Work From Home Tips
Working Remote - or Working from home is awesome! And it’s also really challenging, and a major shift from working in the office. I’ve worked remotely for over 5 years now, but this new work from home paradigm affected so many I wanted to tackle some of my best tips.
Now everyone who works remotely is almost automatically given a lot more autonomy of how to work and when to work (within the guidelines of your companies policies). I’ve checked in with some of the most successful remote workers I know in addition to my own thoughts on the matter. I’ve broken up the topics into three categories Habits, Tools, and Gear. Tools and Gear seem synonymous, but I break them down as tools - are what you use to do your work, and gear is what makes your job better and more efficient; when we get there everything will make sense.
Maintain Regular hours
One of the most important things for sanity is maintaining a consistent work schedule. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain work-life balance. That said, one of the benefits of remote work is flexibility, and sometimes you need to extend your day or start early to accommodate someone else's time zone. When you do, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning to make up for it.
Automatic time-tracking apps, such as RescueTime, let you check in on whether you're sticking to your schedule. They can also help you figure out what times of day you're most productive versus when you slack off. You can use that information to your advantage by reserving your hours of high focus for your most important tasks.
Create a Start of work and Stop of work Ritual
Your morning commute not only gets you to work—from one physical location to another—but it also gives your brain time to prepare for work. Just because you’re not traveling doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carve out equivalent routines to help you ease into your workday.
Maybe you usually read or listen to music on your commute. You can do that at home. Or maybe you can spend some time with a pet or loved one. You can even add in a workout (preferably at home because of the new coronavirus, but see what is being recommended where you live) or spend some time on a hobby (again, make sure it’s appropriate given the health recommendations where you are).
At the other end of the day, the evening commute does the reverse. “Commuters often take for granted the time they have in the car or on the train to wind down from a hectic workday and mentally prepare themselves for their evening routine.” Yurovsky says. Generally, you’re not going from getting a huge presentation done right to making dinner or doing chores. If you try to jump directly, “your brain doesn’t have time to hit the reset button, which can make you less present as you transition back into your personal life.”
Give yourself something that will signal the end of work and serve as a buffer. When I worked from home, I made it a habit to take my dog for a long walk as soon as I was done for the day. It helped me decompress with something physical and fun, and the habit was self-enforcing since my dog would lie in front of the door when it was time to go or would come looking for me if I was taking too long.
Eat Healthy Meals and Snacks
Eating healthy is a life tip. It’s probably impossible to count the number of reasons to eat healthy foods. This is where I am going to shamelessly plug our workplace wellness kits - coffee, tea, and snack delivery service for both traditional offices, and those that work remote. You need to fuel yourself with something that is healthy, and tasty.
Ground rules with those in your life
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. If you have children who come home from school while you're still working, they need clear rules about what they can and cannot do during that time. Additionally, just because you're home and can let service people into the house or take care of pets doesn't mean other family members should assume you will always do it. If that's how you choose to divide up the domestic labor, that's fine, but if you simply take it all on by default because you're home, you may feel taken advantage of, and your productivity may suffer.
Schedule and take breaks
Although taking breaks might seem counterproductive, research has shown that taking short breaks can actually increase productivity and creativity levels. If you don’t have a work-life balance, then you won’t last too long working at home. Some People swear by the Pomodoro technique, and others like to use a long chunk of time. Find what works for you - but try taking some breaks, and you’ll likely find you are actually more productive.
Leave your workspace
The same advice applies to people who work in traditional office settings, too. Leave the building at least once a day. Your body needs to move. Plus, the fresh air and natural light will do you good. Before covid the author and many and more collaborators highly recommend going to a coffee shop, or some other alternative work location. The change of pace works wonders for work enjoyment.
Separate Phone number
A lot of people - especially freelancers will utilize a second phone number for work. This will help create a separation between work and personal life. You can get a free phone number using google voice, and some other apps out there. This is a great way to know if a call is work related or not, and a simple way to “turn off” the phone after hours.
Take Sick Days
This is one of the trickiest issues. When you work in an office, there is almost always a stay home if sick policy. But when you already work at home and get sick, what should you do? Consult your company's policies - but if available when sick take a sick day. Don’t go to your work area, and don’t start working. Spend time resting and getting well.
Working remotely requires you to over communicate. Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability often. When you finish a project or important task, say so. Over Communicating doesn't necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself. Joke about how you must have mentioned your upcoming vacation six times already, then mention it again.
I like succinct and clear messages, but I know that the less face time I have with people, the less they know how to interpret my tone in writing. When you work remotely full-time, you must be positive, to the point where it may feel like you're being overly positive. Otherwise, you risk sounding like a jerk. It's unfortunate, but true. So embrace the exclamation point! Find your favorite emoji :D. You're going to need them.
