- February 14, 2023
- by Ola Rybacka
- No comments
What a start of a decade it has been for working from home. What we thought of as ‘a temporary inconvenience’ (or blessing to some!) became a reality even though the lockdowns ended. But the abrupt outburst of pandemics only sped up the inevitable process. Introducing remote work patterns has been long coming. Let’s face it, the era of working from home is bound to stay with us for longer.
Since it is not going away anytime soon, it would be good to learn how to work from home effectively. A bit too late, you might think? You could be surprised at how many people do not know how to squeeze 100% of their work-from-home routine. Have a look at our ultimate guide on how to work from home successfully.
Table of Contents
Create your perfect home office
Let’s start from the very beginning – a comfortable place of work. It cannot be a couch, of course. Take good care of your posture. Choose a proper work chair and table. Your back will thank you in a few decades.
There is also a psychological effect to it. Comfortable cannot mean too relaxing. Sitting on the couch will make your brain think it is leisure time. You will be more likely to do what you always do during such time – snacking, watching TV, and social media scrolling. But you are at work, remember?
Your place of work needs to be marked. Your body and your brain need to feel it is time to focus and be more alert. Having a separate workplace will also alert all members of your household that whenever you are there, you are at work.
Don’t be too strict though. Give it a personal touch. Put your favorite flower there, or have a place for your favorite mug. You can also add motivational typography on a frame or go for vibrant art. If you opt for a wall of motivation, remove background from image designs for a more aesthetically pleasing effect. After all, you should want to sit there every day with pleasure.
From a practical point of view, the best place for a dedicated office space is one with natural light, a good WiFi connection, and a spacious desk for your laptop, monitor, and other tools. And when we are on the topic of tools…
Ask your superior for the equipment you need
As soon as you start working from home, assess whether you have all the tools and equipment, from a VPN (there are many free or paid VPN options) to remote tech support software, you need to comfortably do so. Remote workers usually need a laptop, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Don’t forget about any extra cables to connect the equipment.
You may want to use your own equipment that you are used to. But remember it is not your responsibility to equip yourself to work from home. Additionally, companies have special budgets set for providing their workers with working-from-home equipment. So, whenever you feel like ‘asking for an extra monitor would be too much’, know that it is not. Especially when it makes your work more comfortable, speeds it up, and therefore makes you more productive.
Equipment might also mean software that you need to get installed before you start working from home. This will most certainly include a VPN, which helps many companies increase the security of remote workers. This may include such features as a special verification app on your phone as well. Make sure you test your equipment before you start working from home. It will take the stress out of your first days out of the office.
Set rules with the people in your household
If you live alone you can skip this paragraph. However, if you do not, think about it early, before certain types of behavior become unwanted habits. Also, sometimes working from home does not mean the same to everyone. For example, taking care of kids just because you work from home is considered standard practice by many. Moreover, many household chores automatically become a responsibility of a person that works from home. Not judging here! Just advising it is best to discuss such matters with the significant other and perhaps set some ground rules. After all, working from home does not have to mean you are home.
Also, when you happen to take care of kids at the same time as work and they are old enough to understand, try to establish some rules with them. For example, if you have meetings, it would be good if the kids were not playing hide and seek in the background.
How to work from home successfully when more family members have remote jobs? The first tip is to work in separate rooms. If it is not possible, you might agree on some set times of breaks or a sign that you have a spare moment to communicate or share. It is also good to know each other’s schedules to avoid any embarrassment or simply disruptions during a video call.
This may seem like folly until you access your screen time data and see how many hours you spent on your phone during a work day. Checking your Instagram just to see the notification content? Tell us you’ve never looked at the clock seemingly a minute later and realized you’d just had a half-an-hour-long scroll. Or maybe you make a break for your favorite show that you could never watch during its airtime in the middle of the day before? Caught red-handed!
Our best advice? Get good time-tracking software. Remote employees tend to be more relaxed just because there is no boss or other employees around. It is just the way our brains work. However, having good time tracking software makes us accountable and therefore helps to stay productive.
One such software that helps in working from home is TimeCamp. You can monitor your activity on the desktop or the phone and see how much time you devote to work. This includes time spent on apps, websites, and documents.
Inactivity time, meeting time, and offline activities can easily be tracked as well. You can use a private mode that indicates your breaks or simply a private use of your time.
You will gain insights into how you allocate your time and stay focused on what matters.
And no, such a tool that helps in working remotely does not have to cost a penny. You can use the free forever plan and boost your productivity. Find out more about your options on the TimeCamp website
Create or stick to your routine
This consists of a morning routine and an evening routine.
Let’s start with an evening routine, and let’s start it before the actual day of working from home happens. One of the most valuable pieces of advice is to prepare your meals in advance. Working from home does not mean you can spend your precious time in the kitchen. Your break should be dedicated to eating and leisure activities. Therefore, do not spend it chopping, frying, and washing up, unless cooking is your leisure activity of choice. Remote work should not change your habits from the times you worked at the office. Especially, when it comes to the things that you do during work time. If you are ever in doubt, ask yourself a question: would you spend time doing it in the office if you could?
