2020 changed the world. The global pandemic forced many corporations to shut down their work operations. Whilst some companies closed offices altogether, others asked their employees to continue working from home.
Remote work became the saving grace for many businesses. Companies that did not need open borders to supply their product or service were able to stay afloat—their employees grateful for the jobs that they retained.
Roughly 6 in 10 Americans now work from home either most of the time or all the time¹. Globally, the trend is following a similar trajectory. With so many of us now working from home, we wanted to give you a guide on how to maximize your remote work experience.
It doesn’t matter if you embrace working from home or if your employer has made you adopt this new style of work. With these 7 simple steps, you will be able to turn your home office into an efficient hub of productivity.
Related Read: The Top 10 Work From Home Productivity Tips.
1. Find Your Own Workspace
Our first tip when working from home is to identify a dedicated workspace. This will be the area that you will set aside as your home office.
Allocating a particular space for work will help you to differentiate between ‘home-life’ and ‘work-life’. When you leave the house for work, you are able to break away from the mindset of being at home and, on the commute, mentally prepare for the work environment. With your arrival at the office, the mental transformation is complete and your work identity takes over from the person you are at home.
When working remotely, this mental shift becomes more difficult. There is no physical space separating home from the office and your only commute is from the kitchen to your laptop/computer. At least the coffee is good.
Something that works for me is actively reminding myself that I’m no longer relaxing at home and that I now need to be productive. Try it out, it could work for you. Having a dedicated workspace will make it easier for you to enter work mode and leave the convenience of procrastination behind.
Working From Home Requires Minimal Distractions
The first prize for a dedicated workspace is converting an empty room into your home office. A sealed-off room will trick your mind into being at the office and, again, make it easier for you to make the mental adjustment. Every time you cross that room’s threshold your mind will make the switch between work and home.
A separate room will also allow you to have some privacy and decrease the chance of distractions. If you’re anything like me, then they’ll always be at least one family member at your home at any given time. If you have kids then the chances of distraction rise exponentially. When you are in a separate room then everyone knows that you are in your workspace and if they are to disturb you then it must only be for urgent matters.
If you cannot use an entire room then demarcate a certain space in your house. Try to have it in a room that is seldom used by others. This will help in preventing disruptions.
But the best advice we can give is to avoid using your bedroom as your home office. The idea is to completely separate rest from work. If you are working in your bedroom then that dissociation becomes much more difficult.
2. Have the Right Equipment
Working from home does not come with the guarantee of having the correct office equipment. The onus is on you to ensure that you have everything you need to be as productive as you would be in an office environment.
Try using what you already have to create your home office. You want to spend as little money as possible as you transition to working remotely.
The PC Mag has some incredible tips for simple, affordable home office setups.
Firstly, have an office desk and a comfortable chair. They do not have to be state-of-the-art or cost a fortune. A desk of a good height and a chair that is comfortable to sit on is all that we’re looking for.
If you have office equipment available to you, then great! If not, a standard dining room table and chair should do the trick.
The next ‘must have’ when working from home is a good internet connection. This is non-negotiable. Make sure that your WiFi is set up and that you have a strong, reliable connection.
It’s advisable to have an internet package that offers unlimited access, with no data restrictions. Another pro tip would be to have a WiFi stick available, as a backup in case anything happens to your main connection.
If you do not have a laptop or desktop computer at home then you’ll need to go out and get one. For the most part, remote work is not possible with only a cellphone or a tablet.
If you do have a laptop or desktop computer then you’re all set. Try not to be tempted into buying the latest PC for your home office. Most office work can be done on standard laptops and PC devices. If your work requires specialized equipment then the chances are that your company will provide you with the apparatus.
Bits and Bobs for Working at Home
Make sure that your home office has all the essentials, including the little things. Stock up on pens; notepads; and anything else you’d usually keep on your office desk. Remember: You are now your own office administrator.
3. Set Boundaries
Tip Number 3 can be a little tricky to implement, but it’s a vital element of working from home with success. We’re talking about setting boundaries.
Be sure to sit down with your living companions and set clear boundaries about your workday. Your roommates/spouse/children should all know when your workday starts and when it ends.
Be open and honest about your limitations throughout the day. Your housemates should know when you can be disturbed and when they’ll have to figure it out for themselves.
Of course, as is with office life, emergencies are different. Just try to define what an emergency is with the people that you live with. If I didn’t specifically speak against it then my daughter would think that a missing TV remote would count as an emergency.
