People generally think that working from home is pretty simple. Once you get out of bed, you are only a few steps away from your “office”. There isn’t even a real need for you to shower and get dressed because nobody is there to judge how you look anyway.
I used to think this way too, but my perception has changed since adopting this lifestyle myself. I am certain that not everyone will enjoy working from home. If you think you are up for it, here are 25 tips to help you work from home successfully.
How to Work from Home Successfully
1. Set and stick to routines
Our brains love habits. Every time we repeat an action, it becomes a little easier the next time. If you set yourself the routine of waking up at the same time every day, having a shower, eating breakfast, then sitting down to do some work, before long, you will find yourself starting your day right every day without even trying.
On the other hand, if you try and just sit down whenever you feel like it, you will quickly find yourself sitting watching Netflix, thinking “One more episode…”
2. Get dressed for the day
The first thing many people do when they get the option to work at home is to try and have a productive, successful day in their home clothes or pajamas. It doesn’t work. We need to be in the right mindset to be able to produce our best work and going through the process of washing up and getting dressed to achieve great work puts your head in the right space to do exactly that.
This doesn’t mean you have to sit at home in a suit, but imagine you were going to an office with a fairly lax smart-casual dress code. You will feel better for it and once you get your work for the day done, you can change back into your home clothes.
3. Designate a workspace
This falls under the same category as how you dress while working at home. The last thing you want is to blur the lines between where you work and where you relax. If you try to work in your relaxing space, your head will be in “relaxing” mode and if you get used to working from your laptop in bed, your brain will start to associate “bed” with “work”.
Assign a physical space that is only for work. If you don’t have a lot of space, get a small foldable table and use that as your desk. When you are at the desk, it is work time!
4. Mentally transition from home to work and vice versa
I’ve learned that one of the hardest things about working from home is learning to switch between work mode and home mode. For office workers, this comes just from arriving at and leaving the office, but those working from home have to be more deliberate about this.
One way you can do this is to set yourself tasks that start your day and tasks that end your day. Perhaps the first thing you do is write a to-do list for the day and the last thing you do is write a 2-minute wrap up of the day and reminders for tomorrow. This puts bookends on your day which help you engage in the morning and switch off from work at the end of the day.
5. Set clear boundaries
Working at home can mean extra distractions. Hence, it is important to let your family know that when you are working, you should not be disturbed, just the same as if you were in an office.
If you are sitting at your designated workspace during your work hours, it means you are working. Nothing else. As difficult as this can be, especially for children, it is vital for them to understand this so you can get your work done efficiently, which will allow you more family time in the long run.
6. Use work phrases
Once you have set clear work/home boundaries for those around you, you need to do the same for yourself. Using phrases such as “I’m going to work” or “I need to get this for the office” helps you to keep your work life and home life separate which is important, both for your work productivity and your ability to enjoy home life.
7. Get separate phone lines
Another important step in stopping your work life from bleeding into your home life, and vice versa, is to have a separate phone for work and personal communications. Getting texts and phone calls from friends and family can be extremely distracting during work hours and conversely, you don’t want to be receiving work-related calls outside of your working hours. Having two separate phones solves both these issues.
8. Plan out your day and tasks
Not having a manager breathing down your neck and checking in every 10 minutes can be one of the best things about not being in an office. However, it also means that you have to be extra organised, because there is no one around to ensure you stay on track.
Make sure you know, in advance, what you need to get done in a week/day and have a plan for what you are going to be doing at any given time. It’s all too easy to get distracted without someone to keep you on track.
9. Group similar activities
Acting as your own manager means you have to be smart about how you organise your tasks. When your brain has to switch from one task to another, it takes some time to refocus. You can minimise this by grouping similar tasks together.
If you know that you have several emails you need to send today, block out a period of time to deal with all of them at once. This is much more efficient than jumping in and out of your inbox all day and avoids the distractions that can come from this.
10. Set up your computer to avoid distraction on the Internet
Another issue that can arise from not having anyone looking over your shoulder is the tendency to get distracted more easily. You can mitigate this by setting up your computer for productivity.
Create a separate “work” profile that does not have any distracting programs or notifications. You can also install browser plugins like StayFocusd or Forest which allow you to block certain websites that you find tend to distract you.
11. Make use of technology to stay connected with others
Staying in touch with others is vital to your productivity. In an office environment, this happens just by being in close proximity to your colleagues and having meetings but when you are working from home, this can take a little extra effort.
Take advantage of instant messaging, video conferencing and regular calls to stay in touch with the rest of your team to benefit from their support and input.
12. Get fast and stable Internet connection
Few things are as frustrating as trying to get some work done and having your Internet connection sputter out and die. A poor connection will also limit your ability to communicate effectively and those you report to will not appreciate you being un-contactable for a long period of time.
Hence, invest in the best Internet provider you can afford to ensure that you stay well connected and are able to do your work effectively.
13. Make use of task management and productivity tools
There are hundreds of tools out there designed to help you organise your day to day. Make use of them! Tools like Asana and Trello can let you stay on top of what you and the other people in your team are doing.
With features like task notifications, dependencies and integrations with lots of other systems (Trello, Dropbox, etc.), Asana is a fully featured way to organise teams over large, complex projects. For something a little more straightforward, Trello offers a Kanban style approach that is flexible enough to organise any project.
I can’t tell you which one is better – it depends on the type of project you are working on, the functionalities you need, and so on!