A morning routine is equally important in maintaining your work-life balance. Think about what you do now when you get out of bed. All your preparations should stay more or less the same. It is not a holiday, so do not skip any chores. If you usually go jogging, do the same on your working-from-home day. If you brush your teeth right before you usually leave for work, brush them, right before you sit down at your home office. Why it is so important? To keep you looped and in the work mode.
Finally, keep your schedule the same as usual. If you deal with emails in the morning, deal with them in the morning. Do you have lunch at 1 pm? Do not leave until 3 pm just because you work from home. Of course, there might be slight changes in the schedule as you will for sure save time on commuting. Use that extra time wisely! And by wisely, I do not mean, staying up late and sleeping it off just because you work from home. This might be tempting but in a long run will turn into a waste of the potential that working from home creates.
Create a schedule and devote your mornings to high-priority tasks
Speaking of a morning routine, we have a tip that comes from the greatest minds of time organization. Mornings are for – yes, for coffee as well – but also for high-priority tasks. Why? Because once you get them out of the way, you can easily move on to something less demanding. This derives from the well-known rule of doing the most difficult tasks first. You are more focused and likely there are not many distractions that occurred so far, so your head is ‘clear’. Also, on a plus side, if you tackle the biggest task, you get a feeling of fulfillment, which will keep you going strong for the rest of your duties.
Schedules are important and it may be beneficial to have one for remote work times. At the office, you may have different items, surroundings, incoming calls, employees, and other things that keep you on track. It may turn out to be troublesome to stick to your routine at home without them. Write down a plan for the day to feel more at ease.
Keep Regular Working Hours
Work-life balance is very important in maintaining your personal life quality. It is worth remembering that work hours are limited and not to overdo them at the expense of your home life. The actual finish time may not be so clear when you do not leave the premises of your office. It is easy to lose track of time on a busy day. Set an alarm or a reminder for the time of your break and finish time. It is also important to shut down and step away. Not only because enough is enough but because such a clear finish is a good sign for your brain and soon enough you will end up finishing work without an alarm. Your body will simply feel that it is time after it gets used to it.
Take breaks and do not shorten them
It has been known for decades that break times are important for human focus and therefore productivity. There is no doubt about it. However, the break pattern depends on the person.
You might like taking a one-hour lunch break and that is all you need to have a productive day. Others might need more frequent breaks, so they use a short breaks technique that helps them relax for a bit, refocus and come back to work, being as effective as before. Whichever is your style, make sure you stick to it for the maximum comfort of work. It may be easier to follow our natural work hours pattern at home, where no one dictates when you should take your break.
Breaks are also the time when you should let your eyes rest. Staring at the computer screen all day does not do them any good. Step away for a while, look outside the window, or just close your eyes for a few moments.
Finally, do not shorten your breaks. Sometimes you may forget what time it started but luckily, you can track it in the TimeCamp working hours tracker. Create a task called ‘Break’ and add it to your timesheet. If anything changes, remember that TimeCamp tracks idle time. You can safely leave your desk earlier or later and TimeCamp will keep it in check!
Socialize with your teammates (and not only!)
Do you miss your coworker’s cheeky smile or a remark thrown at you from time to time? Or maybe that quick chat with a colleague you only see in the morning queue at a coffee machine?
Do not get cut off from your colleagues and teammates. You must stay connected so you do not feel like you are missing out on all the fun going on in the office. You can do miracles with today’s technological advancements. Use not only chats but video calls or video conferences to make your remote work communication as easy as possible. Your company probably provides a collaboration tool already. You can use it for the benefit of socializing.
With the above said, we are all aware that there are introverts and extroverts in this world. If you are the former, make sure you adjust socializing to the dose you feel comfortable with. Not everyone likes to be around people all the time and that is ok. However, it is also important that team members feel connected. If you are the latter, you might not realize that perhaps the limited socializing makes you not like working from home. How about organizing an online team gathering or an online game? After hours, of course!
This comes down to the daunting activity of repeating yourself. Just because you are not in the office, coworkers will forget about your schedule or activities. Seems daft? But think about how many times you caught yourself not remembering about your coworkers’ holidays or doctors’ appointments. Don’t expect them to remember about yours either unless you remind them.
However, be mindful and inform them about things that are important for cooperation. We used to have a colleague who would inform the whole team each time she nipped to the toilet. It served as an amusing ‘too-much-information’ remark at first, but once we realized, she was making a serious effort to inform us, it just became an unnecessary interruption in our busy schedule.
Take a walk and find your productivity peak
Much as tackling difficult tasks in the morning is a good move, so is working in your optimal times. Productivity times vary, depending on the person. Some of us work best early in the morning, some do most of the work towards the end of their work day. The key is not to try and fight it, but to adjust your workload to your peak performance.
Certain people benefit the most from movement. Those will especially appreciate a change of scenery during break time. That is why they should go out during break time. However, a walk will do all of us good. Blood circulates better, fresh air reaches our cells and your eyes see different scenery in natural light. Even a short trip to a shop can do magic. You can also combine a chore with a creativity boost. Take your pet for a walk and you will get a bonus in form of animal joy that will surely light the spark of creativity at work.