Boundaries should also be set with your employers and colleagues. Just because you are at home does not mean that you are always available. Office hours still apply when you are working from home. The people you work with should know this and interact with you accordingly.
In a similar vein, if it was not your responsibility at work then it shouldn’t be your responsibility at home. Unless explicitly stated and communicated with you prior, your work obligations do not change when you move to your home office.
Avoid having your employer and colleagues take advantage of you, sending you on errands because “you live closer”. Nobody can force you into doing anything that is outside of the scope of work outlined in your work contract.
Setting boundaries can be difficult. We’re often hesitant to state our need for boundaries as we don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ or ‘upset the apple cart’. But, actually setting boundaries can help save work relationships, not to mention the easing of mental and emotional burdens!
4. Set a Working From Home Routine
Once your home office is set up and clear boundaries have been set with family and colleagues, develop a daily routine for yourself. Your routine will have to accommodate the intricacies of a home working environment.
Related read: Sticking to Your New Routine: 7 Tips for Changes That Last.
The best way to start is by waking up at the same time every morning. You may allow yourself to sleep a bit longer as you no longer have to consider travel time. But don’t over-indulge in this respect. The closer you stick to your usual office routine the easier it will be to adjust to working from home.
You should also make sure that when you log off, you switch off from work entirely. Do not allow the convenience of a home office to goad you into working extra hours. Your family deserves your time as well and, frankly, you need personal time too.
Office hours are usually set by your company. If not, set your own office hours and stick to them. Schedule breaks for yourself within those office hours. Being at home can make it easier for you to take breaks continuously. Try and stick to your break schedule, in the effort of simulating an office environment to avoid procrastination.
Related read: How to Take a Break From Your Podcast: Best Practices.
Routine is also important for your daily home responsibilities. If you have to cook or feed the dogs or pick the kids up from school, make sure that this is all written down in your routine. Having a plan and sticking to it will make working from home a less stressful experience.
It may be our tip number five, but communication is the most important aspect of working remotely.
Having an open channel of communication will lead to fewer misunderstandings and misgivings. If you are corresponding via email or text, make sure you explain your point thoroughly. You can even use different words to reiterate the same point, just to make sure that what you are saying is being understood by the receiving party.
Video-based communications are incredible when working from home. You are able to speak to your colleagues in real-time and accurately express your intentions. It also helps with staying connected with your work family. If possible, I would suggest making video communication with your workmates your primary resource.
6. Leave the House and Socialize
Taking a break from your place of work is extremely important to maintain good mental health. When working at an office, going home acts as that intended break. Because you are working from home and have eliminated the work commute, it is important to take time to leave the house.
Include in one of your breaks a trip outside of the house. It could be a little walk around the block or a quick trip to the store. You want to avoid making your home feel like a prison. It’s easy to be affected by cabin fever when working from home so put plans in place to avoid this.
Try scheduling social events with your colleagues. This will help to break the monotony of working from home and will also keep the work culture alive.
The same is true for socializing with friends and family. Because you spend most of your time at home, any event that occurs outside of your house should be welcomed and indeed sought after.
7. Enjoy the Perks
Lastly, the best thing about working from home is: Working from home! You have already set boundaries for yourself, so allow yourself to take full advantage of being at home within those limitations.
Wherever you can, make yourself as comfortable as possible. Have extra cushions on your office chair; make yourself a super smoothie; set your office up outdoors in good weather, if it is private enough and with adequate shading; use your breaks for hobbies like arts and crafts or baking; and, in your breaks, work on the home projects you just didn’t have the time for before.
And, of course, wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Go barefoot if that’s what puts you most at ease. For me, when the kids are at school, you’re most likely to catch me in my underwear. Just remember to put the clothes back on when that Zoom meeting starts!
The New Normal
Whilst some companies are going back to office life as we knew it before the pandemic, others are choosing to leave their employees to work from home. Still, some others are offering a combination of both in what is now considered a hybrid work situation—some workdays at the office and some at home.
Whichever group you fall into, if you find yourself working from home, make sure that you are set up to be as productive as possible.
If you are organized in your home-office situation it will lead to positive results for your work output. And your family will also appreciate your structure.
Pew Research Center: COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Reshape Work in America: https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2022/02/16/covid-19-pandemic-continues-to-reshape-work-in-america/