Ten years ago, no one could have imagined a successful company with full-time employees working from home. Today, however, it’s surprising to find a firm that doesn’t utilize remote workers or unified communications platforms. Conferences on Skype and Slack, collaborative editing of online documents, and chats for staff members who rarely appear in the office are commonplace in small and large international corporations alike.
Remote work is by no means a break from the usual flow of the office, though. It is the same work but done in a home environment. This can be a blessing or a curse, however, as it requires looking at work with a fresh eye, revising old assumptions, and revealing hidden abilities or challenges with organization, planning, and self-motivation.
Working from home is becoming necessary for many fields and is being practiced more often every day. That is why learning the skills needed for remote work is so essential to adapt to this new reality. For this reason, we’ve prepared the following tips to help you if you are in a remote role.
1. Prepare Your Workspace
If you think that lying on the couch during work is convenient, unfortunately you’re mistaken. Maintaining such a body position reduces productivity and negatively affects your body. Your arms go numb, your back starts to hurt, and neck pain appears. As you can imagine, all these factors will not improve the quality of your work!
Instead, arrange your workplace in a manner that makes it comfortable and convenient. There should not be any distractions near your work area, either. A TV in the background will only interfere with your concentration. A comfortable chair and a desktop with everything you need will be a great help for those working from home.
What is the best position to work in?
- Your chair should be set to a height that allows your feet to reach the ground (or better yet, stand!).
- Keep your hands on the table or keyboard stand.
- Keep your head tilted slightly forward. There should be about 20” between your eyes and the screen.
- Lower and relax your shoulders, and try not to tense up your neck.
2. Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment
Often we don't think about hardware until we find ourselves on the couch with a laptop with a bunch of open tabs or documents on one screen. Yet when you work from home, you need the technology that will allow you to work the way you usually do in the office. Having the right tools is essential, whether it's a secondary screen, a separate mouse and keyboard, or even just a desktop.
Make sure you have everything you need. While your needs will depend on the functions you perform, it may still be worth checking to see if any of the following are required for your day-to-day work and if you have them at home:
- Display cables and adapters
- Read-protected screens
- Notebook stands
- Charging device
- Comfortable chair
This also includes having the necessary files and an internet connection. If you cannot access the company network from home, you still need to be able to perform essential tasks. With files hosted on a service like Dropbox, you can quickly work remotely while offline, as there is an option to store files either offline or in the cloud. Even without internet access, your files will be ready for you, and as soon as you reconnect to the network, they are synchronized with online versions. Therefore you don't have to worry about not being connected or having to quit early for the day because you can’t access your files.
3. Act Like You're Going to Work
No one maintains a strict “work from home” dress code requiring business suits or high heels, and for good reason. But staying in grubby clothes or pajamas prevents you from getting ready for work.
Try to dress in a way that makes you comfortable while you work, but at the same time is something you can wear if you need to quickly leave the house or make a video call. Try comfortable jeans and a long-sleeve sweater or collared t-shirt.
The same applies to appearance: comb your hair, wash your face, and generally maintain the same level of personal care you would if you were heading into the office.
4. Agree With Colleagues about the Main Communication Channels and Tools
While working remotely, you are likely to receive and send many more emails, so ensure you have access to your work email from home.
In addition to email, each team uses different collaboration tools. Therefore, your team needs to decide what tools you will use for messaging, video calling, and project tracking.
Agree on what remote collaboration tools your team needs, and ensure all credentials and passwords work beforehand. Make sure you have good internet access at home, so you don't lose work or get disconnected from meetings due to connection problems.
5. Talk to Colleagues
The isolation of remote work can have a negative impact on mental health. It is important to have people with whom you can talk about how you feel.
Find a colleague with whom you can share your work-related (and non-work-related) challenges and successes. It will also help you build work relationships without interacting in person.
If you have problems, talk to your manager about them. If necessary, they will be able to provide resources about mental health.
6. Set a Schedule and Stick to It
Anyone who works from home is essentially acting as their own boss, and it's easy to be tempted to finish work a couple of hours early, or a couple of hours late, or drag out lunch. Instead, define a clear schedule for yourself and try to stick to it. This can be helped by using reminders on your smartphone, signaling that it's time to finish a snack or finish today's business.
If your working day at the office normally starts at 9:00 a.m., then you should continue to start at that time. If you can align your work schedule with your biological schedule, all the better, but it is best to stick to a specific plan regardless. Work in your usual rhythm to maintain a constant flow. Don’t wake up five minutes before the start of the work day. Exercising, showering, and eating a good breakfast will help you stay in shape while working from home.
You should start working in the morning even if your working day is not tied to hours. If you want to work effectively, all important tasks must be completed at this time. Make a schedule at the beginning of the day—what needs to be done first and what tasks are secondary. Record tasks in particular programs and set reminders to avoid missing anything. With the help of an organizational system, you will be able to complete important tasks on time and not forget anything.
7. Take Breaks
One of the disadvantages of a home office is that there are few opportunities to be distracted for a few minutes and take a break. In the office, you can do this by going to the water cooler, for example, or getting a cup of coffee. Still, it’s important to try to take small breaks. Go out to breathe some fresh air on the balcony, take a walk with the dog, or take a half-hour run.