Take Advantage of the unique Perks
I do my laundry while I’m working. Why? Because I work from home and I can. Plus, I don’t like doing laundry, but the timer and built-in “break” to fold laundry benefits my professional work, and personal life. Another example is traveling. I would rent an apartment for a month or two, work during the day and explore on the evenings and weekends. I got to know cities much better than a short trip, but I never had to take vacation time to do it. Working remotely comes with unique perks. Take advantage of them. You deserve it.
One tool utilized by many is Zapier. One of my favorite things (there a 100% remote company) is this policy: “Unlimited vacation policy. Plus we require you to take at least 2 weeks off each year. We see most employees take 4-5 weeks off per year.”
Even though you work remotely and, there are some extra perks - you need vacation away from work totally. Build memories, enjoy time with family, refresh and recharge.
Take Sick Days
I know I just said take vacation. But sick days tend to be more random and sudden but that doesn't mean ignore the problem. When you don’t feel well - take a sick day. Get Better! Don’t try and push through, you’ll pay a worse price later, with exhaustion and burnout.
Loneliness, disconnect, and isolation are common problems in remote work life, especially for extroverts. Companies with a remote work culture usually offer ways to socialize. For example, they might have chat channels where remote employees can talk about common interests, meetups for people in the same region, and in-person retreats. It's important to figure out how much interaction you need to feel connected and included. Even if you're highly introverted and don't like socializing, give a few interactive experiences a try so that you're familiar with them if you ever decide you want them. If you're not at a company with a strong remote culture, you may need to be more proactive about nurturing relationships.
Don’t Over Socialize
One of the main ways people socialize at work when they are working from home is via business messaging apps like Slack. The only problem is that they can provide too much opportunity for socializing. Don’t get too sucked into the memes, and distracted from actual work.
It’s important that remote workers address WFH’s baked in blurred boundaries and set water-tight physical boundaries around a designated work space. Treat it as if it's five miles across town, and ask house members to consider it as such (e.g. no interruptions from another room when you’re engrossed in a project unless an emergency). Only go to your designated workstation when you need to work. Stick to a regular schedule and keep your work space at arm's-length after hours. Try to maintain the same hours you log in at the office so you don’t get swallowed up by the workload. It’s essential that employers be sensitive to the line between personal and work time and mindful of changes in time zones that could pressure remote workers to toil long after hours.
It turns out putting your goals on paper in a visual format can actually help you achieve them. It's a notion that Oprah and other celebrities, like Reese Witherspoon, have touted before -- And there is plenty of research to back it up.
When working from home it sometimes is hard to stay focused on your goals, and aspirations. We suggest making one afternoon into a “Crafternoon” and making a vision board. Try to write on the back of what you pin to your board - a little snippet of the date you put it there, where you were, and what you were thinking about when you decided to add it to the board.
Seek Training and Learning
One of the main things to keep in mind when working remote is to continue to push your personal and professional development through training. There are countless free sources, and low cost online programs that will help you grow. We recommend setting aside at least 2 hours per week for ongoing training. You will want to pick topics that you’re interested in, and are on the fringes of what you do on a day to day. Ideally something that will help you to advance your career. Also - we highly recommend reading, and podcasts. Advance yourself, learn leadership skills, communication skills, and much more by listening to podcasts or books while you work. Or spending a little time on a lazy morning reading with some coffee.
There are a ton of tools that you can use to help you stay productive and many are required to do your job. Generally these are items that are “needed” and not physical but more of a digital tool / asset.
Ask for what you need
If you're employed by a company or organization that supports your work-from-home setup, request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a day or two when you realize you need something new. It's extremely important to set precedents early so that you will ask for what you need to get your job done comfortably, including the right monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, printer, software, and so forth. Organizations that are accustomed to remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment.
If you are self employed, or a freelancer you probably cannot ask your clients for what you need. When you work for yourself you need to increase the price you charge to clients to account for the fact that you pay taxes, buy your own equipment, and have other professional costs. But you can also buy office and professional equipment and deduct them from your taxes (Not a tax professional seek professional advice!). So you need to request what you need from yourself, and know that ergonomic equipment is usually worth the (admittedly expensive) price.
VPN + Company network
Use a VPN whenever you're connected to a network that you don't control. That includes Wi-Fi at co-working spaces, cafes, libraries, and airports. Some organizations have their own VPNs that off-site employees need to access certain servers or websites that store information meant only for internal use. In those cases, you'll also need to use a VPN at home. In any case, it's a good idea to get into the habit of leaving your VPN connected as often as possible because it's always safer to have it on than not.