Eat, sleep (work, repeat)
Undeniably, unlimited kitchen and fridge access are one of the greatest benefits of working from home. They are also one of the most dangerous threats to your health and weight control.
This is not a problem when you work in the office. You consume whatever the cafeteria offers, or what you prepared and brought from home. But being at home may result in constant trips to the fridge for a few extra bites of your favorite snacks.
Once again, working from home is not a holiday. Eating healthy is important for your brain activity and therefore your work effectiveness. If you struggle with your fridge content, buy only food that you use for preps, and do not overspend on snacks that will tempt you. Also, pay attention to drinking plenty of water.
Sleep deprivation has similar effects on the brain as improper nutrition. It simply does not function properly. That is why do not practice staying up late and sleeping off just because you work from home. Sleep between 6-8 hours to achieve effective rest. It helps if you have a regular hour at which you are finished for the day and stick to a proper sleep schedule.
An interesting study showed that short naps boost our brain activity to the maximum and can significantly improve rest levels. It may be worth giving it a try next time you take your break while working from home.
Treat yourself post-work
Staying on top of daytime snacking is important, as mentioned, but it’s also wise to ensure that once the working day is done, you have something to look forward to in the evening, especially if you’re a singleton.
For instance, ordering meal kits for singles is a good way to get healthy yet tasty food into your routine every day, without leaving you with the temptation of ordering fast food for delivery if you live alone.
Also, organize meet-ups with friends, whether in-person or online, so that you can stay socially connected to the people that matter most, and fill your evenings with fun and laughter rather than endless hours of Netflix.
Plan to exercise regularly
We may not be fitness experts but we certainly do know how to work from home successfully. And Exercising is one of working from home tips productivity benefits the most from. It is all about brain performance. Blood flow and endorphins generated during exercises improve concentration and work completion. You will also be more motivated and take fewer unplanned breaks.
Just to make sure we are on the same page here, it is not about you turning your life upside down and becoming a fitness instructor. If you exercised regularly before, just stick to your routine. However, if you visited the gym on the way back home from work, you might find it harder to leave home especially to go there. Consider exercising at home instead. You can easily maintain your fitness level and even improve it. A few pennies in your pocket saved on the gym membership should get you a set of appropriate equipment to exercise at home.
If you struggle with motivation, remember that little something is better than nothing. Do not start so big that you will not be able to get out of bed the next day. If your fitness level is not advanced, a walk, a short dance, or even a few jumping jacks will suffice. Remember that work-wise, it is all about the effects on the brain. And how to work from home successfully when your muscles ache? It will make it even harder than it possibly already is.
If executed properly, exercise also lowers your stress levels. Give it a go for a month and see whether your work results improved.
Have a separate phone number
We cannot stress enough the importance of appropriate work-life balance. There is no use in your contribution if it is on the account of your private time. Working hours are, as the name indicates, within working time. And answering calls or messages regarding work hours should happen within your work hours. The same applies to remote employees.
Does your work have a flexible approach to work life? This should not change your ways, or affect your private time. Set a separate phone number or a line that will be used solely for work purposes. You may even switch it off once you log out.
Initially, it may be hard to change your ways if you had a habit of being at work 24/7. However, it might be the choice between your work and your mental health. We are sure your work will be just fine even though you do not respond to that text received three hours after you finished your shift.
Take working from home as your advantage
Remote work undeniably comes with perks. Some are quite obvious, some not necessarily. Let us have a closer look at a short work-from-home guide on extra benefits.
First of all, you are at home and much as being in charge of all the household chores is not the best idea, the duties (or hobbies) that require an element of waiting around, can surely be done. For example, doing laundry is a great activity that can be done during remote work. It can also serve as a form of a time tracker. You can decide to tackle some activity by the time the cycle finishes and see how you did.
The same goes for baking. If you always wanted to learn how to bake a perfect velvet cake, there is no better time to start than working from home. Why? You can use the time you previously devoted to commuting to prepare your mix. Put it in the oven right before you start work and all you need to do is take your cake out once it is ready. How easy was it? And that feeling of you being productive at work whilst the effect of your new hobby starts to show – priceless!
Commuting is another time-saving bonus that you get. How long did it take you before to get to work? Half an hour, or even an hour? This is a time you can devote to something else now. Instead of spending it on sleeping or working longer, think about developing a new skill. Have you always wanted to take up a new language, or maybe learn how to play guitar? Taking small steps is better than nothing. See where you will be in a year if you devote half an hour to a new activity every day.
Make it Personal
The last of our working from home tips for success is to make it work for you. After all, working remotely must suit you and your preferences. We can only advise and give you a few proven ideas. However, what you decide to do and what you are comfortable with might be an entirely different story.
But one thing remains an absolute must. Be sure that when you are not comfortable it means the time has come to make a change. Remember that working remotely is not meant for everyone. If you struggle, maybe it is worth talking it through with your superior and coming up with an alternative solution, for example, hybrid work.
Other working from home tips for success
How did you like our work from home guide? Do you use all the above-mentioned tips or just a few? Or maybe there are other ways you know to boost employee productivity during your nine-to-five schedule at home? Share your favorite ones in the comments!