16 Tips for Working From Home – How to Work From Home Successfully

The global COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021 has opened the eyes of many businesses and individuals about the viability and benefits of working from home (WFH), as well as working from anywhere (WFA) as its extension.

Considering those benefits, many companies are still allowing their employees to work from home or remotely now in 2022 and possibly 2023. 

The number of people working from home is increasing. The number of people who work from home has tripled in the last 20 years. In 2022, it is estimated that more than 48 million people will work from home.

In the United States, about 36% of the workforce works at least part-time from home. This is a trend that is also happening in other countries around the world.

Remote work is now a necessity for many professionals.

The thing is if you’re new to working from home, building your new routine and habits can be quite challenging. You’ll naturally face more distractions at home, and it can be difficult to create boundaries between your personal and professional life. Not to mention, working from home can also be lonely sometimes, 

To be successful in working remotely, you’ll need to figure out the solutions that work for you for these issues (and more), and you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll share some of the best tips for maintaining a more productive working from home and let us begin with the first one.

1. Set clear rules at home (or in your working space)

In working from home, distractions in your space are often your biggest enemy. It’s very important to set clear ground rules with others at your home or at your working space, or else staying productive will only be more difficult. 

This can be extra challenging if you also share your space with another adult working from home—which is becoming increasingly common these days— due to potential schedule conflicts.  Try to work together in developing the ground rules, and negotiate meeting times, quiet/productive times, and when you can use any shared equipment. Also, discuss how you’ll share domestic labor responsibilities (if required.)

Make sure to inform each other about any important meetings, which can help the other party to prepare their schedule around it. 

Another common challenge to consider is when you have any children at home. Set clear rules about what they can and cannot do when you are working.

Be honest and transparent about your needs, so people around you can also manage their expectations. 

2. Set a regular schedule and stick to it

Not many people are aware of the importance of maintaining regular hours of remote work. 

While it’s true that one of the perks of working from home is the flexibility of time, maintaining regular hours can help you separate your personal and professional life, which can boost productivity. 

If you are working alone or are not dependent on others in your team, then doing this should not be an issue. However, if you are in a remote team and the other members aren’t maintaining a regular schedule, you may need to constantly accommodate someone else’s time zone, so this can be tricky.

If that’s the case, at the very least, maintain a consistent length of working hours. If you need to start earlier than usual for one reason or another, make sure to wrap up earlier to compensate. 

Make sure you have enough time for yourself outside of your work. It is important that you don’t overwork yourself and take care of your health and well-being. 

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and maintaining positive morale will, in turn, help with your productivity. 

Fortunately, nowadays, there are plenty of time tracking and scheduling apps that can help you create and stick to a regular schedule, as well as help you keep track of what times of day you tend to have high productivity. The idea is to block these productive hours so you can actually do your work and schedule your meetings and other activities on less productive hours.

3. Pick a maximum finishing time

Another important challenge to tackle while working from home is the fact that It’s easy to lose track of time. Since you feel safe and relaxed at home, it’s easy to get confused between your work and your personal life, resulting in you constantly juggling between the two, draining your energy (and morale) in the process. 

An effective way to tackle this challenge is to maintain a clear boundary. Set an alarm each day (or use your time-tracking software) to tell you when your normal workday time ends. Then, if you can’t stop at that time, assess how much work you have left for the day, and set another alarm for a definitive time you’ll finish work.

That is, after this second alarm, you should stop working and call it quits for the day even if you haven’t finished work.

Maintaining a clear boundary like this is important for both your professional and personal sides of work-life balance. Yes, working from home will give you more flexibility and can potentially establish more work-life balance, but you still need to manage it well. 

4. Prepare proper equipment

Depending on your employer, they may or may not support your work-from-home equipment. If they do, don’t hesitate to request what you need (within a reasonable limit) as early as possible. After a few days of working from home, you may realize you need more tools and equipment, so communicate these needs accordingly. 

Start by listing the bare minimum must-have equipment you’ll need to do your job: laptop/desktop computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, office chair, desk, etc. Then, ask your employer whether they have any budget for remote work equipment. If that’s the case, you may also ask for more details, like how often/soon you can ask for a replacement. 