One more point about VPNs. Remember, when. you're connected to them, your company could conceivably see what you're doing. So don't view anything your company shouldn’t see when on your corporate VPN.
Explain the process and set expectations about how you will share files. Email has too many limits and you will need to set up a way to share files, and allow access controls. A couple of recommendations I have are Google drive, Box, and Dropbox.
Google Drive is a great tool for a variety of collaborative projects as it allows people to view, download, and edit files directly. It ensures everyone has the most up-to-date version of a file without having to download it onto your computer, edit it, then send around updated copies.
You can create and organize word documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows as well as upload photos and audio and video files.
Box is a cloud computing business which provides file sharing, collaborating, and other tools for working with files that are uploaded to its servers. Users can determine how their content can be shared with other users. ... Box offers three account types: Enterprise, Business and Personal.
Dropbox brings files together in one central place by creating a special folder on the user's computer. The contents of these folders are synchronized to Dropbox's servers and to other computers and devices where the user has installed Dropbox, keeping the same files up-to-date on all devices.
Video Chat Apps
Zoom comes in free and paid tiers. The free option supports calls of up to 100 participants, though sessions with three or more individuals on the line are limited to 40 minutes. It can even run within a desktop browser window if you don't want to download the app to your machine.
Skype is a good alternative to Zoom. It's a bit easier to use, but also works across various platforms and costs nothing at the outset. It even allows you to call landlines and cell numbers at reasonable rates, supports texting and can conduct real-time translation.
Google meet is an app that comes free with a google account with more features for G-Suit users. It’s a popular app that is a strong alternative to zoom.
Facebook also has two solutions on offer: Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Both apps' video calling features saw a bump from 8 to 50 participants early on last year.
Remote Login Tools
Some versions of Windows come with built-in remote desktop software, but third-party tools often perform much better and come with significantly more features. This could be especially important if you’re planning on using the software regularly.
There are a few other popular uses for the best remote desktop software. For example, you can handle complicated tasks from a laptop by connecting remotely to a more powerful computer. Also, IT support staff regularly use remote access programs to control a client’s computer and deal with any issues.
Most people primarily use a password manager to manage website credentials. In practice, when you log in to a secure site, the service offers to save your credentials. When you return to that site, it offers to fill in those credentials. If you've saved multiple logins for the same site, the password manager lists all those options. Most also offer a browser toolbar menu of saved logins, so you can go straight to a saved site and log in automatically.
Some products detect password-change events and offer to update the existing record. Some record your credentials when you create a new account for a secure website. For maximum convenience, you should avoid password managers that don't automatically capture passwords.
Project Management software
Managing a project is like taking care of a baby — turn your back for a second and it will be crawling straight for the edge of the stairs and sticking its fingers in the nearest socket.
If you’re leading a project, you can’t just assign some tasks and deadlines and let things run themselves. Fortunately, if you have a system for checking in on the project status and keeping everyone on the same page, managing your project doesn’t have to become your full-time job.
Much like other task management and project management software, Asana allows teams to collaborate, organize, plan, execute their work. It is a faithful companion to fight work chaos and deadlines. Asana is a web-based task management and collaboration software that cuts through email mess by bringing tasks together.
Wrike is a versatile online project management and work collaboration platform that enables teams to deliver work with speed and efficiency. It has tools that allow users to simplify project planning, centralize communication, and streamline workflow, even when remotely apart. Easily view the status of all your teams’ projects with real-time reports. It has the flexibility to allow growing companies to scale, or to quickly implement ready-made solutions to specific requirements, such as agile project management, marketing, or professional services automation.
Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process. Imagine a white board, filled with lists of sticky notes, with each note as a task for you and your team.
Overall, it’s a highly customizable tool that lets you work in whatever methodology—kanban or otherwise—that fits your project and team. You’ll also find some useful workflow tools for automating parts of your process. monday.com’s integrations include project management apps like Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Dropbox, Typeform and many more, accessible via Zapier.
Good internet connectivity is the ultimate tool for remote workers. However, in order to acquire an affordable network, it’s better to do proper research on the specifications, speed and price before making a decision.
You also need to do a little research whenever going to a location where this is out of your control. Most Hotels will offer decent internet but some charge extra. Hostels, and Airbnb’s are less consistent, and connectivity and bandwidth can crash with lots of users.
Lists + Apps
To-do lists don't need to be complicated—plenty of people use a pen and paper for the job without any problem. And yet a new to-do list app seems to come out every day. Why? Because keeping track of your tasks is an intensely personal thing, and people will reject anything that doesn't feel right pretty much instantly. That makes it hard to find the right app.
