Table of Contents
Working from a corporate location is defined by rules set by your employer, social norms, and personal expectations. Those rules do not apply when working from home. Redefining your personal behavior and routines will help you truly maximize your work from home schedule and is an exciting opportunity to shape your life in a way that you see fit. Below are several tips and tricks to aid you while you work from home.
1. Keep Your Alarm Clock
Although you might have heard that some of the most successful entrepreneurs out there value being able to wake up naturally (I’m looking at you Jeff Bezos), when you first start working from home isn’t the time to start experimenting with your sleep habits.
Establishing a morning routine that is consistent and doesn’t deviate too much from what you were used to while having to attend work in person is a good place to start. Set that alarm clock. Wake up at the same time every day… even weekends. Keep your routine so that you don’t find yourself getting into bad habits.
It is true that you may be able to wake up later. After all you will likely not have to commute in traffic or spend time doing your hair or getting into a suit. But that’s no reason to show up to work late or inconsistently even if attendance is virtual. Establishing a routine wake-up time is the best way to establish a routine work start time.
In the future, when you become more comfortable working from home it may be appropriate to try new things… perhaps waking up naturally is the single thing that could change your entire worldview (not likely). You will have time to figure that out later.
2. Take a Break for Lunch
As a former hourly employee, I am all too familiar with the desire to skip lunch so that it would be easier to get to the end of the shift. My advice, however, even if you are still hourly or must log your hours from home is to not skip lunch. In fact, make it a point to take a full hour (or more) to fully escape your home office. Pressing the reset button each day at the same time can be a successful way to reinvigorate the last half of the day.
Find somewhere else to be. Go eat somewhere else. Have a picnic with something you have made in the kitchen. Call a friend and break up your work session with anything that is not work.
When you work from home, it can be difficult to find a way to get away from the ideas and habits that surround work. Since your home is now where you work, it is difficult to break the mental ties that remind you of work activities even while trying to intentionally do something else.
This irony is what makes it even more necessary to intentionally leave. To break the monotony. Taking a break for lunch will help to establish boundaries. You will find that the firmer your boundaries are the less stressed you will be about work when you’ve transitioned to non-work activities. Don’t break the bank with going out to lunch if it’s not in your budget, but make sure you get out of the area where your computer, smartphone and whatever else you use to do work is located.
Getting out of the office for lunch means mentally shifting to a completely different activity for a period of time every single day.
3. At the end of the Workday, Stop Working
This tip for working from home is by far the most important one. If you are a salaried worker, you may find that you are so successful at integrating your home life with work that you find yourself working ALL THE TIME. This is not healthy for you, your family or your work quality.
Does this sound like you? During dinner with the family, you reply to emails. While relaxing in the evening, you have your laptop on your lap ‘tying up a few loose ends.’ When you first wake up in the morning, you check your email quickly to see what you missed while you were sleeping.
From wake-up until you go to bed you live in a place that also doubles as your workplace… it can be freeing or incredibly confining depending on how disciplined you are.
Determining your ‘quitting time,’ should be a discussion you have with your supervisor. Your co-workers should be aware of what time it is as well. That way, you know that everyone else knows that its O.K. for you to stop working. You will feel free to not answer that email that just hit your inbox until tomorrow… because work is over for the day. Period.
Normally, when work is over for the day, you’d be getting in a car or mass transit to pick up the kids or go home. When you work from home its way too easy to feel guilty. To feel as if you should stay a little longer to make up for the ‘benefit of working from home.’
Don’t fall into this trap. It’s a false truth.
Take care of yourself and protect your mental health… define your working hours. Stick to them. Do not deviate. Turn off the computer. Turn off your phone notifications and stop working at the predetermined time that you have established.
4. Invest in Office Furniture
Finding the proper orthopedic and ergonomic setup will be critical to whether you can keep your body healthy while working from home. Sitting in a reclining sofa day in and day out with your laptop propped on your chest and a make-shift mouse pad / Cheez-It box will do nothing good for your posture.
