There’s no doubt the increase in the adoption of Work From Home (or WFH) through and after the coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of flexibility to the job market and opened new opportunities for professionals worldwide that were previously unavailable for them.
Of course, remote work has also introduced new challenges and variations in the way we engage with our jobs. As a fully remote company, at Meaningful we have a lot of experience when it comes to managing a remote team and streamlining async processes. Over time we have created our own playbooks, tips, and tricks that have served us well. In this article, we have compiled a list of our favorite work-from-home tips to ease you into this new way of working and help you make the most of it. Let’s see what those are!
Work environment: Tips for the workspace
Keep a dedicated office space
One of the big conundrums that arise when you start working from home is that you are effectively using the same area that was previously reserved for your typical home life for job activities, which can make the boundaries between the two difficult to maintain.
Working in your bed or on the comfy couch in the living room can seem tempting at first, but they are hardly optimal places for it, as they invite procrastination into your routine—which is far from ideal.
To avoid this, you must designate a place exclusively for work, away from any potential distractions that could impact your concentration.
Ideally, you could take a spare room and transform it into a home office, but if you are short on space, getting a small writing table is a good alternative to create a separate space for you.
Equally, make sure to occupy said space only while you work and keep anything job-related confined to that area of your house. The more you differentiate between your work and your regular life, the better.
Get a good chair
Don’t underestimate the impact that a comfortable office chair can have on your work life.
Given that you will be sitting for most of the day, getting an ergonomic chair that provides appropriate support to your back and helps you maintain a good posture is vital to keep you more focused on your tasks and prevent long-term health issues.
There are many options that can fit your style and needs. You can even look into a standing desk solution to mix it up and avoid sitting for long periods.
Choose the best equipment to work
Ideally, employers provide their remote workers with all the basic tools necessary for the job. But even if that’s the case, you should look to introduce changes and customize your work set-up for a better experience.
Aim to make your workspace feel more like a “real office” by procuring quality equipment. Consider it an investment that will make you more comfortable and efficient during your workday.
If you are wondering what kind of products you should buy, here are a few suggestions:
- Get a wireless keyboard and mouse. It’ll reduce the amount of cable management that you have to do (and will make cleaning easier!)
- A laptop stand so you can keep your portable PC cool and to adjustable heights.
- For video conferencing, noise-canceling headphones are a good option for preventing distractions or interruptions.
- A ring light, in case your home lacks a good inflow of natural light.
And don’t forget that you can have fun with it too! Use your new gadgets as decor to create a distinct aesthetic and add a more personal touch to your workstation.
Install quality technology
When building your work setup, reliability should be one of the first things you should be looking for. Working from home means you have to be available at any moment, which won’t be possible if you often have to deal with faulty electronics or a poor connection.
This makes having a stable internet connection almost mandatory. Nobody wants to have a failing wifi connection before or in the middle of an important meeting or Zoom call, as it has the potential to make them look unprofessional.
The same can be said about outdated or dysfunctional hardware and software. It’s vital that work equipment is kept up to date and can handle the tasks with the speed your workflow demands.
Follow these steps to be sure you are using the best tech you can afford:
- Check the availability of internet service in your area. Compare the different plans internet providers have.
- Look for reviews about those services. Ask your friends and coworkers for their opinions as well.
- Check the minimum requirements for the programs you will often use during work. Get a PC that can run them without issues if you don’t have any.
- Test your system to see if the hardware works correctly (don’t forget the mouse and keyboard!).
- Make sure to keep the software and operative system updated.
Staying in tune with your company: Communication
Interact with the team
Remote work will invariably change the dynamics of your job and the way you engage with it, especially when it comes to interactions with your team members, as you won’t be physically sharing the same space with them every day.
And while it’s true you won’t have the typical face-to-face interactions that happen naturally in the office during your working hours, that doesn’t mean they have to disappear altogether. Working from home doesn’t have to be a lonely experience.
When it comes to work, it’s important to keep a constant flow of communication with your team to coordinate efforts and avoid any misunderstandings that may arise. Don’t be afraid of overcommunicating if needs must.
Use the many technological resources you have at your disposal to reach out to your coworkers. Whether you use apps like Facetime to have a video call or Slack to send a quick message to a teammate, you should keep in touch.
This will not only help you stay updated with current events in your job, but it’ll have a good impact on your mental health, by reducing the feelings of loneliness or isolation you may experience.
Not to mention that it’ll contribute to fostering a sense of kinship within your remote team that will be beneficial in the long term and will make you a more cohesive work unit.
Keep aligned with the company culture
How you act when working from home reflects on your professionalism just as “regular” work, and it will influence the way your teammates and supervisors think of you.
If the company you work for has an employee handbook or manual, be sure to check it out to know what is expected of their remote employees. Follow those guidelines as much as possible, and check in with your superiors for advice and counsel, if needed.