However, there’s the possibility that you need to finance your equipment on your own, and here are a few tips if that’s the case:

  • First, assess whether working from home will be a part of your long-term plan. If it’s only going to be for the short term, then you may not want to invest in an expensive home office desk and chair. Focus on equipment that you can bring back to the office later, like a back-supporting cushion, mouse/keyboard, and so on.
  • Check out with your employer or other parties whether there’s an option to secure a loan to finance your equipment.
  • An option to lower your hardware investment needs is to invest in a virtual desktop solution, so you can get an affordable thin client instead of an expensive laptop/desktop without sacrificing performance. With services like V2 Cloud, you can use an inexpensive thin client to reliably access fully-fledged applications like AutoCAD or Adobe Premiere. 
  • Don’t forget the software aspect of things. Not only the applications you’ll need to accomplish your job but also cybersecurity solutions (i.e., antivirus) and other supportive applications. 

5. Schedule breaks

To maintain productivity, it’s very important to take frequent and adequate breaks. Too many breaks will obviously hurt you, but if you keep working 24/7 without taking any breaks, you can get physically and/or mentally unhealthy.

If you work for a company, then ask them for the policy on break times, and make the most of it. In the US, typically, you’ll get a lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks for a standard 8-hour shift. However, if you’re self-employed, you’ll need to create your own schedule and—again—stick to it. 

For sedentary work and especially computer-heavy jobs, make sure to stand up and move around for at least 2-3 minutes once an hour. Also, every 15 minutes, try to move your eyes off the screen and stare at an object 20 feet away or more from you for 20 seconds.

It’s also important to maintain discipline during your break times, especially during your longer break times (i.e., lunch break.) Avoid using your computer to let your eyes and mind really rest, and if possible, also avoid using your phone during this break time. Walk around the house, read a book, water your plants, and so on. 

Your break time is valuable, so make sure to take it in its entirety.

6. Leave home

Since you’ll be locked within the confines of your home (or your working space), leave home and expose yourself to the natural light (and fresh air) whenever you can. 

Try to get out of the house before you start working and right after you’ve finished working hours. During working hours, leave the building at least once a day, ideally during lunchtime or a longer break time.  Even if you can only step outside for a few minutes, use the opportunity to your advantage.

Also, if your employer allows (or if you are self-employed) and if the circumstances are possible, you may want to try working at cafes, co-working spaces, or libraries to break up your routine. 

In short, as much as you can, try to move your body to get some natural light and fresh air. 

7. Keep a dedicated “office” Space

While not everyone has the luxury of a spare room they can use as a dedicated home office, try to dedicate a desk or even a table space that you will only use for work.

This is important so you can have a routine, building a habit so you can have an easier time  “shifting” between your personal and professional mode whenever you’re in this dedicated space. This can help you in achieving a long-term work-life balance.

Try to find and establish points of differentiation between personal and personal time. Even if you can’t dedicate any space at all, you can try something like making coffee before work (so your brain will recognize that when there’s coffee, that’s work time.) You can even try creating a separate user account for work on your laptop.

8. Socialize whenever you can

A very prominent issue in working from home is loneliness

Since you work alone (or with a very limited number of people sharing a space with you), it’s easy to experience a sense of isolation, which can affect your productivity.

If you’re lucky, your employer may also understand this concern and facilitate ways to socialize with others in the company. This can be as simple as organizing a socializing channel in Slack to hosting a fully-fledged social event.

However, if you are self-employed or if your company doesn’t have enough concern for this, then you’ll need to be more proactive. Try reaching out to other employees via video chat solutions like Slack or Zoom. Each session doesn’t need to be overly long, and even just a few minutes of small talk can help you fight boredom and the sense of isolation.

Also, remember that you are allowed to talk and chat with other people that are not your colleagues during working hours, as long as it’s reasonable. So, by all means, interact with your children from time to time, and during your longer break time, by all means, go outside and interact with others.

9. Prepare your meals beforehand

While working from home, it can be tempting to prepare your own lunch or breakfast by yourself, especially if you happen to also love cooking. 

However, again, make the most of your break time, and avoid using the precious minutes of your break (or worse, your productive hours) to prepare your food.

Instead, we’d recommend setting aside an hour or so every night to prepare your food for the next day.

This way, you can use your lunchtime or meal times to actually eat and not spend the precious energy you can otherwise use to accomplish your work.

Another alternative is to simply order your food. While this may be more expensive than preparing your own, remember that your time is more precious and will add up in the long run.

10. Don’t forget to eat, sleep, and exercise.

One of the best ways to stay productive and happy is to have some sort of routine for when you work and when you take a break.

While one of the biggest perks to working from home is the fact that you can access your kitchen anytime, again, it’s easy to be drowned in your work and lose track of time.