Todoist isn't the most powerful to-do list out there. It's also not the simplest. That's kind of the point: this app balances power with simplicity, and it does so while running on basically every platform that exists.
Time Tracking tools
When you're in the zone and lucky enough to experience peak productivity windows, the last thing you want to do is remember to track your work hours. That's where a time tracking app comes in. Rather than interrupting your creative flow to track the clock or relying on your memory after the fact, a time keeping app does all the work for you, automatically.
These are super helpful to balance working an honest day - but not Overworking. Toggl, Harvest, and Rescue time are some great options the author has used. Rescue time has an awesome productivity feature which will block time wasting websites when trying to do productive work.
The first step in your “work from home” journey is to designate an area of your home, specifically for getting work done.
This could be an empty or spare bedroom that you convert to a home office. If you are pressed for space, you can set up a desk for your computer and office supplies.
Regardless of space or location, establish an area of your home where you will work, and commit to working in this space every day. Be sure your workspace is quiet so you can focus on the task at hand.
You will also want to invest in some Remote work Gear - to take on the road.
Laptop Stands, mice, and external keyboard
Especially for the remote workers who want to move around. Investing in a quality laptop will direct the other computer related items. You want to find a laptop that is portable, well constructed, and powerful enough for your application. Also consider other tangibles such as Pantone calibrated display - resolution, and keyboard quality. Once you’ve selected a laptop decide if you like the laptop stand + external keyboard and mouse setup. Some people love having this - personally I run with my laptop an external mouse, and a webcam.
My laptop is very durable, light and powerful. But has no webcam. I personally like this, because my dedicated webcam has a better picture and sound than any built in webcam that I’ve seen. And as a remote worker you're on video a lot.
Multi - Monitor setup
Multiple monitors give you more screen real estate. When you hook multiple monitors up to a computer, you can move your mouse back and forth between them, dragging programs between monitors as if you had an extra-large desktop. That way, rather than Alt+Tabbing and task switching to glance at another window, you can just look over with your eyes and then look back to the program you’re using.
This is especially helpful if you use a laptop, because the laptop screen is much smaller than modern monitors. And think of how many windows you can have open at once!
Get a good Webcam
Whether it's calling family, streaming games, or for professional use, visual communication is still an important part of our lives. With so much of our day-to-day life moving to online spaces, having clear video on calls is becoming an essential requirement to our computing setup. And for that, you need one of the best webcams.
A little tip for this - add another light source. Those little webcams have okay sensors - but using an additional direct diffused light, will make the image so much more clear. This will prevent people from thinking you are working from a cave, and this will get you about 80% of the way to a professional setup that costs thousands.
Get noise cancelling headphones
Noise-cancelling headphones are headphones that reduce unwanted ambient sounds using active noise control. This is distinct from passive headphones which, if they reduce ambient sounds at all, use techniques such as soundproofing and Active noise cancelling.
One of the number one pieces of gear that every remote worker polled for this article, all agreed on having a great pair of noise cancelling headphones. The authors favorite are Sony wh-1000xm4 headphones. They are a little pricey (although more affordable than their top competitors) but 100% worth the price. They help so much to immerse yourself in your work and block out distracting noises.
A workstation starts with a good desk, and sometimes that means one that can convert into a standing desk so that you're not sitting all day. I recommend deciding on your computer needs, then your monitor setup. Once you have this planned, you can pick a desk that fits into your environment, and meets your space and style needs.
A good office chair is going to help you maintain a neutral posture, which means sitting with your feet flat on the floor, your knees slightly higher than your hips, and your hips, shoulders, and ears all lined up with each other. “Try to create 90-degree angles at the waist and knees,” recommends chiropractor Dr. Randi Jaffe. Since that position will be slightly different for each person, the best way to find a neutral posture is with an adjustable chair — one that’s as intuitive as possible. Jaffe loves Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair because it has adjustable lumbar support, as well as an adjustable seat and armrests, and three different size options. The chair’s mesh material also provides full-body support and adjusts to temperature changes to keep you cool. While she admits that the price is high, if your budget allows, “it is a great investment in your health and well being.” Perna also loves the Aeron chair, calling it “the standard” for ergonomic chairs and adding that many companies have tried to copy its design. (The chair, which New York Magazine writer Brian Kennedy dubbed the “The Dot Com Throne.”
So that is 34 tips about working from home, tried and true by a range of professionals that have been working from home or working remotely for several years - to several decades. We love remote work and think that for most people working remotely will fundamentally change their life for the better - but needs some preparation and a different set of tactics compared with working in a traditional office.