from home, it can be tempting to forge ahead and work through breaks. Try to avoid this. Not only may your state have legal requirements on how many breaks you take and their length, but it’s also important to give yourself time to decompress. Step away for a minute, load up a video game or something else you enjoy, and take advantage of being home.
If you do a lot of typing, be sure to pause periodically and stretch your wrists. Repetitive stress injuries are a real risk if you spend long hours at a computer. There are also quite a few exercises you can complete right at your desk. If you’re looking for something a bit more intensive, you can consider an under desk treadmill orexercise bike.
9. Communicate More, Communicate Better
While there are many upsides to working from home, communication isn’t one of them. Let’s face it, without the benefit of seeing your coworkers face to face, you’re going to have to work harder to communicate with your team, as well as to build and maintain relationships. In cases like these, it can be better to over-communicate — but don’t overdo it. Likewise, remember that text doesn’t carry tone the way your voice might, so take care with your words and be patient with your colleagues.
If your team requires voice or video chat, invest in a good webcam and microphone. Using the one built into your laptop is an easy way to both look and sound bad. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg, but picking up a Logitech C920 is an affordable way to dramatically improve how professional you’ll look over video. Pair that with an affordable USB mic, like the Blue Snowball, and you’ll be looking and sounding your best in no time.
10. Invest in a Good Keyboard and Mouse
Your keyboard and mouse are your tools of the trade and they should feel good to use. If you’re working at a laptop, you may be able to pass on getting a separate keyboard, but investing in an ergonomic mouse like the Logitech MX Master 3 will help you work more easily (even over multiple devices) and protect your wrists at the same time.
Even if you are working from a notebook, consider picking up a separate keyboard. An ergonomic board like this one from Microsoft not only gives you the benefits of a full-size layout, but also promotes your health while you’re at it. If an ergonomic keyboard isn’t a good fit,Logitech’s MX Keys will feel like a natural transition from most laptops.
11. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Support
Working from home can be a dream come true, but it can also be a daunting task with a lot of new skills to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from your employer if you’re not sure how to do something. Do your best and reach out for help when you need it.
On that same token, be patient with yourself. If this is your first time working from home, give yourself time to climb the learning curve. Accept that you will make mistakes (we all do) and give yourself space to grow. You can do this and probably sooner than you think.
12. Learn New Skills
One of the benefits of working from home is that it forces many of us outside of our comfort zones. The first time I had to report from my home office, it was out of necessity. I was intimidated, but by the end of the first week, I had learned new programs, found new resources, and begun taking on tasks I never would have attempted otherwise. Working from home can be difficult in the beginning, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to invest in yourself and develop new skills to take forward in your career.
13. Be Aware of Your Privacy (Or Lack Thereof)
Don’t be that guy. You know the one: the person who connects to the office network, logs onto Messenger to look like they’re working, then browses Reddit all day. Your employer can see you. Here’s a good rule of thumb: use your work computer exactly the same as if you were using it at the office. If it’s not your personal machine, don’t treat it like one. There is no expectation of privacy on a machine, or network, that is not your own.
14. Take Advantage of Being Home
There’s a lot to love about working from home, so embrace it. When you’re home, you’re in your zone. There’s no manager looming over your shoulder. No one to tell you what you can and can’t do. In this guide, I’ve laid out best practices, and once you find what works for you, the real comfort of working from home can take hold. Keep your favorite flavor of coffee on. Play a video game over lunch. Enjoy yourself.