I’ve been working from home for almost 8 years now and it has changed my life for the better. It saves so much time and money not going into the office every day but it can also be a burden. Today we’re going to discuss 5 tips to be successful at working remotely from your home.
#1 - Keep to a Schedule
One of the great parts about WFH is that our commute is essentially zero so we can easily switch from home mode to work mode very easily. The flip side to that is that the separation between our home life and our work life is also essentially zero so it’s easy to start work early, work a little extra, or even a lot extra.
We must create a schedule for ourselves and force ourselves to stick to it. This will prevent us from working too little or too much. We recommend sticking to whatever a normal day at a physical office would. For most people, that’s from 8 AM to 5 PM with an hour for lunch in the middle of the day.
This consistency with a “normal day” prevents over or under work. It’s also helpful because our non-WFH coworkers can get a hold of us when necessary.
There are some benefits to working off schedule due to personal reasons (kids or partners schedules being the biggest) and I would highly recommend that if you do this you discuss it with your supervisor so you can come up with a mutually beneficial time.
#2 - Have a Pre-work Routine
We don’t realize it but all the little things we do to get out the door in the morning to go into the office prepares us mentally for work. Switching directly from home mode into work mode can be jarring but by creating a pre-work routine we can get our brains ready to be in “work mode” and make it easier to get into the flow of work.
You’ll have to do some reflection to determine what it is that gets you into this mode. Is it getting a beverage, commuting to work, packing your bag, or kissing your partner goodbye?
Here are some recommendations:
- Get dressed. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of wearing our jammies when we WFH but there’s an emotional benefit to putting on our “work” clothes even if they’re not dressy.
- Say goodbye to our loved ones. Normally we would kiss our loved ones goodbye for the day and when we’re WFHing it’s no exception. If we have little people at home it also helps them to understand we’re “at work” now and can’t be reading or making snacks (for them you should still get a snack).
- Get a drink. Another “normal” activity before starting work at an office is to get a drink. We’re fans of coffee but any one of your favorite beverages can help you get into work mode.
- Commute. This may seem weird but some people love to commute to work every day. When WFHing this could just be driving or walking around the block but it provides another mental way to switch into work mode.
#3 - Create a Dedicated Work Space
It’s super tempting to spend our days WFHing on our couch or at a kitchen table but we have some bad news for everyone. Those surfaces are not made to support work. Couches are good for lounging but they’re horrible for preventing Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs) and point us in the direction of a kitchen chair that’s comfortable for more than an hour.
If at all possible, a dedicated workspace is an absolute must in our books for WFH. Even if it’s just an IKEA desk and chair (which are actually what we use) having an ergonomically correct desk and chair setup can make or break your physical comfort. The dedicated workspace also creates a wonderful physical delineation between your personal and workspaces.
Our recommendation is to find a corner of a bedroom or living room and making sure it’s only used for work. Then pick out the desk with the most surface space that fits your budget and space (we’ve never complained about having too much desk space) and the best possible chair you can afford. Not buying a cheap chair is the best advice we can give as it’s going to be cradling our bodies for several hours a day and a cheap chair is going to make that painful. Look at going to an office supply store (or IKEA) to try out the chairs as you’re going to want to try it out and make sure it feels comfortable to you.
If your work isn’t providing a laptop (and they should) purchase one just for work. Again, this will help you separate your work and home “space” as well and prevent personal things from distracting you at work. It’s also good to know that when your employer owns your laptop there’s a good chance they own anything on the hard drive so keep your personal information off of it.
Don’t hesitate to ask your supervisor for any equipment you might need. If they’re supporting your WFH set up they should be footing at least part of the bill for getting yourself set up. After all, they’re saving a LOT of money by not having you in the office.
Some “bonus” items you might want to purchase include:
- Multiple Large Monitors
- All-in-one Printer (you might have to print documents so to sign them)
- Headset for phone and computer
#4 - Schedule Breaks
Know your organization’s policy on break times and take make sure you take them! Taking breaks can help restore your focus, allow you a chance to stretch your body, and prevent burnout.
Make sure you don’t short change yourself in these brakes. We recommend setting a timer on your phone to make sure that you get the full amount of time. Our lunch break is an hour so we set a 55-minute timer. This gives me an extra five minutes to clean up and finish whatever working on and get back into work mode. The virtual assistant in your phone can be a huge help in setting up these timers (“Hey Google/Siri set a timer for 55 minutes” works well).
#5 - Overcommunicate
Because you’re working remotely it’s hard for your co-workers to know what you’re doing so it may seem like you’re not doing anything. It’s bad if they think this so you want to make sure you overcompensate for this by communicating, communicating, and communicating some more.
It may seem silly but we highly recommend it.
Some of the things you may want to try:
- Make sure your work calendar has time blocked off for appointments. You don’t need to get into graphic detail about what your appointment is but just putting “Appointment with Dr. X.” on your calendar lets people know what’s going on.
- Discuss upcoming vacations with everyone so they know it’s happening
- Send an email to all of your co-workers the day before you take a PTO day, go to a long doctor’s appointment, etc. so they know if they try to contact you that you’ll be unavailable.
- Create a shared online project status board so people can see what you’re working on and when it might be done.
Let Us Know How It’s Going
WFH can be a life-changing way to work for some people. Hopefully, the topics we’ve covered here will provide a path to success for you. This is by far not an exhaustive list so if you have other suggestions comment below and maybe we’ll use them in a future article.
Scott is the Director of Technology at WeCare Connect where he strives to provide solutions for his customers needs. He's the father of two and can be found most weekends working on projects around the house with his loving partner.