20 Tips for Working From Home
I’ve been contributing to PCMag since 2011, at times as an analyst and columnist, and currently as deputy managing editor for the software team. My column, Get Organized, has been running on PCMag since 2012. It gives advice on how to manage all the devices, apps, digital photos, social networks, email, and other technology that can make you feel like you’re going to have a panic attack.
Starting around March 2020, more people than ever before began working from home, and quite suddenly. Organizations and individuals didn’t have time to prepare for remote work or think about the best ways to transition teams, processes, and culture to an online-only environment. No one knew (or yet knows) how long the COVID-19 pandemic—and thus an increased number of remote workers—would last.
If you’re new to the work-from-home lifestyle, whether due to the coronavirus or because you’ve managed to find a remote-based job, you may have found that you need to change your habits and routines to make working from home a success.
I’ve worked 100 percent remotely for more than seven years all told, most of it long before the COVID-19 pandemic started, and I have even written a book on remote work (Opens in a new window) . Several of my friends and colleagues have led entire careers from home offices. Each of us faces unique challenges working remotely, not only because of our different personalities, but also due to our various lifestyles and the type of work we do. Still, many of the core issues we face as remote workers are the same.
Everyone who works remotely has to figure out when to work, where to work, and how to create boundaries between work and personal life. In other words, what’s the best work–personal life balance for you, and how do you achieve it? What about office equipment, career development, training opportunities, and building relationships with colleagues remotely?
Working remotely, especially when working from home most of the time, means figuring out these issues and others. Here are 20 tips for leading a better and more productive remote-work life, based on my experience and what I’ve learned from others.
19 other ways to work from home
If you’re new to working from home, also known as “WFH,” you may need to change your habits and routines to make working from home a success. Maybe you need some fresh ideas regarding when to work, where to work and how to create a work-life balance Here are 21 tips to make working at home a pleasant and productive experience:
1. Maintain regular hours
When you reported to an office, you had set hours when you were expected to work. The same is true if you work from home. Set a schedule and stick to it as best you can. One of the benefits of WFH is flexibility when the job allows it. You may start work earlier one day because you have a dental appointment that afternoon or you work late so you can attend your child’s school play. However, try to have a set start and finish time.
2. Dress for the day
To increase your chances of being at your most productive, dress for the day as if you’re going into the office. If you work in your pajamas, you may feel more inclined to relax and slack off during the day when you should be getting work done. Try dressing for work and you’ll likely find you’re more focused. Plus, if you have to be on video calls, you’ll already be in appropriate attire.
3. Establish a routine
When you worked in an office, you probably had a routine. Perhaps you started with a cup of coffee. Maybe you answered your emails before you tackled the day’s project. Following a similar routine at home will help you be on-task.
4. Keep your phone on silent and out of reach
Consider putting your phone on silent and placing it out of sight to avoid distractions. If you don’t want to miss a phone call, change your phone settings to only allow notifications from specific numbers.
5. Time block your calendar
When you time block your calendar, you’re telling yourself when to complete certain tasks. Time blocking is a great way to make sure you’re balancing your work and personal responsibilities and, if you share your calendar with virtual co-workers, they can see when you’re available, making it easy to schedule meetings with you.
6. Create a work playlist
One of the benefits of working from home is that you’re able to listen to music without headphones or annoying your co-workers in the office. Now is a good time to consider creating different playlists of your favorite music. You may prefer a specific genre of music or a particular artist for certain tasks. Everyone is different, so find the music that helps you focus and stay motivated, then switch it up when you change tasks.
6. Have a dedicated workspace
When you work from home, it can be hard to separate work and your personal life unless you’re intentional about setting boundaries. One way is to have a dedicated workspace that isn’t used for anything else except your work. If you have an extra room in your home, you may want to make it your office or establish a corner of your bedroom with a desk. You may not have room to dedicate a particular space. If so, just make sure you try to only work from your office “area.” You could get distracted if you work from your kitchen countertop one day, your bed the next and back to your desk the third day.
7. Let others know your work schedule
If you live with others, like family or roommates, make sure they know what your work schedule is. They need to know when they shouldn’t distract you or interrupt your work. Explain that even though you are physically at home, you are still responsible for getting your work done and meeting your manager’s expectations. Let them know that they can interrupt you only in emergencies.
8. Take breaks
When you worked in an office, you had break times and you took them. As a WFH employee, you should give yourself time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. Take a full 30 minutes or hour for lunch, plus a break in the morning and afternoon. If you’re sitting at the computer, stand up and move to get your blood circulating at least once an hour. It also helps to take your eyes off screen regularly, even if it’s only 10 or 20 seconds.
9. Set timers
When you work from home, timers can help you stay on task and take breaks. You can set a timer for how long you want to work on a specific project. Once the timer goes off, you know it’s time to step away for a quick break. This can help you come back to the task with renewed purpose.
10. Sign out of social media accounts
Social media, while useful for many things, can be a large distraction for many. Sign out of your accounts, so you don’t feel the temptation to visit and scroll. If you visit social media sites, make sure it’s only for a short time, otherwise you may spend more time than you intended and have to jump back into work without taking a true break away from the screen.
Before you apply for a position be sure that it’s a legitimate online job with an actual company. Even if it’s a company you’ve never heard of, you should be able to find information about the firm and look up reviews of the company online, Beasley says. In other words, you want to make sure the organization has a digital footprint beyond something they create themselves (like a LinkedIn page or website).
Most importantly, you should never have to pay money to apply for a position or to begin a job, Silverman says. Make sure you understand how you will be paid and how often, he says. And trust your gut. If you think something doesn’t sound right, don’t move ahead with the position.
Lisa Rabasca Roepe is a freelance journalist who writes about the culture of work, entrepreneurship, and technology. Her work has appeared in Fast Company, Ozy.com, Family Circle, Good, Quartz, The Week, HR Magazine, Men’s Journal, Eater, and the Christian Science Monitor.