Learning how to work from home effectively, productively, and healthily while maintaining a constructive work/life balance is a crucial skill in this brave new world where teleworking policies are fast becoming the norm.
In this article, we’ll explore some tips and tricks for how to work from home successfully, as well as the tools you’ll need, and how to stay motivated.
How to Work from Home – Tips and Tricks
Establish a Workday Schedule and Stick to It
Disorder is the biggest productivity killer. Structure and routine are its savior.
When figuring out how to work from home productively, you need to set yourself clear guidelines for when to work, when to take breaks, and when to call it a day. Stick to this schedule, remembering that breaks are important. Being cooped up inside alone all day without stopping can be detrimental to your productivity over time, as you become more tired and less motivated to complete your tasks. So, be strict with yourself and build in regular, short breaks away from the screen throughout the day – and remember to keep moving. Stand up, stretch your legs, and step outside to breathe in the fresh air. Go for a walk or a quick jog. Water the plants. Sweep the yard. You get the idea.
In addition, make a to-do list at the start of each week to manage your workload, complete with realistic deadlines to complete your various tasks and sub-tasks. Commit to these deadlines, focusing on one task at a time. This way, you will have a structure in place to keep you from procrastinating or losing focus by trying to multi-task.
Those who know how to work from home effectively know the importance of minimizing all possible distractions.
Social media is one of the biggest timewasters for remote workers. So, make it hard for yourself to access it. Remove any shortcuts from your browser – or, even better, simply log out of your accounts on both your computer and your phone during your working day.
Keep the TV turned off and disable all news sites, instant messaging, and other non-essential notifications from your computer and smartphone.
How to Work from Home: Set Boundaries and Ground Rules
Shared living spaces can be just as noisy as – or even noisier than – shared workspaces. As such, you need clear boundaries and ground rules. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re not working – and your children, housemates, partner, or anyone else you live with need to know and respect that. Have a conversation with them. Let them know that you have work to do and need quiet time to do it. Between 9 am and 5 pm (or whatever it is), you’re at work – so you can’t do chores, fix the fence, play games, or anything else during that time.
Similarly, you need to set boundaries with work, too. Talk to your manager. Establish the hours when you are contactable, and those when you have effectively left work and “gone home” for the day.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
A functional, dedicated space is crucial for productive remote working. If you don’t have a home office, you need to create a bespoke space somewhere that is exclusively reserved for work. It might be a desk in the bedroom or a corner of the kitchen table. Whatever or wherever it is, when you’re there with your laptop, pens, paper, and work tools, you are working – and the closed-door serves as the signal to those you live with that you’re “at work” and not to be disturbed.
Communicate Regularly with Management and Colleagues
Learning how to work from home also means learning new ways to keep communication flowing between colleagues and management. Organize five or ten-minute calls with your manager (or, if you are the manager, with your team members) to kick off and/or wrap up each day.
Attend all videoconferences and conference calls to stay in the loop, being sure to speak up during the meeting, so everyone knows you’re there. Respond to emails in a timely fashion, and check in regularly with your colleagues via dedicated instant messaging, collaboration platforms, or by picking up the phone.
If communication – or lack of it – starts to become a real issue, talk to your colleagues or boss about your concerns so you can find solutions for staying better connected.
How to Work from Home – The Tools You Need
Beyond the above general tips and tricks for how to work from home effectively, there are some key tools and applications you need to stay connected and productive.
Here’s what you need.
A Reliable Internet Connection
Remote work hinges upon internet access – and so it needs to be reliable, with backup options at the ready. If you share your household with other people – like kids or housemates with PlayStations, for example – you’ll need to either build internet usage into your ground rules or invest in higher speeds and bandwidth. For backup in case your primary home connection goes down, mobile Wi-fi hotspot devices are a worthwhile investment.
How to Work from Home and Stay Connected: Team Chat Apps
Team chat apps are essential for managing multiple asynchronous conversations (organized by topic, project, team, or whatever it may be) between multiple team members in one place – and are far more efficient than email. Today’s best tools allow you to have communal conversations with whole teams or private conversations with individuals. You can also share files instantly and search past messages to extract relevant information. Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Chat are all excellent options.