Of course, keep in mind that a company’s culture extends beyond that, as most of it is made by the employees themselves. Maybe they do special activities during break times or are fond of sending jokes and work-related memes on Slack for lighthearted fun.
So, check in with your team often! Talk to them, build healthy work relationships, and participate in group activities to know more about them and your workplace.
Save calls for the afternoon
Working from home demands a decent amount of coordination and communication. Depending on your responsibilities, you will probably spend a lot of your work time making calls or having conference calls with team members or clients.
This can quickly become an obstacle to your productivity if not handled properly. To keep a manageable work schedule, any non-urgent phone calls should be taken at set times in the afternoon, in blocks even, so you can organize your workday better.
Why not before noon? People are kind of slow starters in the morning, requiring a bit of time to get into their usual workflow. Dedicating mornings to individual tasks is a better way to gain focus and reach a productive mood quickly than having calls interrupt your rhythm by taking your attention away.
Approached like this, you will have a lot of work done by the time afternoon arrives, allowing you to take those phone calls or conference calls with the feeling that you have already achieved something during the day.
Goals and priorities: Tips for workload
Structure your day like you would in the office
Despite the fact you won’t be going to the office every day (or ever, if you have full-time remote work), you should behave as if you were: it will make things easier for you in the long run and will help you to make the most of your work time.
Ideally, you should establish a work schedule that fits your needs and is easy to follow. Depending on the tasks you have to do and the priority each one of them has, you can delineate a set of customs that will keep you on top of your responsibilities.
Having a clear structure while in the home office will also make it easier to maintain an adequate work-life balance, by keeping clear boundaries between your job and your personal life.
Prepare a to-do list
Planning your activities is one of the best practices you can adopt to define your work schedule. Taking the time to index the tasks that need attending in order of priority will allow you to organize how and when you tackle them and in turn, increase your productivity.
The purpose of a to-do list is to reduce to the minimum the amount of time spent figuring out what should be done next. The more focused you are on the actual work, the more productive you will be.
Working from home requires a healthy amount of self-policing and tracking, so having a clear and defined plan will contribute to keeping you in check and avoiding wasting your productive hours on low-priority tasks or procrastination.
Here are a few things to note when it comes to creating your list:
- Make it routine: At the end of the day take a few minutes to plan your next morning, afternoon, and after-office hours (if needed), so you know in advance what assignments you will be doing for the next day.
- Identify what your critical tasks are and give them the highest priority. It’s recommended that you assign them to your mornings.
- Have a physical planner or notebook to keep track of everything, or use a dedicated app for it. Use something you can consult and modify at will.
Schedule and prioritize accordingly to keep a handle on everything. The better you organize your work, the easier and more approachable it’ll be.
Of course, when defining your schedule, some time should be reserved for personal breaks. Working for eight straight hours every day without resting will take a toll on your productivity levels, and can have long-term implications for your physical and mental health.
It’s easy to lose track of time while working from home, so it’s recommended that you pre-plan your breaks in a pattern that you find adequate. One way to do this is by setting periodic alarms, like one every 45 minutes, as reminders to stop for some downtime.
You can try other alternative methods, so be open to experimenting and see what fits you the most. However you decide to approach it, it’s important to use those break times in ways you find relaxing and fulfilling.
Instead of staying in your office space, you can go for a short walk and grab some fresh air, prepare a cup of coffee, or do some stretches to keep yourself moving and active.
Use the time to disconnect and rest, so that when it comes the time to resume work you feel refreshed and ready for it.
Take sick days
Just because you are doing home office you shouldn’t underestimate the risk of burnout and sickness. Don’t hesitate to take a sick day if you are not feeling well.
It’s normal to try to brush it off, ignore it, and carry on with your day, especially as there’s no need to leave your home for work. But that will mean you won’t be working at your best, which can end up being counterproductive in the end.
For the sake of your well-being, be considerate of yourself and listen to the signals your body sends. It’s better to take some time to rest and recover as soon as possible than risk it and do a poor job all around.
Pick a definitive finish time
One of the biggest challenges to having an adequate work-life balance while working from home is not being mindful of when to call it quits for the day and move on to other stuff.
If you have full-time remote work, it can be surprisingly easy to get carried away while working and lose track of hours, so it’s important to commit to a set time to end your workday and enforce it.
Once the time is up, you should disconnect from your computer and shift your focus to your personal life. Setting a definite boundary will mark a clear division between your life and your work, helping you keep them healthily apart.
Boosting productivity: Tips for reducing distractions
Limit your social media usage
While they can be great tools for networking and staying updated about news around the world, social media can also be a major source of distraction while you work.
It can indeed be very difficult not to pick up your phone as soon as you get a notification from one of your most used apps; but if left unchecked, the amount of time that you spend not working can easily balloon out of control.