14. Automate as much as you can
While there are tools that help you to avoid distraction and tools that let you manage projects better, there are also tools that allow you to automate parts of your work! IFTTT and Zapier allow you to create scenarios that link up various devices and accounts so that you can automate processes that would otherwise take valuable time and effort.
If you are maintaining multiple social media accounts, you can automate posting on all of them from one place. Perhaps, when you upload a new file to a Google Drive, you want a link to it to be automatically posted in your team’s Slack channel? The world is now more connected than ever. Take advantage of this by identifying repetitive tasks and automating them to save time.
15. Work when you are at your most productive
Everyone is different. Some of us love to wake up at 6am and get through their work as early as possible. Others don’t start to feel creative and productive until later in the day (that’s me!). Working from home allows you to take advantage of your personal schedule.
Spend some time thinking about when you do your best work and organise your working hours to suit. Be careful though! This isn’t an excuse to be inconsistent, just because you aren’t feeling productive one day!
16. Have a productivity playlist
Did you know that listening to music increases your dopamine and serotonin levels, which in turn makes us happier, more motivated, and less anxious? Now, the next question is, what type of music should you listen to?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. It depends on both your individual preference and the task you are working on. For example, when working on language-focused tasks like writing and reading, you should avoid music with lyrics as it tends to be distracting. If you need to get your creative juices flowing, plug in to more upbeat songs at 50–80 beats per minute.
17. Take breaks
It can be easy to see taking breaks as a waste of time, especially when your workday is defined by getting a certain amount of work done before you can finish up. However, research actually suggests the opposite.
A recent study by DeskTime found that the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then take 17 minute breaks on average. This is likely to differ, person to person, so experiment and find out what works for you.
Working at home also allows you to use your break time to do some light exercise, stretching or meditation that you might not be comfortable doing in an office environment.
18. Use a reward system
Set up a reward system for yourself. For example, you can give yourself a 15 minutes break to grab a cup of coffee (for me, it will be bubble tea!) from your neighbourhood coffee shop once you complete a challenging or extensive task.
Remember to be strict with yourself and take regular breaks, or you will soon realise that having a burnout is a whole lot less productive than taking coffee breaks.
19. Keep strict hours
This is another point about being disciplined. For some, working from home can be a fast-track to a terrible work-life balance. It can be all too easy to think “I’ll just finish up this report” and end up working an extra 3 hours every night when working at home.
Try to avoid this. Set yourself a strict start and finishing time, and aim to get your day’s work done within those hours.
20. Create or re-evaluate your long-term plan
When you feel unmotivated or stuck, you should take a step back and re-evaluate your work. This is best done with close team members or business partners as they would understand your current situation the most, and you will be able to bounce ideas off each other. Sometimes, approaching your work from a different perspective can help you get out of your work slump.
You should also chart out a long-term plan which states clearly the milestones to hit in order to achieve your final goal. This will give you a clearer path to productivity and success.
21. Change your workplace every now and then
Remember that with a work from home arrangement, you have the flexibility to move around a little too. If you are feeling a little cooped up in your home office, head out to a café or a coworking space.
Sometimes, when you are feeling uninspired, a change of scene can be just what you need to get the creative juices flowing again.
22. Get social
Humans are social creatures and working from home can be lonely. It is important to recognise this and make a little effort to maintain some social interaction in your life.
Organise a lunch with your friends, go to a yoga class or join a running group. Remember, you have more flexibility with your work hours than the average office worker, so use that to organise your schedule around events that keep you in touch with people. The social interaction will do you some good and, who knows, you might even have a conversation that sparks your next big idea!
23. Have what you need to get the work done
If your home is going to be your office, it had better be stocked like one. Spend some time thinking about all the tools and stationery you use at work. Do you use a whiteboard for keeping track of projects? A webcam for video conferencing? Any other tools of the trade? Chances are, you will need most of them while working at home.
Be sure to have everything you need and a good supply of stationery which is specifically for use in your home office. You would not want to get halfway through a workday, then realise you’ve hit a dead end because you are missing something.
24. Invest in ergonomics
If you are going to be sitting at your desk all day, invest in your workstation. Avoid repetitive strain injury (RSI) by ensuring that your workspace is set up to avoid unnecessary strain on your body.
You may have to spend more on an ergonomic chair, keyboard, mouse, and so on, but it will be well worth it to minimise the health problems that can arise from a poor working environment.
25. Keep your accounts separate
When you begin working from home, work-based expenses can soon rack up. Be it phone bills, stationery or software subscriptions, be sure to track these expenses separately from your day-to-day personal expenses.
Trust me, this will allow for a much easier accounting process when it comes to compiling your expense claims or filing your taxes.
TL;DR? Here’s the list for a quick glance through.
- Set and stick to routines
- Get dressed for the day
- Designate a workspace
- Mentally transition from home to work and vice versa
- Set clear boundaries
- Use work phrases
- Get separate phone lines
- Plan out your day and tasks
- Group similar activities
- Set up your computer to avoid distraction on the Internet
- Make use of technology to stay connected with others
- Get fast and stable Internet connection
- Make use of task management and productivity tools
- Automate as much as you can
- Work when you are at your most productive
- Have a productivity playlist
- Take breaks
- Use a reward system
- Keep strict hours
- Create or re-evaluate your long-term plan
- Change your workplace every now and then
- Get social
- Have what you need to get the work done
- Invest in ergonomics
- Keep your accounts separate
Sharing is caring – if you have any tips for working from home effectively, please share and comment below! 🙂