Planning on working from home? You’re among the emerging trend of remote workers who work from their home office.
This handy guide helps you maximize your newfound freedom (and responsibility). These tips don’t only apply to individual contributors, but also managers and team leaders.
Working from the home office affords many benefits to increase performance, business continuity, and achieve greater work-life balance.
Although working from home was once a luxury, it is now a mainstay among large companies and small businesses. The key reason? Productivity. Working from home is great, but it can be problematic if it’s not well managed.
Let’s dig into the tips and best practices for working from home.
Top 32 Working from Home Tips
Nextiva has provided businesses with robust communication solutions for more than 12 years. We have enabled thousands of companies to scale their remote working staff—so we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.
- Build a Permanent Work Space
- Invest in Quality Technology
- Get Comfortable Office Furniture
- Set Real Work Hours
- Avoid Work Creep
- Discover Your High Productivity Periods
- Make To-Do Lists
- Use a Planner
- Stick to One Task Management App
- Don’t Start Your Work Day in Your PJs
- Don’t Work in the Living Room
- Set a Morning Routine and Stick to It
- Set 2+ Alarms
- Exercise & Stretch Regularly
- Eat Healthy Lunch & Snacks
- Take Short Breaks
- Create a Rewards System
- Use Productivity Apps
- Stay Off Social Media
- Listen to Music
- Step Outside
- Use Video Chat
- Hack Your “Lunch Break” for Errands
- Avoid Family, Friends, and Pets
- Create a Vision Board
- Check-In With Co-Workers Frequently
- Declare your WFH Availability
- Assume Positive Intent
- Make an Effort to Connect Beyond Work
- Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones
- Stay Vigilant Against Security Risks
- Use Professional Communication Tools
1) Build a Permanent Work Space
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.
2) Invest in Quality Technology
Yes, setting up a home office or workspace may require a small investment. Much like starting a new business, you may have to purchase technology, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone system to do your job every day.
A high-performance router will save you from many technology hassles. Since working from home often requires more than chat messages, you need a router that will keep up. A router from several years ago might be prone to common network issues.
Depending on the nature of your work, you may also need to purchase hardware or software. Our recommendation?
Invest in whatever you need to comfortably and efficiently do your job.
3) Get Comfortable Office Furniture
You may also need to invest in office furniture if you haven’t already. Depending on the amount of space available, consider purchasing a large desk, bookshelves, and a comfortable office chair.
You don’t have to go with the top of the line desk. Ikea offers affordable desks that are relatively simple to set up in your home office. Combine it with a powerful monitor arm to maximize your desk space.
Remember, the point is that you will be working in this space every day.
Purchase comfortable and functional furniture, including ergonomic furniture or equipment.
4) Set Real Work Hours
Now that you have your office or work area set up, it’s time to get down to business — literally. If you are going to make working from home an everyday commitment, then set specific business or work hours.
The beauty of working from home is that you can be flexible in setting your working hours. For example, if you are most productive in the morning, or if you need to get the kids to school, then you may want to set your work hours from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Use your deep focus to zoom through your tasks. Keep reading to see how to manage your time effectively.
Enforce a hard limit at the end of the day. Distance yourself from work, so you don’t work nonstop.
Regardless of your schedule, be sure to establish set work hours to follow each day. Communicate your work schedule to co-workers, teams, and your boss.
5) Avoid Work Creep
A career that lets you work from home can be invasive in your personal life. This is because if you are always home and near your work, then your work creeps into your home life. Yes, the risk is real, but only if you let it.
This goes back to setting work hours. By setting specific work hours and sticking to them, you will increase performance and develop a healthy work schedule.
At the end of the day, shut down your laptop, set your work app to “away,” and shut your office door. You (and your team) will be grateful.
6) Discover Your High Productivity Periods
Every individual is most productive at different times of the day. For example, some individuals are morning people, and they are most productive and focused during the morning hours. For others, their most productive time in the workday is the evenings.
Discover when you are most productive and build your work schedule around your peak productivity periods.
7) Update Your To-Do List Every Mornings
When working from home and you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, it can be challenging to keep track of what you have to do throughout your workday. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities, tasks, and deadlines.
Start your day by reviewing priorities for the day. When you make your task list, stick to it. It’s tempting to just leap into your email, but with a little extra focus, you can move the needle while working from home.
Set goals and time limits for each task. After you complete each task, cross it off the list. This simple technique is both effective and fulfilling.
Stay on task by quickly writing down all the things that need to get done at the start of each day.
8) Use a Planner
In addition to making to-do lists, get into the habit of using a calendar or planner. For example, if you work from home some days but you are on the road others, get in the habit of using a planner to write down and keep track of deadlines, appointments, and meetings.
