If you set boundaries and stay motivated, working from home can be an incredible way to boost your productivity. Here are my working from home tips.
I’ve been working from home for the past two years and I’ve never been more productive.
There are bad days, but there are also no commutes, no claustrophobic open-office floor plans and no pointless meetings.
When I do go into an office for the occasional freelance gig, I’m amazed at how little work gets done in a typical office environment with its endless stream of distractions.
And I’m not alone. In a survey of 7,000 workers, 65% said they’re more productive working from home. They get more work done with fewer interruptions from colleagues and less office politics.
Now that the coronavirus has forced more people than ever to work from home, I thought I’d share my tips on how to make the transition smoothly and stay motivated.
Here are my 24 tips to working from home:
1. Set up a dedicated office space.
Get your gadgets, notebooks, laptop and anything else you need for work and arrange it all in once space that will now be your “home office.” Get a good chair and a table where you can work comfortably. Remove any clutter or distractions from your work area.
When you spread your work out all around the house, it’s harder to maintain focus and switch off in the evenings.
2. Get online.
Upgrade your Internet plan if needed and make sure you’ve got good bandwidth especially if you’re planning to use Zoom or Skype for meetings. There’s nothing more annoying than slow loading times or dropped calls when you’re working on deadline.
3. Keep the kids busy.
Make sure there are plenty of puzzles, books, TV or videos and activities to keep your children occupied if they’re also home. Arrange with your spouse to take turns watching the kids if you’re both home, or ask friends or family for help.
Keep your schedule flexible if you have young children that demand a lot of care. And consider working in the evenings if days are always busy.
Set a schedule to give your children’s day a bit of structure too.
4. Be open to new technology.
Does WhatsApp work better for you than a Facebook group? Do you find it’s easier to record an audio message instead of exchanging dozens of emails?
Be open to new ways of working. Focus on how you can communicate with colleagues most clearly to avoid misunderstandings. Experiment with digital tools until you find the ones you’re comfortable with.
5. Stick to a schedule.
Astronaut Scott Kelly lived on the International Space Station for nearly a year. He shared his tips for surviving isolation with the New York Times – and his first tip was to follow a schedule:
“On the space station, my time was scheduled tightly, from the moment I woke up to when I went to sleep. Sometimes this involved a spacewalk that could last up to eight hours; other times, it involved a five-minute task, like checking on the experimental flowers I was growing in space. You will find maintaining a plan will help you and your family adjust to a different work and home life environment. When I returned to Earth, I missed the structure it provided and found it hard to live without.”
6. Take regular breaks.
Working from home means fewer distractions. And that can lead to deeper and more focused work.
But it also means work will be more tiring and you’ll need more breaks. Because it’s easy to get immersed in work when you don’t have a regular office rhythm or coffee breaks.
7. Separate home life and work.
When home life and work all take place in one spot, it’s more difficult than usual to set boundaries. Relegate work to one corner of a room and keep the rest of the house for living and relaxing.
8. Take a real lunch break.
Avoid stress snaking and take advantage of having the kitchen close to fix up some healthy and refreshing salad bowls or smoothies.
9. Set boundaries with family.
Make it clear there’s no bothering or interrupting you when you’re working. Close your door and get some noise-cancelling headphones if needed. Set clear boundaries and soon others will learn to respect them.
10. Evaluate at the end of the day.
Since there are fewer meetings to offer feedback, check in with yourself and ask what can be done better, what isn’t working, etc.
11. Don’t forget self-care.
Meditate, sit in the sun for lunch, do some yoga after work.
12. Use audio or video since emails can be misunderstood.
Have a kick-off call or wrap-up call with boss or colleagues. Keep it short and informal. Be clear with others about what you’re working on.
13. Fight loneliness.
Spend more time with family or friends because working from home cuts you off from people you’d normally see in the office.
14. Don’t forget fresh air.
Since you’re likely getting out less, make sure to schedule some daily sunshine or exercise into your day – even if that’s just some coffee on the balcony or a walk around the block.
15. Kick the day off with a trigger.
Since there’s no morning meeting or water cooler chat, kick off your day with another regular habit like making coffee or setting up your laptop to let your brain know it’s time to start work.
16. Keep chores separate.
It’s tempting to throw in a load of laundry when you’re taking a coffee break, but beware: one chore can turn into half a dozen.
17. Keep a to-do list and schedule your tasks to stay motivated.
Since there’s no supervisor looking over your shoulder, be your own boss and set yourself tasks to stay on track.
18. When your spouse is also working from home, set clear boundaries and keep separate spaces.
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re both working together in a small space, especially if your work involves conference calls.
19. Be easy on yourself.
If working from home doesn’t immediately turn out to be the fantasy you imagined, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s ok to feel lonely or stressed when you don’t have the structure of an office. Give yourself time to make the transition.
20. Overshare with your boss.
Let your boss and your co-workers know what you’re going and keep them in the loop.
21. Resolve issues with audio or video call.
Frequent emailing or texting can be tiring and sometimes leads to misunderstandings. Get over your initial discomfort and start using more audio and video calls.
22. Pick your most productive hours.
You don’t have to stick to a 9-5 schedule.
Work when your kids are napping. If you’re a night owl then pull out your laptop in the evening. Get up an hour earlier if you’re a morning person.
23. Reward yourself.
The weekends might feel less special when you’re working from home. Create treats for yourself at the end of the week to mark the start of the weekend.
24. Boost your mood.
Listen to music to lift your mood and fight loneliness. Turn the TV on mute in the background for company. Spotify has some great playlists for boosting productivity or calm.