Work from home is becoming more mainstream than ever. Remote work increased by over 150% between 2019 and 2022 (source). With better technology and more flexible roles, employees can now enjoy the perks of telecommuting. But making the transition from a traditional office to a home office requires strategy.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore actionable tips to not only work from home, but succeed at remote work. Whether you just snagged a new telecommuting role or are struggling with productivity, use this advice to excel as a home-based worker.
Set Up an Optimal Home Office Space
The foundation for effective remote work starts with your physical home workspace. Without a dedicated area designed for focus and productivity, working from home can quickly become challenging. Follow these home office essentials:
Designate a Work-Only Area
Ideally, your work from home setup should occupy its own room or area closed off from the rest of the house. Trying to work in a common area like the kitchen table adds distractions. Use physical separation to signal to your brain it’s time to focus when in your workspace.
Minimize External Noise and Disruptions
Audit your designated work area for potential noise issues. Move it away from busy street traffic if possible. Soundproof the room by adding carpet, curtains, or foam panels to reduce ambient noise. Wear noise-canceling headphones to drown out any remaining distractions.
Ensure Adequate Lighting
Proper lighting limits eye strain and provides an energizing environment. Make sure your desk area has adequate natural lighting from windows as well as adjustable overhead lighting. If natural light is limited, consider getting a sunlight lamp.
Support Proper Ergonomics
Hunching over a laptop all day can ache your back and neck. Invest in an external keyboard, mouse, monitor arm, and other desktop equipment to properly support a pain-free work posture. Your chair should also provide lumbar support. Get up and move around regularly.
Upgrade Your Wi-Fi Connection
Roster internet makes remote work miserable. Upgrade your internet package or install a mesh network to blanket your home with fast, reliable Wi-Fi. Use an Ethernet cable for the most stable connection when possible. Close bandwidth-draining apps when working.
Add Personal Touches
Just because it’s your office doesn’t mean it should feel sterile. Decorate your space with favorite artwork, pictures, plants, and other personal items that bring you joy. Having a comfortable yet professional remote work area makes putting in hours from home enjoyable.
Adopt Productive Habits and Routines
Once your home office setup promotes productivity, implement these habits and routines for staying focused:
Stick to a Consistent Schedule
Maintain a regular work schedule as if you were going into an actual office. This keeps your circadian rhythm regulated and activities structured. Avoid the trap of working late into the nights. Set work hours and off-hours and stick to them.
Get Ready Like It’s a Normal Work Day
Your morning routine signals to your body and mind that it’s time for work mode. Stick to your typical weekday morning ritual – shower, breakfast, get dressed in work attire, commute to your home office space. Saving time by skipping parts of your routine can negatively impact your productivity.
Limit Distractions During Work Hours
Working from home means your pet, TV, hobbies, and fridge are always within reach. Develop the discipline to avoid these distractions during set work hours. Silence phone alerts, close distracting apps and websites, and ask family members to limit interruptions.
Take Regular Breaks
Don’t fall into the trap of working for hours on end at home. Take regular 5-10 minute microbreaks every 45-60 minutes worked. Stand up, stretch, walk around, drink water. This mental reset boosts energy and engagement.
Define Tasks and Priorities
Each workday, define your top tasks, timelines, and priorities. Checking email and social media first thing leads to wasted time. Tackle mission-critical projects with deep focus instead. Use tools like Trello, Asana, or Excel to track tasks.
Studies show multitasking severely damages productivity. Give your full attention to one task until a logical stopping point before switching gears. Trying to bounce between tasks constantly drains mental energy.
Leverage Useful Remote Work Tools and Software
The right mix of technology, communication, and collaboration tools form the foundation of effective remote teams. Software replaces functionality typically handled in-person.
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Face-to-face video chat helps remote teams build connections and communicate clearly. Platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and GoToMeeting facilitate team meetings, 1-on-1 discussions, screen sharing, and webinars.
Rather than relying on local hard drives, cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive allow seamless file sharing and collaboration. Cloud storage also enables remote access from any device.