Find the office furniture that will allow you to keep a good form and has various settings so you can get a proper fit. Things that need to be able to be adjusted include the following:
- Keyboard and Mouse Location
- Monitor Height
- Phone Location
- Chair Height
- Desk Height
Taking the time to setup your home office properly will ensure that 3 to 6 months down the road you aren’t having to spend all your time and money on unnecessary Chiropractic interventions. Below is a short but very informative video about tips to setup your home office from the Wall Street Journal:
5. Buy Quality Sound Cancelling Headphones
My dog doesn’t bark unless someone is at the door. No one is ever at the door unless I have a major presentation to brief. Therefore, my dog always barks while I give major presentations.
This fact makes it difficult for me to come off as professional and can be distracting to my audience. Eliminate the distractions… buy quality sound cancelling headphones.
When looking for a good set of sound cancelling headphones, consider that they probably should not be something that can be dual purposed for exercising or other activities. These headphones will likely be used during your entire workday to help provide focus and availability for phone calls and meetings.
They won’t be cheap either. Be prepared to spend between $200 to $350 on a quality set.
I can personally attest to the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, however there are many out there from competing brands that will also do the trick. Make sure you read reviews to get an idea if they are good for at-home work or, alternatively, fo sports and fitness… the difference matters, particularly for call clarity.
Here is a good guide from Consumer Reports detailing how to find the best noise-cancelling headphones for your new work from home gig.
6. Go for Walks Outside, Regularly
According to US News Health, “The Real Age Benefit of 10,000 steps a day is feeling 4.6 years younger for women and 4.1 for men.” Numerous studies have shown that walking outside increases not only your well-being but also your productivity.
Working from home should give you the ability to exercise various options for staying active… forgive the pun. You should look to get up and away from your desk for a short walk either outside or around the house at least every hour. Getting to 10,000 steps every day should be a comfortable and reachable goal if you remind yourself to get up and out of your chair.
If you find yourself unmotivated to get up and move, just remember that your life depends on it. The more you sit, the less likely you will make it to retirement. The more you walk, the better your work output will be, and you will live longer. That’s not much of a choice in my book.
7. Take Advantage of Working from Home
This is another big tip. Making the most of working from home is the most important thing you can do… otherwise what’s the point? Taking advantage make look like any of these things:
- cooking from home
- wearing less formal clothing
- taking a nap in your bed during lunch
- tending to your garden during midmorning breaks
- getting Home Service Calls complete during the workday
Be creative. Try to figure out a few things that would be impossible if you had to drive into a physical workplace each day and see if you can do them while working from home. Day by day, week by week, think of new things. Write them down and plan them out. This is your life and being able to work from home is an awesome opportunity to make the most of an unusual work arrangement.
8. Engage Your Supervisor Regularly About Expectations
Being open and honest about your work expectations with your supervisor is incredibly important when working from home long term. Perception among many middle managers in the United States is that people do not work better from home. This is just a perception, but something that you will need to prove untrue nonetheless if you want to continue working from home.
If your company has established times to engage your supervisor at least monthly about your performance make sure you come prepared with questions on how you can better serve the needs of the company. If your company has a more relaxed culture, then get on your boss’s calendar for a formal meeting about expectations.
During your first meeting, schedule a follow-up. Make it known that you want to be held accountable and that the level of effort you are willing to exert is not impacted by your work location.
9. Don’t Brag About Working from Home
This tip for working from home may not apply if you work for a company that works completely remotely (or if you work for yourself), however, many folks may find that some of their companies’ workforce is remote, and some must work from an office.
Likely, everyone’s individual situation on working remotely or not is complex. Some may have chosen to work in the office, some may be forced to… and vice versa. Don’t gloat about working from home. Rather, show by your performance that working from home is a positive for the company.
Many folks, whether working from home or in the office, were forced into the decision due to circumstances outside of their control. Don’t be the person they resent for having the flexibility they can’t have.
Working from home can be an excellent opportunity for many reasons, but it should not be used to compare your situation to others. It would be like bragging about how much more money you make than others.
10. Don’t Work While Driving
As mentioned before and what is obvious to most, working from home can provide exceptional flexibility. You may be able to run errands during the day between meetings or at odd times that suit your schedule. Driving during the workday outside of rush hour may become a much more common occurrence. Don’t be tempted to work while driving.
Whether it’s by texting on a cell phone, checking email or having a Zoom meeting while using headphones the distraction caused by trying to work while driving will backfire. Not only is it distracting, possibly illegal depending on the method, but can be highly unprofessional if you are snuffed out.
