Working from home is a blessing and a curse. No commute — blessing. Dealing with “You cut out, can you repeat that?” 40 times on a Zoom call — curse.
Though we can’t magically fix video conferencing technology, we can make the remote working situation a little easier.
By embracing the good (stretchy pants forever) and mitigating the bad (“I haven’t spoken to another person in a week!”), working from home can be productive, relatively low stress, and sometimes pretty fun!
Here are our top 22 tips for being your most productive self while working from home.
Whether you have an at-home office or a temporary set up on your kitchen table, make your workspace your temple. In short, keep that shit clean.
According to a 2011 study, digital and physical clutter takes more energy for our brains to process. This means working in a messy environment — from your desk to your desktop — actually wears down your brain and reduces overall productivity.
There’s a lingering stigma that if you work anywhere other than a formal table or desk while working remotely, you’re probably slacking off. The structure of a desk with a multi-monitor setup certainly has its benefits.
But so does stretching out on the floor if you struggle with back pain. Or sipping on a latte while reviewing spreadsheets from your favorite coffee shop. Or working from the couch in sweats with your feet propped up, just because.
Wherever you’re able to focus, be productive, and support your team is where you should work. Period.
In his book Atomic Habits, behavior scientist and author B.J. Fogg recommends starting the day by saying “Today is going to be a great day.” This “Maui Habit” sets people up for a positive mindset throughout the day, so they’re happier and more productive.
Now, sometimes the day seems like it will be anything but great, so Fogg has another option: “Today is going to be a great day… somehow.”
Even if things aren’t completely great, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a positive attitude and little moments of greatness throughout your day.
A lot of people will tell you to get up and put on real clothes. But, why would you do that? Many remote workers love that they don’t have to spend an hour getting ready every morning. And who’s wearing a suit sitting in their home office? Please tell us who’s doing that.
Still, the idea of a morning routine is a good one because it helps you “reattach” to your work. Just like we detach from work at night, some research shows we need to give our brains a chance to reattach in the morning.
With an a.m. routine, you give yourself a chance to wake up and have a moment before you fully attach to your workday. Your routine doesn’t need to be much — for example, you could brush your teeth, make a cup of coffee or tea, eat breakfast, and do the dishes.
Just keep it consistent and make sure it ends with you logging on to work at the same time every day.
A great option for that morning ritual: a hot shower! Even better, though, if you schedule in time for a bath. A recent study found that baths are more beneficial to our physical and mental health than routine showers.
The study was small, with only 38 participants, but we’ll take any excuse to make time for a soak — especially if it means we can unwind and focus up.
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to constantly work at home. Keep set hours. Have a conversation with your boss or managers about when you’ll be available and then stick to that.
Starting at the same time every morning and shutting down the same time each night curbs the temptation to check email at 10 p.m. and keeps you on a schedule.
The best you can, set up a separate workplace in your home. Sure, we’d all love to have a book-lined study to work in, but most of us can barely spare 2 feet on the kitchen table to put our laptop.
No matter how much space you have, try to carve out an area that’s just for work. It’ll help you stay focused (and not be distracted by Netflix) and make you feel like you still have “home” areas you can relax in.
If you can, work next to a window. Getting natural sunlight helps ease depressive symptoms and makes you look great on those video calls.
If you can’t get natural light in your workspace, add an extra lamp or two to make sure everything is illuminated. The brighter lights will help your mood and ease eye strain from staring at your laptop.
Just 15 to 20 minutes should do it. One survey of remote workers found that taking breaks made them more productive. So, get up from your desk, walk around, have a stretch, or do whatever you like to take a moment away from work.
When you get back to it, you’ll be more relaxed and ready to focus.
If working from home is new to your job, make sure that you have good communication with your managers and set clear goals. Let them know what you can and can’t do from home. Then, try to set deadlines to make sure that things keep moving in a timely manner.
Working from home can be an adjustment, especially if you have kids, roommates, or partners as your new cubicle mates. Don’t set up massive expectations for work until you figure out how you and your team work best in a remote situation.
A study found that people working from home had a boost in concentration in some areas and lacked concentration in others.
For dull tasks, people had a harder time motivating themselves when they worked from home. But, telecommuting workers found all kinds of focus and productivity for creative tasks.
So, while you’re at home, try to tackle more of the creative aspects of your job. You’ll likely get more done, have more fun doing it, and maybe feel a little better about the less exciting tasks on your agenda.