Many different task management tools make telecommuting a breeze. By organizing tasks into projects, you can attack them one bite at a time.
Use a planner to log all tasks and activities, no matter if you work remotely or in the office. Plan the work and work the plan.
9) Stick to One Project Management App
If you aren’t a “write-it-down” to-do list or planner person, don’t worry—there are plenty of modern project management apps available that can still help you. These are great if you are WFH.
Top project management apps include:
Most of these apps offer both web-based and mobile versions so that you can use them on your phone. Some can even be integrated with other apps, such as Slack, for team collaboration. And the best part? Most of these apps offer a free version.
Move your mountain of tasks into a project management app and break meaty projects into a series of tasks and assign them to your remote team.
10) Don’t Work in Your PJs
We know — this is one reason why people love working from home. If you enjoy working in your PJs, then you are killing your productivity. “Dress for success” isn’t just a corporate catchphrase; it really matters when you work from home.
Beyond psychologically getting you in the right mindset for work, you’ll be ready to handle any kind of video chat or check-in with a teammate. You’ll be prepared to get work done, and you will be mentally and physically prepared for the day.
Even if you don’t leave the house, dress for work as if you were in the office.
11) Don’t Work in the Living Room
This is another productivity killer. Some folks might think “working from home” is a day to binge Netflix. Wrong. It might be fine to indulge in this vice once, but it will catch up to you if you’re not careful.
It’s wise to take to heart why working at home works. It’s not just about avoiding meetings and conference calls. In fact, quite the opposite. Remote workers know the responsibility that comes with working in their quarters.
Avoid the TV and other digital distractions so you can focus on your work and getting things done. However, if used just for background noise, it’s probably okay.
Avoid watching TV while working; it sucks up your focus from the purpose of working at home. Instead, stream music that complements your work style.
12) Develop a Morning Routine
Another enjoyable perk of working from home is not having to get up, rush out of the house, and commute to an office.
However, working from home doesn’t mean you get to skip your morning routine altogether. Since you’ll likely be cooped up indoors, take a brief walk around the block to take in the fresh air.
Get up early, take a shower, make your coffee and breakfast, and prepare your lunch, just like you have to leave the house.
13) Set Multiple Alarms
Even if you don’t have to be up as early to leave for the office, you should still set an alarm to commit to wake up at the same time. This will prevent you from sleeping in too late and will keep you on a healthy sleep schedule.
Human beings are creatures of habit. We are incredibly dependent on routines, schedules, and structure. Alarms aren’t just for waking up. Consider adding an alarm for lunch and wrap-up since working from home tends to blur these lines.
Follow a strict routine and set specific work hours to be more focused, more alert, and more productive.
14) Exercise & Stretch Regularly
Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increases happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, all of which are important for productivity.
Regularly stretching helps you maintain great posture. At a minimum, stretch throughout the day so you don’t get sore or hinder your quality of life.
You can also leave yourself motivational sticky notes by your bed, so they are the first thing you see and read in the morning. We recommend exercising in the morning when you have fewer objections and a longer payoff throughout the day.
If your day allows, take a lunch break and go for a walk, go to the gym, or stretch.
15) Eat Healthy Meals & Snacks
Another work from home reality is that we have full access to the kitchen. So, when it’s time for lunch or a snack break, we are immediately drawn to the usual snacks, such as chips, cookies, or leftover pizza.
When we work in an office, we are at the mercy of whatever is available in the cafeteria or whatever lunch we brought from home.
However, research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables has a direct link on overall productivity levels. You can also avoid buying unhealthy snacks altogether. With extra planning, you can purchase more nutritional snacks on Amazon rather than buying on impulse.
Reward yourself with a sweet snack on Friday after a successful and productive week.
If you are an avid snacker, then make it a point to make yourself a healthy lunch, just as you would if you had to go into an office.
16) Take Short Breaks
Although we have focused most of this article on how to stay productive while working from home, sometimes the opposite can happen. We think that by working from home, we will be able to get more done because there will be fewer distractions. Therefore, sometimes we end up over-committing and working too much, which also kills productivity.
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.
You can easily avoid this by working short, five-minute breaks into your daily schedule, or even make them a part of your rewards system.
17) Create a Rewards System
We mentioned using a rewards system in the point above. This is an easy way to help you get things done — even the things you have been procrastinating or putting off.
For example, take a five-minute break to go for a stroll through your neighborhood, grab a healthy snack, take your dog to the park down the street. Once you finish a necessary business call, switch over the laundry.
