10 Helpful Tips To Stay Productive
Work From Home
Working from home is not as easy as it sounds, and many people are suddenly learning this the hard way. Here are some tips that I hope will make it easier for you!
With the Coronavirus pandemic taking an economic, physical, and emotional toll around the world, millions of professionals have unexpectedly been forced to work from home and telecommute for the first time.
I’ve been working remotely (from home or in foreign countries) for the last 10 years while running my travel blogging business, and my wife Anna also works from home. We have a 1 year old son to look after too.
So I know from personal experience that it can be stressful & takes practice!
Working from home can be tricky when you have no coworkers or bosses nearby to keep you on track. It’s easy to get distracted, feel lonely, become overwhelmed, or stay unproductive!
So here are my best tips for working from home to help you tackle this new normal — who knows, you may never want to return to the office again!
My Best Working From Home Tips
1. Create A Home Office Or Workspace
Working from home doesn’t mean typing on your laptop from a beach hammock. Photos like that are usually staged and it just isn’t practical. Have you ever tried to read your laptop outside in the glaring sun?
One of the biggest challenges to working from home according to Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom is keeping work separate from the rest of your life. Building a dedicated workspace helps.
I highly recommend investing in things like a standing desk, ergonomic office chair, an external monitor for your laptop, hanging artwork on the walls, placing potted plants around (real or fake), and creating a workspace that helps YOU feel calm and productive. Whatever that may look like.
While working from your couch or the kitchen counter is possible, in my experience it’s much easier to get distracted if you don’t use a dedicated room or corner that you’ve designed specifically as a workspace.
2. Stick To A Work Schedule
When I first started working from home many years ago, I would just work whenever I felt like it. Why not sleep until noon and work after that? Well, after a few months of this, I realized I wasn’t really getting much done. I kept putting off work because I could — there was no boss breathing down my neck.
Eventually you realize you’ll need a regular routine, much like when you were working from the office. A dedicated start time, an end time, and maybe even some kind of “commute” to act as a transition between your work day and home time.
Pick any hours you’d like of course, but then stick with them. Some people, like myself, work best in the mornings. Others, like my wife, prefer evenings.
Normally my morning “commute” consists of driving our son Dylan to daycare, then grabbing a coffee. Returning home to sit at my desk officially starts my workday.
3. Put Some Pants On!
I’ve certainly worked from home in my underwear on more than one occasion — with a glass of wine in one hand and a bag of cookies in the other. It can be fun, but generally the day ends up being pretty unproductive.
So now I tend to get dressed up for “work” just like when I had a typical 9 to 5 job, even while working from home.
You can definitely dress more relaxed, but working from your home computer without pants is probably best saved for causal Fridays.
Plus, with all the video conferencing going on these days, you probably want to appear presentable on camera. That also means taking a shower, shaving, hair, makeup, etc. Whatever your routine used to be — keep most of it.
4. Avoid Common Distractions
It’s so very easy to get distracted these days — in fact companies are making billions trying to figure out new ways to fight for your limited attention. These challenges are especially difficult for people who work from home.
I recommend completely logging out of social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter when you don’t need to access them for work purposes. Turn off certain notifications on your smartphone too.
If that’s still not enough, you can use software like Apple’s Screen Time that limits when you can even access these programs.
To keep from getting distracted by other things going on in your home, try picking up a pair of noise canceling headphones and listen to your favorite tunes.
You need to step it up and police yourself! Otherwise you’ll suddenly look at the clock realizing the day is over — with nothing to show for it.
5. Communicate With Loved Ones
When you start working from home, other people may not understand what it means. Family and friends may assume you have nothing to do all day, or can just postpone your work indefinitely to help them with random chores and errands.
That’s not how this works. Kindly explain that working from home doesn’t actually change too much — you still need to be strict with when work-time starts and ends. Don’t let them take advantage of the fact that you’re home.
Set boundaries and let people know there will be blocks of time when you need to focus on work and nothing else. Because if you’re not working, you’re not earning money! Working from home is not an extended vacation.
6. Get Some Exercise
Don’t neglect your body while working from home. Even if you sit at a desk all day, there are ways to exercise and stay healthy. Remember that in a normal office environment you’re moving around the building — so do the same at home.
Take a break and go for a walk down the street. Experiment with using a standing desk so you’re not sitting in a chair all day. Practice office stretching routines every few hours.
Maybe hit the gym or go for a run before/after work. Exercising on a regular basis will help you feel healthy and stay focused on the work at hand. You’ll be more productive.
7. Remember To Socialize
Working in a home office 5 days a week can be lonely. In a regular office setting you have coworkers to joke with or catch up on the latest gossip at the water cooler. Try to keep up with these types of social interactions — and find new ones.
Connect with other people through messaging programs like Slack or video calls like Zoom. Even text messaging works. Check up on coworkers, see how they’re doing, get book recommendations, or ask what they’ve been watching lately (I’m loving Hunters on Amazon Prime right now!)
You can also join online communities made up of others who work from home like you do. Because I’m a blogger, I’m part of some Facebook mastermind groups with others in the same field. We often share tips, struggles, and funny anecdotes that we can all relate to.
8. Find Time To Decompress
While the introverts among us (like me!) will thrive working from home, others might experience strong feelings of loneliness and depression without the normal office setting they’re used to.
This is one reason why it’s so important to decompress after work.
Go for a walk. Take a hike (if pandemic restrictions allow). Play with your pets or kids in the backyard. Do some yoga or meditation. Listen to music or a podcast. Jump on a video call with friends.
Whatever you need to relax and “turn off” work mode for the day, do it.
9. Take Sick Days
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should work if you’re feeling sick. If you work for yourself, it can be tempting to work in bed from your laptop. Don’t do this — it’s better to rest and get healthy again as soon as possible.
If you’re employed by another company, do they offer paid sick leave while you’re working remotely? What kinds of guidelines are in place for this scenario? Ask questions and talk to human resources to find out.
No one should be forced to work while sick, whether they’re working in a typical office setting or telecommuting from home. Get answers now so there are no misunderstandings. With so many people forced to work remotely for the first time — there are bound to be some problems.
10. Working From Home With Kids
One benefit to working from home is the ability to spend more time with your family. But this can also be a headache, as I’m sure many are experiencing with schools shut down during the pandemic.
Trying to juggle parenting while working from home is difficult.
When we have to work at home with Dylan around, my wife and I try to take turns watching him while the other one works. Luckily he still takes afternoon naps, so we both get a 2 hour break in the afternoon.
Sometimes I’ll get up extra early to work while he’s sleeping, and Anna works late in the evening after he’s gone to bed. It can be tough — but manageable with good communication and planning.
Obviously this becomes much more difficult if there’s no one else to help you watch them. Sending your kids to daycare makes things easier, but it’s not an option for everyone.
Try to stock up on books, games, and puzzles to keep them entertained. Don’t be afraid to fire up Netflix Kids and let them watch shows or movies too. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures!
Work From Home Tools & Resources
Great Software For Working From Home
Useful Work From Home Products
Happy Remote Working!
So there you go, a few of my best tips for working from home after 10 years as a professional remote worker.
It can be a jarring experience in the beginning, but eventually you’ll become a pro. Good luck, stay safe out there, and don’t forget your pants!
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I hope you enjoyed my guide on how to work from home! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
Have any questions about working from home? Do you have other suggestions to add? Let me know in the comments below!