When and how should you take breaks?
- At the end of each hour, rest for approximately 15 minutes.
- Try to eat lunch at the same time. (Better yet, prepare your lunch in the evening of the previous day.)
- During lunch, don’t look at your work chat or think about work.
- Go outside and take a walk in the fresh air.
8. Minimize Distractions
Try to allocate a corner in your house or apartment for a workspace. Avoid putting your workspace near the TV, household items, children's toys, or your bed; you need to separate where you sleep and rest from the area where you work. If you have a small apartment, get a screen and fence off the table during the working day so your family will understand when you are working and not disturb you.
When your personal and professional lives intersect at home, it's impossible to avoid distractions at work, which is understandable. At the same time, however, certain measures can be taken to reduce distractions as much as possible.
Here's what you can do to get rid of distractions while you work:
- If you don't need your phone, put it on silent or airplane mode.
- Disable app notifications during periods of focused work.
- Use noise-canceling headphones to avoid distracting sounds.
- Let your loved ones know when you're busy with work so they can contact you after hours.
9. Coordinate Your Work Schedule with Your Family
If your child is still small, this rule does not apply. You will need to complete your tasks during "quiet time." But if your children are older, then you should talk with them and discuss your work schedule. You can devote time to your family during breaks, for example, by playing exciting games or watching movies. In this case, your children will know exactly when you have free time for them.
Another simple tip is just closing the door. If the door to the working room is open, it signals to your family that they can come in. But if you need to focus on work, shut the door to let them know to come back later.
10. Interact with People
Texting is a very convenient way to communicate with many people at once, but if you want to discuss and implement essential ideas, you should pick up the phone and talk to your colleagues. Calling your team members instead of just texting them will help you connect with them on a deeper level.
Also, your communication doesn't always have to be about work. Talking about different non-work-related topics can improve your relationships with colleagues and help you get that extra human interaction that many may miss when working remotely.
You can also join various company meetings outside the office. For example, you can join a remote retreat—a trip with other remote workers from your company or other companies. Also, don’t forget about the opportunity to communicate and exchange experiences at industry meetings. And every once in a while, you might meet your boss or teammates for lunch.
11. Separate Your Personal and Work Life
When working remotely, imagine that you are actually in an office. Don’t get caught up in non-work matters, no matter how great the temptation is. For example, when coming up with a theme for a presentation, it's easy to spot a stain on your curtains and take them to the laundry, but restrain yourself. You can do all these things after the end of the working day.
The same applies to lunch. Don't spend an hour cooking, half an hour serving, and another hour eating. If you prepare something to eat in the morning, you can fully devote yourself to work during the day.
12. Be Physically Active
Physical activity is vital, especially if you work from home. You have the freedom to get up every hour and do a few simple exercises, establish a morning exercise routine, or even play a sport in the evening. Moreover, there are a lot of training plans on the internet for any level of training and every taste. Therefore, working from home means you can even lose a few extra pounds if you are willing to put in the work. In addition, it will positively affect your work-life balance and help you be more productive.
13. Set Aside Time for Lunch
Lunch was not canceled. Leave for lunch at a specific time, even if you have started working from home. But besides just eating, also do a few things to distract yourself from your work routine, such as cleaning up or doing the dishes. Taking a lunch break in this way helps you to keep your day orderly and structured.
14. Say "Stop" to Yourself
If your work day is over, don’t stay up late working on other projects. Give yourself a chance to take a break and move on to other things. The same applies to your weekends, which you should reserve for yourself instead of checking work email or messages. Your mental health requires a reboot—and a good rest is essential.
15. Make Time for Personal Matters
Creating a clear routine is important for balancing your work and home life. How detailed your plan is is up to you, but generally, having a rough schedule with tasks for each day makes it easier to stay accountable.
This is especially important when trying to find time for your favorite activities. It's easy to prioritize work, but making time for yourself can help prevent burnout in the long run.
Your schedule can include items such as:
- Go for a 15-minute walk.
- Read a chapter from a book.
- Call a friend or relative.
It feels good to cross all these items off your list at the end of the day! It also helps to conserve energy for tomorrow's work.
16. Look After Your Eye Health
Staring at a screen for hours and processing large amounts of information is physically and mentally hard.
When you take a longer break, move away from your work area to give your eyes and brain a rest.
Here are some tactics that can help:
- Reduce your use of social media.
- Go out for a walk during breaks.
- Turn off work notifications until the next business day.
- Clean up your laptop or computer after work.
Changing the scenery around is also a good way to boost creativity.
While it may seem daunting at first glance, there is a reason why so many people choose to work from home today. With this option, you don’t have to worry about your commute. You can have a flexible schedule and enjoy the freedom of being in your home, devoting more time to yourself and your loved ones. And the best thing about it? You'll immediately see why this option attracts many remote workers with the right approach, tools, and tips. With a comfortable workspace at home and a secure connection with colleagues online, the transition to working from home can be easy and enjoyable, and you may not want to give it up! Remote work is a great opportunity to embrace life's challenges by learning something new.
If remote work knocked you out of your comfort zone and forced you to level up your self-discipline skills, that's great! This helps you continue to become even more professional and stronger.
And now, let’s get back to work; it's time to make this world even better! :)