Working from home — some people love it, other people hate it. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you’re likely spending an increased amount of time in the confines of your own home these days.
Even before the coronavirus was impacting our physical work environment, the number of telecommuters had been steadily ticking up. According to Global Workplace Analytics, telecommuting has grown 173% since 2005, with 4.7 million people now working at least part time from home.
Below are 10 tips for establishing an efficient, productive, and sustainable home office setup. Whether you’re in this situation temporarily or for the long haul, we hope this working from home advice will help you adjust and stay productive.
- Set a schedule.
When you go into an office every day, you typically adhere to a routine with fairly consistent start and end times. Those lines are blurred when you work from home. No one is paying attention to your arrival or departure times, so there’s less accountability. For some, this may make it hard to stay on track. For others who already maintain long hours to accommodate heavy workloads, the lack of a schedule can make it even harder to maintain work-life balance.
- Get dressed.
Even if you won’t see anyone else for the entire day besides your cat, it’s hard to feel productive psychologically in your pajamas. In the early days of telecommuting, staying in sweats might feel like a perk. But for many remote workers, this habit can cause a sense of sluggishness by the end of the workday. Even if you’ve accomplished a lot, it can feel like your work day never really started if you skip getting dressed.
- Stay connected.
Depending on your line of work, you may still feel connected through conference calls and virtual team meetings. But even if you’re independent and don’t join as many of those, try to find excuses to have regular, virtual check-ins with key colleagues. Consider starting your calls chatting with them about what’s going on in their lives or big projects they’re working on. This helps to make up for some of the water cooler conversations you miss out on when working remotely.
- Take a walk.
Chances are, working from home means a much more sedentary lifestyle than you’d otherwise lead. Especially if you’ve suddenly made the switch to working from home, the shift can be jarring. Taking a walk — whether it’s around your neighborhood, up and down your apartment building’s stairs, or even just around your backyard — can provide a much-needed break to clear your head, get your blood flowing, and to look at something other than a screen.
- Designate an official home office.
Just as you don’t want to roll out of bed and start working in your pajamas, it’s also not a great idea to roll over in bed and grab your laptop from your bedside table. Having an established workspace will help you maintain boundaries between home and work life.
- Limit distractions.
By far, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to telecommuting is finding ways to limit all of the distractions around you. That book you’ve almost finished is calling you name. That TV show you recorded is waiting for you to watch. The kids’ laundry might be piling up in the laundry room.
- Listen to music.
For some people, it’s too quiet at home. There’s no office buzz going on around them, and they miss it. For others, playing music — especially with headphones in — can help cut out the noise from family members or roommates who might also be working or schooling from home. Figure out what works for you, whether it’s quiet background noise from a playlist, your favorite band’s music channel, or even the sound of a noise machine or a TV in the next room.
- Create house rules.
It’s easy to put this pressure on yourself, too. Maybe one of the benefits of working from home is that you can take small breaks to tackle things like laundry, but that shouldn’t be an expectation. You need to give yourself permission to focus solely on work when you’re working, otherwise you’ll never get anything done. Don’t feel guilty about putting off other things on your to-do list. This is where that schedule comes in handy.
- Set team norms.
When teams are working remotely, check-in meetings are more important than ever. So is setting clear expectations with team norms. But before you send out a meeting invite, consider your colleagues’ schedules and preferences. Are they also working remotely, and if so, from what time zone? What is their ideal teleconference platform? Will you use video or not? Nobody likes logging on and find everyone on camera when you’re still in your pajamas (again, get dressed each day!) or haven’t run a comb through your hair.
- Be patient.
In this time of uncertainty, it’s particularly easy to feel stressed out or overwhelmed. As much as possible, try to practice patience — with yourself, with your colleagues, and with anyone you live with. Cultivating and expressing gratitude can make you a better leader, and it can also help you thrive in the face of change. Even if your organization, routine, or other aspects of your life are upended or changing dramatically, taking the time to de-stress and build your resilience and react patiently is worth the time and effort. It will also help you deal with uncertainty and anxiety.