Although it seems simple, using a basic rewards system will help you get things done and also feel fulfilled.
18) Use Time Management Apps
If you struggle with staying on task while working from home, then you may need to kick things up a notch and use a time management app.
For example, some productivity apps will track the amount of time you spend on each task and even minimize distractions. Some examples of these types of apps include the following:
Using a time tracker app will help you see your productivity levels each day and week. This will not only provide you with insight as to when you are most productive during the day, but it will also show you how much time you spend on each task.
If you spend too much time than what is necessary on repetitive tasks, it may be time to look into some automation solutions for even more productivity!
19) Stay Off Social Media
I think we can agree that we are all guilty of this one from time to time. Social media can be a giant time-suck if you aren’t careful.
That is more time than most people spend sleeping or working! Furthermore, many mobile apps now reveal to users how much time they spend in each one. This is eye-opening, especially for casual social media users.
Get familiar with your company’s social media guidelines. They might even want you to engage in their approved channels like LinkedIn.
Minimizing mindless use of social media helps avoid distractions, so you can focus on getting more done.
If you love using social media, then make it a habit to shut off social media notifications during the day. Consider muting your notifications on your phone.
20) Listen to Music
Depending on the nature of your work, it helps to turn on some background music. Spotify is a great streaming service that lets you pick moods for focus and productivity. Since you’re working at home, you don’t want it too loud or distracting — ensure you can quickly mute it to take a business call.
Listen to music throughout the day at a modest volume to give you the focus you need. Check out the different “moods” offered by Spotify to achieve peak productivity while working from home.
21) Step Outside
Since you’ll be cooped up indoors to work, many of us often forget that there’s an outside world out there. Open some windows to let sunlight in and take some time throughout your day to go outside – at least to your patio or backyard.
Boost creativity and productivity by stepping outside a few times throughout the day. Even just for a few minutes, it’s better than being stuck indoors.
22) Use Video Chat
Yes, the video conference—the hallmark of remote work. Working from home can get pretty lonely, especially if you are single or live alone. Make it a point to chat with colleagues, team members, or clients each day.
It matters. You’re not just a cog in a machine. You don’t even have to talk about work, but just to connect as co-workers and people. Humanity must not be lost in working remotely.
There are many video chat applications available today, such as:
- Google Hangouts
Depending on the nature of your work, you could end up spending almost all of your day on video conferences chatting with your team. We recommend working in a well-lit room; it brings out your best features.
Video chat is a great way to stay connected with your team. Meet regularly, and don’t forget to relax and have a little fun.
23) Hack Your Lunch Break for Errands
If you’re working from home each day, you’ll often find that you have some additional flexibility in your time. Even then, you might feel tethered to your home.
Structuring your day is important. To run an errand, or schedule a quick doctor’s visit, try to schedule them for your lunch break just as you would if you worked in an office. The best part is, you won’t need to bother with small talk on the way out the door.
Leverage your lunchtime to take care of personal tasks. While you’re out, use your business phone app on the go to never miss a beat.
24) Avoid Family, Friends & Pets
This can be difficult, especially if you have young children at home, or have multiple pets, all of whom want your attention. If you are home all day, every day, then family and friends might interrupt you without knowing better.
It’s best to set some clear boundaries with your family while you work. It’s not being mean if it results in better performance at work.
The counterpoint to this work from home tip is you must be present for your family and friends when away from work. Show up 100% and put your business phone away outside of work hours.
Set and stick to specific work hours and communicate those hours clearly with your family and friends.
25) Create a Vision Board
If you have been working from home for several years, it might eventually become boring and uninspiring. You might struggle with enjoying your work. A vision board can help.
A vision board is just that: a board that you can use to write notes and post pictures of your dreams and aspirations. The visualization aspect of a vision board is a great and powerful mind exercise. It can help you feel the way you want to feel. Such inspiration can help you get out of a slump while working from home, paving a clear path to productivity and success.
Create a vision board with goals and aspirations personally and professionally and look at it every day. Working at home should get you closer to those goals.
26) Check in With Co-Workers Frequently
Take the time to meet with your team regularly. The meetings should have an agenda actively involving all members, so they contribute. Dedicate time to meet privately with each member so they can share status updates, receive coaching, and discuss developments from their personal life.
Be mindful under the context of why people work from home. Remote employees might miss some aspects of the office. Beyond handling phone calls, be sure to discuss the bigger projects they are working on.
Make remote employees feel valued and included through live video meetings and conference calls regularly.
27) Declare Your WFH Availability
For the employee who works from home, they’re aware of their availability, but colleagues might not be. Given the sea of tools to work remotely and collaborate, it can be challenging for your team to stay in touch.