Make sure to eat well, and eat timely.

It’s important to figure out what works best for your body. Some people find that they can work well in the morning, others find they are at their peak after lunch, while some people are most productive late at night.

Switch to a healthier diet if you can, and save your junk food and unhealthy snacks for the weekend.  The right diet can help you keep your energy levels high and stay productive. 

Also, make sure that you have enough time set aside for proper rest, relaxation, and exercise to refresh both your physical and mental energy. 

11. Maintain cybersecurity best practices

Staying productive isn’t only a matter of keeping a comfortable environment, but ensuring you are safe and secure is also important to maintain high morale and productivity.

Having your device infected by malware or falling victim to a phishing attempt can ruin your mood for the whole day. Not to mention, security issues can get you in trouble with your employer or clients. 

Here are some important cybersecurity best practices you should keep while working from home:

  • Above everything else, use strong and unique passwords on every account you actively use at work. Passwords should be at least ten characters long and include a combination of uppercase, lowercase letters, and symbols. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. 
  • To make things easier, you can use a password manager solution to help you generate and remember strong passwords for your accounts. If you use Apple devices, there’s the free iCloud Keychain, or alternatively, there’s the handy Google Password Manager. 
  • Install antivirus/anti-malware software, firewall, and other cybersecurity software solutions. Ask your employer’s IT department if they can support you in this regard.
  • Encrypt your devices to prevent unauthorized access in the worst-case scenarios when your devices are lost or stolen. You can use FileVault for macOS or BitLocker for Windows devices. Newer Android and iOS devices are encrypted by default.
  • Use VPN whenever you’re connected to a public network or any network you don’t control. Your employer may also provide you with their own VPNs (that you’ll need to use throughout working hours.) A VPN encrypts all your internet traffic so others can’t see what you’re doing when your traffic happens to be intercepted.
  • Update everything (OS, applications, firmware) regularly. Avoid using hardware and software solutions that are no longer supported by the manufacturers. Fortunately, nowadays, most updates are installed automatically, and you can schedule your automated update preferences.  

12. Be active in meetings

Try to be active (in a proportionate manner) in mandatory conference calls and video conference meetings. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, as long as they’re reasonable, contribute to the conversations with your ideas, and ask relevant questions.

You may also want to attend the optional meetings when you can. Use this opportunity to connect with more people and socialize.

13. Take off days

If you feel burnt out or not well, don’t be afraid to take your sick days if they are part of your compensation package. 

If you’re self-employed and are paid on an hourly or commission basis, taking one day off won’t hurt your overall earnings. In fact, keeping your physical and mental well-being may help improve your productivity in the long run.

So, if you need to take a break or even more if you are actually sick, take the day off and recover. Give yourself enough rest so you can get back to work at your most optimal levels. 

14. Communicate often and clearly

For remote working to be successful, especially in a remote team, over-communicating is not only common but is often recommended.

Remote team members should maintain transparency throughout the project: when you’re available for the next task, say so; when you finish an important task, say so. Since you don’t work on the same premises, don’t expect people to hear you the first time, and don’t assume they remember. It’s okay to repeat yourself and expect others to do the same. 

However, in remote conversations (i.e., via video conference or text chats) reading tone can be difficult, and it’s easy for short messages to sound tense. 

Thus, try as best as you can to always maintain a positive note in your messages. Use emojis when you can, joke around (but keep it appropriate,) use playful exclamation points, and so on.

It’s better to be overly positive rather than risk miscommunications and unnecessary conflicts due to people misreading your tone.

15. Strive to keep improving

Be proactive and look for training/learning opportunities whenever you can.

In fact, ask your employer whether there’s any (online) training course you can join, or you may want to request any specific course or coaching. Companies with remote teams often have a budget for training and learning, so don’t be afraid to ask. Or, if they don’t have any learning budget, make a request so they may add it in the near future. 

If you are self-employed, then there are various online coaching and learning platforms that you can leverage to acquire new skills and knowledge. Many of them are available at a fairly affordable price.

16. Start and end your day with a routine

Create a habit to start your day (as discussed above), but also another one that signals the end of your workday. It can be as simple as logging out of a work-related app, getting out for an evening run, or starting your home workout session.

Wrapping Up

Above anything else, achieving maximum productivity when working from home should be personal. That is, figure out what routine works best for you and stick to it.

For some people, finding this routine may be obvious, but some others may require some trial and error. If the latter is the case for you, don’t be afraid to experiment and get some inspiration from other remote workers you know.

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