Of all the changes that have recently been made to our daily routines, a massive work from home movement has perhaps been most significant. With more than double the typical number of Americans regularly working from home, many are exploring new and unexpected ways to work and collaborate. What’s more, NPR suggests that these changes are here to stay. To maximize your productivity and work-life balance, check out these work from home tips from our team of experienced remote workers.
On Creating a Space:
Angela: Find a place at home that is going to be free from distractions, can be easily organized, and comfortable. I need to make sure that my workspace is just a workspace. Even if that means just a desk in a living room but its sole purpose is to act as a workspace so I am in essence still going to work.
Matteo: Having a comfortable and functional workspace is important. Get a comfortable chair and surround yourself with things you enjoy looking at and being around. A place where you can close the door and separate yourself from everything around you will certainly help with your productivity.
Tom: Having a place where you can focus is something I have found to be very important. Without a dedicated space I find it’s harder for me to retain focus from all the distractions I have around the house. My space is something I also can make my own and feel comfortable working in which makes me more productive.
Chantelle: A clean and dedicated workspace means a lot to me. I have a nasty tendency to let household debris pile up on my work from home desk. It really helps me regain my focus to take 5 minutes a day to make sure my space is organized without any unnecessary clutter. It can also be really great to have some workspace variety. As a longtime remote worker, I really love to change things up by working from coffee shops 1 or 2 afternoons a week. Since I can’t do that right now, I sometimes spend an afternoon working from my kitchen table or my partner’s desk. Even this small change of scene can get me out of a rut.
On Setting Boundaries:
Angela: This is a challenging aspect of working from home. Leaving work at work can be hard when the office is now in your house. I find that having the dedicated workspace does help with this. And when it’s time to “leave” work, the desk is off limits.
Matteo: Getting in the mind set that you are at work and in your office is important. Have a dedicated space that you can go to everyday instead of just sitting on the couch or different areas of the house. Try to keep the same hours daily so you have some sort of routine.
Tom: I’d love to say I have this one figured out but the truth is, it’s a work in progress. The temptation is to just walk over to my office and start working or to bring my laptop into the living room. However, it’s difficult to maintain a healthy balance if you can’t separate the two. That’s what makes having that dedicated space to work so important!
Chantelle: Like any exercise in boundary-setting, this is a challenging one, especially now that so many people are working from home and expect you to be available at all hours of the day. I think it’s important to have set hours and stick to them except in case of true emergencies. If you’re working from home, I believe it’s especially important to keep lunch sacred. Close your laptop and go to a separate room or, even better, a park. Remember that having breaks is crucial to maintaining productivity and avoiding burnout.
On Boosting Productivity:
Angela: Something that helps keep me motivated to work is making sure my daily tasks remain. I keep the same schedule of tasks throughout the day which helps keep me motivated. Being a working Mom I also had a talk with my kiddo to try and explain that work time is worktime.
Matteo: Minimize as many distractions as you can. Don’t look at your social media accounts while you are working or have a TV next to you that you can turn on at any moment. Take breaks if you are feeling overwhelmed or feel like you can’t concentrate on the task at hand. That will recharge your mind and get you focused again.
Tom: I can’t emphasize enough how important having the dedicated space helps with productivity. I’ve worked in offices ranging from just a few people in a space to dozens and I can tell you working alone removes distractions and certainly helps me remain focused. Aside from that, I’ve found that not having to jump in my car to get to work leaves more time to plan my days and weeks which definitely helps with productivity.
Chantelle: One thing that helps me hugely with productivity, both in my work life and in my personal one, is to-do lists. Every day, I choose an attainable number of the most important tasks on my running list. I write them down as bullet points on sticky notes, which I can (hopefully) complete and discard by the end of the day. I’m also a big believer in taking short breaks. If you’re hitting a wall, get outside for a 10-minute walk or take a quick coffee break. This always helps me out of a rut.
Angela: Finding ways to collaborate with my colleagues has been huge. I have been using Slack and Zoom. It helps in so many ways when you aren’t able to work together face to face. It’s so important to still hear what my coworkers are thinking and doing and suggestions that they have. I am also fairly new with my company so I need the assistance of my coworkers to help me work through my training on things I may not quite grasp.
Matteo: Collaborating with co-workers through Zoom, Skype or Slack helps a ton. Being able to talk live over video about the task or what you’re having problems with will clarify everything. Being able to exchange files, screenshots or screen videos to get your point across more effectively is hugely important.
Tom: Finding the tools that fit you and the team are crucial. Just because we’re sitting in a home office doesn’t mean we have to lose track of what’s going on. We’ve found great success using tools such as Slack and Zoom to keep electronic face to face going as well as document share services like Google Drive. We can remain focused on our work and know how we fit into servicing our customers in real time.
Chantelle: Remember that trust and personal relationships are a key aspect of workplace collaboration. Just because you can’t exchange jokes in the breakroom doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chat with your coworkers. Exchanging memes is great, but personally I think that video chats are a really great tool. Set aside some weekly time for a digital coffee chat with your coworkers to talk about non-work stuff. Building these personal connections helps to boost your ability to communicate clearly and effectively while you work from home.
On Keeping Your Sanity:
Angela: Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. I will say it again, a designated workspace has helped tremendously with keeping my sanity. Also staying organized and not mixing work stuff with personal stuff. I love to create “water cooler” talk despite distance. We have created Slack channels for things we enjoy such as music we are listening to that day. Your happy place might be 5 minute yoga a couple times a day, stretching, remembering to move. When you feel stressed, you can walk away, if even for just a few minutes. Make sure you are taking care of yourself.
Matteo: Taking breaks and stepping away from the computer screen when feeling overwhelmed is very important for me. It doesn’t do any good if you’re having trouble concentrating but still forcing yourself to work on the task. Your work won’t be done to its full potential and mentally you will be drained. Recharge your mind by doing something you enjoy. Try going outside for a few minutes, playing an instrument, or listening to music.
Tom: I love our team and it’s great that we can connect in a really personal way over Slack or Zoom. Our days are filled with sharing memes (I swear we do work!) and talking about projects and life. I also recommend finding something that can distract you throughout the day to give yourself both a mental and physical break. Go for a walk, jog in place or hop on your favorite online game to take a break.
Chantelle: A work from home system can be amazing, but it can also feel really draining, especially when you’re just getting used to it. It’s particularly difficult right now, when opportunities for going out after work or socializing with friends are limited. Taking a morning run or playing tennis in the evening have been really helpful for me. Try taking a vacation day to go on an outdoor day trip or just relax and focus on self-care. You might be amazed at how refreshed you feel.