Not since the days of dial-up have many of us had to worry about our bandwidth. The internet always just works, right?
Well, now that most people are hogging up bandwidth with video calls and marathons of “Tiger King,” your important work meeting via Zoom has some competition.
To make sure your important video calls go uninterrupted, set up an internet schedule with everyone in your home. Put your prime internet time on a calendar.
That way, you know not to stream “Westworld” while your roommate is on a conference call and you’ll have the same courtesy when an important video meeting comes up.
Working from home comes with an array of distractions. The people in the apartment next door might have a dog that loves to bark only from 9 to 5. The neighbors might decide to go on a lawn mowing marathon right as you’re trying to concentrate.
Or maybe your house is too quiet. Whatever the trouble, get headphones and a good playlist. Play white noise, subtle classical music, or anything that helps you drown out distractions or provide a little workable background noise.
Time moves differently when you’re working at home. The relaxed environment makes it easy to forget little things or lose track of what you have to do. So, keep a simple to-do list.
Write down the top three tasks for the day or the important things that need to be done by the end of the week. Bask in the feeling of accomplishment as you crush each task and check it off the list.
It’s easy to misconstrue messages via text, email, or (our workplace fave) Slack. But don’t spend too much time worrying, says confidence coach Susie Moore. If you aren’t sure what somebody meant in an email, just ask.
Remote communication can be difficult at first, so it’s okay to double check and make sure you’re on the same page.
If you’re worried that someone is actually being passive aggressive, just take the text at face value. Overanalyzing their words will only make you feel bad. If a jerk co-worker meant to be passive aggressive when they said “Oh, that’s just great,” take a breath and move on with your day.
Working from home, you have no risk of them hovering over your desk to force their crappy energy on you, so why obsess over it?
For some reason, many employers seemed to forget that telephones exist. It’s video call or bust for a lot of offices and it just doesn’t have to be that way.
If you got a confusing email or your video calls keep glitching out, request a regular old phone call. Sometimes simply hearing a voice in a technology we all know how to use can end confusion quickly and help communication as a whole.
First of all, you do not need to dress up or put makeup on for video calls. But for some people, getting jazzed up for calls can make them feel a little put together. When your days feel like they’re all bleeding together, this little bit of effort can make things feel normal.
Another thing they don’t prep you for in school? Staring at your own face on a video call, which can be super distracting and leave you tempted to fluff your hair 50 times a minute.
Instead of constantly primping on camera, have a fun, quick look you can put on (especially for a call you’re not looking forward to). A pair of earrings, a hat, a little lipstick — it can all make the call feel less tedious and you’ll enjoy sneaking glances at your beautiful face during the meeting.
Make time to eat lunch every day. Take a total break from work and get away from screens if you can.
This tip may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to work right through your normal lunch break. Promise us you’ll take the time to eat and recharge with a nutritious meal. We’ve even got this meal plan to get ya started.
If you can, try to get outside for a bit each day. It reminds you that there’s a whole world outside of your home and this break from computers, work, and constant messages is going to do wonders for your physical and mental health.
No matter your job, you’re probably a lot more sedentary when you’re working from home than when you’re in an actual workplace. To combat the increased sitting and the anxiety/depression that can come from feeling isolated, try to get some exercise.
Exercise has been shown to reduce depression and you don’t have to do a bootcamp class to get results. Take a walk, do an online class, or dance around to your favorite song.
A little extra movement will help you feel physically looser, healthier, more relaxed, and upbeat.
Studies show that people get depressed when they feel isolated. Unfortunately, it’s easy to feel alone when you’re working from home. To stay connected, be sure to talk to friends and coworkers.
Have a non-work slack chain or make a date to call a friend. It might take a lot more effort to stay social, but it’s so important. So make a Facetime date to remember that you’re not alone.
You might want to sleep until the very last second, then just start answering emails in bed. Before you know it, it’s 2 p.m. and you’re still in bed both tired from working and tired from all that laying down!
Though your bed is undoubtedly cozy, try to get up at about the same time each day and don’t answer any emails, texts, or slacks until you’re fully out of bed.
Still not convinced? Research actually shows that using your bed strictly for sleep (and, er, one other fun activity) can help strengthen your body’s association with your bed and sleep.
In short, that means keeping work out of the bedroom can help you sleep better and be more productive in the long run.