If you’re wondering how to work from home or how to stay productive, as a seasoned remote worker, I can tell you working from home is not without its own unique challenges and difficulties. It took me many years to develop a system that worked for me and even now I still struggle at times to maintain focus, productivity, and manage the social isolation that comes with working outside of a traditional office setting.
This list includes some of my biggest learnings over the years and I hope that it helps you adapt more rapidly to working from home. So without further ado, here are my top remote work hacks and tips for working from home.
Tip #1: Structure Your Workspace
Not everyone can get a standing desk or a workspace with a scenic view out the window, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy workspace that works for you while working from home. At minimum, make sure that you are sitting with your laptop at eye level and have a good chair. I know it is tempting to slouch on the couch for 8 hours a day in your pj’s, but trust me, the feeling of never really starting your day will get to you after a while, productivity will begin to slow, and your back will start to feel like a 90 year old’s in no time. A couple of key accessories such as an external keyboard, laptop stand, monitor, or mouse will make all the difference.
“A couple of key accessories such as an external keyboard, laptop stand, monitor, or mouse will make all the difference.”
In addition, having a consistent, healthy workspace will allow you to more easily turn on and off when it’s time to work and time to play. If you have a desk or a kitchen table with a firm-backed chair, finding a way to set up a consistent space to work will be one of the best ways to keep yourself focused and boost productivity while working from home.
Tip #2: Designate Specific Working Times
One of the toughest lessons for me to learn when I first started working remotely was how to actually turn off at the end of the day. My best advice is to set a consistent routine and stick to it—whatever that means for you. If you normally work through lunch at your desk while in the office, feel free to do that from home. Conversely, if you enjoy taking a mid-day reset, take your lunch and stop working when it’s time to shut off.
Time can easily escape us when working from home since I’re typically multitasking already—doing laundry, taking the dog out, catching up with family, etc. However, this doesn’t mean I have to work 24/7. Take your hour lunch to shut off and switch up your brain patterns, or set a period of time each day to reset and take a break. When the day is done, power down your laptop, put away your work phone and focus on life outside of work.
Tip #3: Communicate Early and Often
As a remote worker, staying in communication with your co-workers, family, and friends can be difficult and often feels forced. There are no casual office run-ins, conversations, or after-work meet-ups; communication must be intentional. Additionally, loneliness and social isolation is real, and is one of the largest issues facing remote workers. That’s why one of my top tips for working from home is to communicate early and often with all the important people in your life—both professionally and personally.
“Even if it feels weird to call your friend that you saw a few days ago, make it a point to give at least one person a call a day.”
Professionally, this may mean an extra 1-1 with your boss or even just a quick call to see how a co-worker is doing. On the personal side, this could be your opportunity to connect with someone you have lost touch with or just an opportunity for a quick chat with family or friends to break up the work day. Even if it feels weird to call your friend that you saw a few days ago, make it a point to give at least one person a call a day. Loneliness and lack of community are big contributors to depression and anxiety among remote workers, so be proactive and create a routine of reaching out to someone every day.
Tip #4: Set Healthy Habits
I don’t know about you, but I am a major snacker (and self-diagnosed sugar addict), so if I am in the zone for eight hours a day and I see a bar of chocolate in my cabinet…it’s going down. For me, healthy snacks are vital for a productive day of working from home; stock up on healthy brain foods that will keep you from gorging throughout the day and that will keep your mental energy and focus up.
If you’re not sure what to get, here are some suggestions:
- apples and almond butter
- celery sticks
- my personal favorite—flavored seltzer waters.
Psychology has even shown that it’s easier to change or build new habits when you change your environment. Because you’re working from home and can control the food around you more easily than in an office, working from home is the perfect time to start practicing healthy habits that are otherwise hard to maintain.
Tip #5: Move Your Body
When working out of an office, whether walking to the printer, heading out for lunch, or stopping by a co-workers desk, you probably leave your desk a bit more than you realize. Unless you’re Jeff Bezos and have a 29,000 square foot estate, when working from home everything is much closer than in the typical office and it’s easy to end up sitting nearly the entire day without even noticing. Finding time to stand up, move, and get the blood flowing is absolutely essential for establishing good work from home habits.
“Finding time to stand up, move, and get the blood flowing is absolutely essential for establishing good work from home habits.”
In order to take full advantage of this, you should be moving for at least 30 minutes a day. This may mean making time for daily exercise or even just going for a brief ten or 15-minute walk every couple hours. I recommend breaking this up into three, ten-minute long sessions throughout the day as needed. This massively helps with keeping your energy levels up and avoiding burnout while working from home.
While I realize the importance of getting the blood flowing while working from home, with the recent development of Coronavirus I should note that it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and not put yourself or others at any increased risk. Always follow the guidance of local health authorities, and if going outside or to a public place, avoid large crowds and make sure you have adequate space between you and others.
There are many great ways to stay active even from home, including:
- pushups, situps, and other calisthenics
- Even simple yoga poses
Tip #6: Experiment!
Some people are better early birds, while others maintain more focus later in the day; some people like to get up early and have a healthy breakfast, while others find their productivity is boosted by working through the morning and eating a late, light lunch. Regardless of your style, not everyone is the same, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Experiment! Try different routines and work setups in order to discover the schedule, strategy, and system that works best for you when working from home. Have any remote work tips, hacks, or tricks of your own that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!
Regardless if you’re an experienced remote worker or are only recently affected by the Coronavirus, I hope this you find these remote work tips and hacks helpful in your day to day lives. I know first hand how challenging it can be working independently, and I want you to remember that you’re not alone. The global remote work community is strong and we’re happy to answer any questions you might have, so don’t hesitate to reach out!