Apps like Trello, Asana, Basecamp, and Monday.com give transparency into team workflows, timelines, and task ownership. Robust project management systems help coordinate distributed workers.
Instant messaging maintains quick communication without disrupting focus. Platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Discord enable chat, private groups, video calls, and notifications to keep teams aligned.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) provide secure remote access to company systems and networks. VPNs encrypt sensitive company and customer data being accessed and shared remotely.
Understanding how time is allocated is difficult with distributed teams. Time monitoring software like TimeDoctor, Harvest, and Toggl provides visibility into how remote workers spend their hours.
Technology alone doesn’t guarantee efficiency. But combining the right mix of tools helps recreate office connectivity at home. Software should aid, not hinder, your team’s workflows.
Overcommunicate as a Remote Worker
Collaboration suffers when teams operate in silos. Overcommunication combats that isolation by promoting transparency and alignment.
Give Regular Work Updates
Proactively share daily and weekly progress updates via email or chat. Don’t assume your manager knows the status of your projects and tasks without updates. Err on the side of oversharing.
Be Overly Responsive
When working from home, delays in responses can happen easily. Reply to messages, comments, and emails as promptly as possible to prevent misalignment. Set up notifications and check in frequently.
Ask More Clarifying Questions
When discussions happen virtually, details can get missed. Ask follow up questions to confirm understanding. Seek extra clarity when requirements seem fuzzy. Don’t be afraid to ask “too many” questions.
Convey Enthusiasm Remotely
Nonverbal cues get lost through a screen. Convey tone and energy deliberately in writing through exclamation points, emojis, GIFs, and humor when appropriate. A little enthusiasm goes a long way in virtual interactions.
Don’t Rely Purely on Email
Nuanced discussions should happen over video chat or phone, not lengthy email threads. Move conversations to video or voice chat when too much is getting lost over email. Lean towards overcommunication through richer means.
Putting in extra effort to communicate and collaborate pays dividends for remote employee success. Going the extra mile keeps productivity high even when working miles apart.
Avoid Burnout as a Remote Employee
Working from home provides more flexibility but also makes boundaries around work and life blurry. Without conscious effort, remote workers risk reaching burnout.
Take Regular Vacations
Honor vacation plans and long weekends, even if you’re tempted to work through them since you’re already home. Time off is essential to recharge and reboot. Make use of “out of office” settings so contacts know you’re unplugged.
Master the Art of Disconnecting
In the office, you leave work physically behind at the end of each day. At home, work still surrounds you. Consciously step away through hobbies, exercise, family time or other activities. Shut down and store work devices to fully disconnect.
Isolate Your Home and Work Life
Resist doing personal tasks like laundry or watching TV during work hours. Save those activities for the evenings and weekends to keep focus high. Keep work and non-work activities separated to avoid burnout.
Set Firm Work Hours
Constantly working leads to exhaustion and poorer performance. Establish set weekly work hours with a firm cutoff time in the evenings. Adjust hours as needed, but stick to a consistent schedule long-term.
Make Time for Wellness
Prioritize healthy habits outside of work. Block off time for adequate sleep, regular exercise, proper nutrition, and other self-care activities. Making your mental and physical health a priority combats burnout.
Remote work provides awesome flexibility. But establishing healthy boundaries leads to more sustainable career success as a lifelong remote employee.
How to Succeed at Working from Home: Key Takeaways
The above tips outline key strategies for maintaining productivity and avoiding burnout as a remote worker or distributed team. Here are the core takeaways:
– Set up a dedicated home office space optimized for work.
– Adopt consistent daily habits and routines for focus time.
– Leverage tools and software to enable collaboration.
– Overcommunicate to limit remote work isolation.
– Set boundaries and avoid burnout long-term.
Remote work is here to stay. While working from home has many advantages, it also takes conscious effort and discipline. By implementing the tips and best practices in this guide, you can thrive as successful remote employee for years to come.