When everyone else is engaged on a topic, it can be distracting to see or hear their coworker caught in a traffic jam… obviously distracted. Don’t risk your life or waste your colleagues time… keep work out of the car.
11. Make Your Calendar Public… and Share It
If your work from home situation involves working with coworkers or supervisors that may still be in the office, then being highly visible and transparent with your schedule can help tremendously.
As mentioned above, you should take advantage of your work from home lifestyle. By keeping everyone informed when you are at your desk or on the move you will increase confidence that you are doing the job you are paid to do.
If your company uses the Microsoft Office Suite, you can easily update your calendar from a PC or on the go. You can share your calendar with colleagues so that when you may miss an email they know why.
Being consistent about updating your schedule to reflect what you are doing is key to successfully having a resource that others can use to know when you are available.
12. Have a Backup Plan for Internet Access
Until I started working from, I did not fully grasp how unreliable my internet connection could be during the workday.
Oftentimes construction work nearby may cut a fiber line or a service call next door may cause an outage that would usually be masked by me not being at home during those hours. That is why having a backup plan for internet access is a surefire tip for working from home that will be noticeable when it counts most.
How you achieve a backup will likely revolve around two main options:
Hotspot from a Mobile Device
Hotspotting off of your phone is not likely a long term option if your work requires numerous video calls but it can certainly serve as a backup a few days a month. Modern phones and carriers often have the capability to broadcast a WIFI signal and transmit data for tethered devices using cellular data.
Just make sure you have cell coverage with at least 4G access in your home. If you have a weak signal, go throughout your house, and try to find a spot that will work. Test it out at least monthly in case the cell towers in your area change. Amplifiers for your home are available, but don’t waste your money defaulting to this option.
Use WIFI from a Local Store / Restaurant
Although it is not ideal to have to hit the road, having a backup option at a nearby café may be a lifesaver. You will want to make sure you have a secure VPN prior to connecting to any public WIFI hotspots. Again, test it out. Make sure that the WIFI offerings available stay available at least monthly.
Having to explain to your boss that you missed a meeting due to internet connectivity will be a big loss in confidence in your ability to complete your job while working from home. Make sure it’s not an issue by planning ahead and securing a backup provider or other internet access.
If all else fails, you can attempt to join meetings via voice only with your phone. Test email access as well from your phone regularly. Although typing from a small handheld device can be problematic it can still fill the gap when crisis looms.
13. Maintain Social Connection to Coworkers
According to a study and article here, those who work from home can experience anxiety at a level 16 percentage points higher than their peers that work in an office. Working from home can feel lonely and stressful without the human interaction and water cooler talk that can relieve stress at a workplace.
Keeping engaged with your peers must be intentional when working from home. Schedule lunches, coffee breaks or even head into the office once or twice a week to have a meeting in person. Understanding that our human psychology requires the social engagements will help you keep the blues at bay.
Working from home can be excellent for time management and accomplishing things in a flexible manner but don’t let it be a threat to your ability to hold and maintain professional relationships.
Oftentimes people who work from home aren’t promoted at the same rates as those in the office despite better work performance. The reasons are never clear cut, but it might be because remote workers are not as visible as their counterparts. They can’t participate in the normal office banter that can more easily build personal relationships.
Don’t let working from home be a liability to your career or your well-being: build your social connections with intention and nurture ones you already have.
14. Wear Pants…
This should be an obvious tip for working from home, but the alternative can be quite tempting. You don’t need to wear slacks and polished shoes but dress for your day in a way that is professional. There is a myriad of benefits, but the most important one is the continuing establishment of boundaries.
When you dress like you are going to work you will feel like you are working. It helps continue the theme of separating work life from home life. It can also make you feel more confident.
If you have a major work meeting where a lot may be at stake consider dressing more formally… even if its voice only. If you have a remote job interview, wear a suit. Matching the work task with something familiar like dressing for the occasion will reap psychological benefits.
Conclusion and Reader Comments
With these 14 tips for working from home you should be able to start maximizing your work output and home life. Both are important for your own personal success. Drop your own tips in the comments below because there are always things that can be improved (even this article)… I would certainly love to read them!