How to work from home and still have facetime with co-workers? Videoconferencing tools enable remote team meetings and presentations, and the best ones have screen-sharing functionality allowing participants to share what’s happening on their computer screen with others during live conversations. Zoom is one of the most popular group video call apps – allowing 40-minute calls with up to 100 people on the free version, and up to 1,000 on paid plans – with Google Meet (for G Suite users), GoToMeeting and Skype for Business being other reliable, feature-rich options.
Project Management Tools
One of the biggest challenges for teams learning how to work from home is figuring out how to assign tasks and manage their progress without causing confusion or missing important deadlines and deliverables. Spreadsheets and to-do list apps – such as Todoist and TickTick – can be useful, but for more complex projects with multiple team members, fully-fledged project management tools are in order.
Some options to consider are Trello, Monday, Asana, and Allthings. All allow you to organize tasks into workflows, assign them to team members, track their progress, and communicate with other users via comments.
Figuring out how to work from home effectively also means ensuring your devices and data are protected from cybersecurity threats.
You’ll need the following security tools to do so:
- Firewall: To monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic, effectively preventing unauthorized access to your home network. Norton, Avast, and Bitdefender all offer robust firewall solutions.
- Anti-Virus Software: To protect your devices from malicious software (malware). Kaspersky, McAfee, and Norton are all big names in the anti-virus space.
- Encryption: To scramble data on your devices, rendering it unusable should it fall into the wrong hands. AxCrypt, Folder Lock, and VeraCrypt all provide reliable options.
- Cloud-based Backup: To ensure important files and data are always retrievable should your primary device fail or become compromised. You can use OneDrive or Google Drive to back up your files, or Backblaze and IDrive are good paid options.
- Password Manager: To store all your unique passwords in an encrypted database. 1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane are all excellent personal password managers.
How to Work from Home and Stay Motivated
Motivation and self-discipline are big, ongoing challenges when it comes to learning how to online work from home effectively.
Here are a few final tips to keep you focused.
Get Up Early and Get Dressed
Avoid the temptation to laze around in bed until noon. Establishing a routine that gets you started early puts you in a proactive frame of mind – and proactivity leads to productivity. And when you get up, put on your work clothes. This doesn’t have to be a suit and tie – but it does have to be different from your relaxing weekend wear (or just your dressing gown). It’s all psychological – if you wear lazy clothing, you’ll act more lazily and get less done.
Learning how to work from home is all about balancing productivity and discipline with the freedom and flexibility that remote working offers. The temptation, of course, is to binge-watch your favorite series on Netflix. Instead, reward yourself with half an episode (or whatever the reward might be) once you’ve done two hours of solid work or finished a certain task. Moderation is key – micro-rewards will give you regular respite, yet won’t eat into your productivity.
In addition to rewarding yourself, setting yourself certain challenges can help you stay motivated. For example, you might set yourself the challenge of writing X number of words in 30 minutes – then trying to beat that the next day. Or, you could challenge yourself to complete all planned tasks half an hour earlier than usual – and then use that extra time as a reward.
How to Work from Home Pro Tip: Talk to Your Coworkers
Working from home is very different from working in a busy office with coworkers to talk to – and this can be very isolating and depressing over time, leaving you feeling less motivated to complete your tasks. Remedy this by ensuring you talk to your colleagues every day either via phone or a video call – don’t just put it in an email, make actual real-time contact.
Look After Your Body
Be mindful of “tech neck” (the result of being sat working on a computer all day, every day) and other muscle and body problems that can arise. Stand up and move around regularly – and go outside to do it. Your house or apartment can become a bunker when working from home. Break out of it and take regular exercise outside. In addition, avoid junk food, and get plenty of sleep each night. A healthy body helps you keep a healthy mind – resting properly, eating healthily, and remaining active will boost your energy levels, motivating you to do and achieve more.
How to Work from Home
How to Work from Home – Tips and Tricks: – Establish a Workday Schedule and Stick to It – Remove Distractions – Set Boundaries and Ground Rules – Have a Dedicated Workspace – Communicate Regularly with Management and Colleagues Tools You Need: – A Reliable Internet Connection – Team Chat Apps – Videoconferencing Tools – Project Management Tools – Security Tools How to Stay Motivated: – Get Up Early and Get Dressed – Reward Yourself – Challenge Yourself – Talk to Your Coworkers – Look After Your Body`