Communicate dates and hours (with time zones) for your work time, what capacity you are working, and how others can get in touch. This effort avoids assumptions that you’re skipping the office or refusing contact.
If you have a business communication app like Nextiva, use its status (Away/Available) features for real-time presence.
Keep your team informed about your work-at-home schedule, key projects, and methods to get in contact with you.
28) Assume Positive Intent
One limitation of working from home is that team chat messaging sometimes falls short of expressing ideas clearly. It’s easy to think a quick remark was made to be rude or even flippant.
Remind yourself not to take seemingly short or snide responses offensively. For some members of the remote workforce, they are just efficient in their replies. Consider using emoji to support your intent in your declarations with your team.
Focus on the facts and assume positive intent where it might not otherwise be seen. Use emoji and emoticons to convey emotions with your team.
29) Connect With Your Team Offsite
For companies that are all-in on building a remote team, they will soon encounter a strong interest in meeting as a team throughout the year. One way to do this is a remote team offsite. Make it impactful and meaningful to forge and strengthen relationships.
Beyond team building, you want to be extremely intentional with the agenda to make the entire experience worthwhile. Conduct a strategic business review, SWOT analysis, and deep-dive into KPIs and metrics.
Companies should budget time and resources to welcome employees into the office at least twice a year, so they connect with the team. Go out for lunches and connect outside of the context of just work, too.
Plan an annual team offsite and bring in your remote employees to the office to strengthen the working relationship. It builds loyalty, respect, and trust among colleagues.
30) Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones
Even if you have a brand new laptop or a new smartphone, you will want to invest in a quality pair of headphones with a mic. Noise-canceling features can really help improve the clarity of your phone calls. With modern business VoIP service, you will appreciate the higher fidelity of your calls.
Look for headset features such as long battery life, Bluetooth compatibility, microphone, and noise canceling. These all work together to make your remote working duties a little easier.
Get a good pair of headphones. If you don’t, ask your employer to purchase them as part of your work-from-home toolkit.
31) Stay Vigilant Against Security Risks
Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you’re not a target for hackers. Your work machine is incredibly valuable for thieves and criminals, so take care to work securely.
- Be aware of how your company’s network policies such as the use of Wi-Fi, personal devices, and more.
- Employ a “trust but verify” mentality for documents sent to your inbox.
- Use a business-grade Virtual Private Network (VPN) for encryption. Larger organizations are likely to have an approved VPN solution.
- Know how to get IT assistance and report security threats.
- Close your room’s door to avoid disclosing sensitive information to family members or visitors.
Don’t slack off on your duty to keep your home office equipment secure. Understand how to protect yourself from common security threats.
32) Use Professional Communication Tools
You might be using free tools to communicate with your team today. The SaaS market has capitalized on the freemium model to upgrade to paid plans. The problem with personal apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Google Hangouts — as an aggregate — is they don’t necessarily improve internal communication.
Consider upgrading to a business communication platform that brings your phone system, team chat, sales pipeline, and customer support together.
Choose the right communication platform to help your team work remotely instead of a myriad of chat apps and a spreadsheet of cell phone numbers.
Why Working From Home is Critically Important to Every Business
Believe it or not, but working from home is quite common with nearly 40% of companies offering positions to work-at-home.
Maintaining business continuity is something every company leader needs to think about. Diversifying where employees work is one of the ways businesses can withstand such unexpected changes in the market. With a remote workforce, employers can limit the effects of any disaster so the company can stay operational. Plus, they can adjust their work hours around local needs.
Since the cost of a broadband internet connection with a strong Wi-Fi signal has decreased every year, working from home is common. For those who use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions, they can maintain connectivity between co-workers and customers.
Benefits for employees go well beyond skipping a commute. On the mind of every remote employee is the well-being of their family members and their welfare. Employees can meet both needs if they can work from home full-time.
The benefits of telecommuting from home save employers on commercial real estate, among other technology infrastructure issues prevalent in offices today. Consistently, survey after survey, remote workers are happier across the board when they work from home.
It takes more than a high-speed internet connection and video conferencing to work from home effectively.
There’s a little truth to the natural skepticism some employers have about their teams to work remotely. In 2020, working from home is no longer such a novel concept.
Start putting these tips into practice now to streamline your routine and increase your productivity.
Gaetano DiNardi is the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva and has a track record of success working with brands like Major League Baseball, Pipedrive, Sales Hacker and Outreach.io. Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and songwriter – he’s worked with major artists like Fat Joe, Shaggy and loves making music to stay turbocharged. To get in touch, follow him on LinkedIn.