Start by observing how much time you spend on social media and start cutting it back when appropriate. Opt for only logging in during your breaks or after you are done working for the day.
If you need help, you can try one of the different blocker apps that exist to have a more robust barrier between you and your phone to act as a deterrent.
Keep a separate phone number
Having a different phone number other than your personal one will make it easier to disconnect from work at the end of the day. As soon as the time is up, you can just log off the work cell until the next day.
Preferably, you should try to not share your personal number with anyone from work, and if you do, request they only contact you through your work number.
It’s also important that you are clear with your team and clients that you won’t be responding to any form of work-related communication outside of your working hours. That way you will set expectations of how and when they will be able to reach you.
Take training courses
One of the perks that come with remote work is the opportunity to take online training on an ongoing basis, which can be of great help to cover any knowledge gap that you may have.
Taking training courses often will keep you up to date with the latest procedures, techniques, and relevant apps in your area of work, as well as provide you with new skills to be integrated into your activities, boosting your efficiency and productivity along the way.
Make sure to leverage any training courses that your employer has available! Take them as an opportunity to expand your job experience and deepen your confidence in your work.
Healthy work-life balance: Tips for reducing stress
Interact with other people
Working from home can quickly make you feel lonely, especially if you don’t share your home with any family member, partner, or roommates that remind you of their presence with their activities.
There’s nothing wrong with having some solitude to do your work in peace, but don’t underestimate the risks that come with continuous isolation. As the coronavirus pandemic showed us, it’s hugely important for us to keep in touch with other people when we need to.
Reach out to the other members of your remote team to stave boredom or lack of concentration. Also, don’t be afraid to talk about other things unrelated to work. Allow yourself the time for small talk to catch up with your coworkers, and have some of those casual social interactions you’re missing for not being in a typical office.
And if you do have company at home, use your breaks to converse and spend some time with them. Some face-to-face interaction can also be of help to keep an upbeat mood.
Prepare your meals in advance
For some people, the prospect of cooking during their lunch break while working from home may seem attractive at first, but it doesn’t take too long for that notion to be dispelled.
Whether one likes it or not, the reality is that cooking can be a time-consuming activity that is incompatible with WFH, as you would be better off dedicating those precious minutes of your break to rest or doing something more productive for yourself.
The best way to proceed with your meal prep is to act like you are going normally to the office and cook your meals beforehand. This will save you a lot of time during your workday and will make things more orderly at your place (fewer dirty dishes!).
You can choose to do your cooking every evening after work, or you can take it a step forward and dedicate some time of your weekend to prepare batches of food that you can then consume during the week as you see fit.
Eat and sleep well
This is generally good advice, regardless of your working conditions: If you are not fully rested and don’t have a good diet, you won’t be at your best, physically and mentally.
It’s perhaps more important for remote employees that they take more care of these two aspects, given the closeness between their work and their normal life. Keeping them under control will translate into a healthier lifestyle and better work performance in general.
This means you shouldn’t take some of the perks that come with working from home as a free pass not to take better care of yourself. Even if you have free access to your kitchen, that doesn’t mean you should grab a snack every time you crave one.
Or just because you won’t be commuting in the morning, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you to wait to sleep until very late in the evening.
A good amount of self-policing is vital for your well-being, and the success you may have while working from home is incumbent on how you decide how you live, eat and sleep.
Make ground rules with the people in your space
If you currently share your home life with any roommates, family, or partners, it’s recommended to have a conversation in advance about what it’ll mean for you and them and define common rules to be followed.
The aim should be to minimize any potential distractions and make your loved ones understand that even if you are physically present in your home, you won’t be able to interact with them as usual during your working hours.
With that in mind, here are a few ground rules to consider:
- Your workspace should be respected, even when you are not working.
- Outside of your breaks, interruptions won’t be welcome.
- Excessive noises should be kept under control.
- Any non-urgent situations can be solved later.
- If you are sharing space with someone who is also working from home, be open to negotiating.
Being seated or standing for long periods without moving often can have a bad impact on the body, and can have long-lasting ramifications on your overall health. Counter that by doing regular exercise as part of your daily schedule and self-care activities.
Whether you make it part of the morning routine to start the day more active, or in the evening after work, exercising will make your body feel stronger and provide you with endorphins that will keep you sharp and motivated during the day.
Of course, the type of exercise you do should depend entirely on your preferences; don’t force yourself to do things you don’t enjoy just for the sake of it. Explore what options are available in your area and try to see what works best for you.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to working from home than just staying at your house in front of the screen. If you actively engage with the experience, it can be fulfilling in its own right.
Hopefully, you’ll find these tips useful to get the hang of remote work and reach new levels of productivity.
As a fully remote company, we understand how complex work from home can be. We constantly share our battle-tested tips with our community: sign up for our newsletter here!