Transitioning to a work-from-home schedule, whether temporary or not, can be a challenge for those who rely on the routines of an office setting to remain productive. However, there are plenty of ways you can stay on top of your tasks, remain engaged with your teams, and continue to produce quality work remotely. In fact, a recent study showed 86 percent of professionals surveyed said they were more productive when they worked alone, devoid of distractions.
Make the most of your time working from home with these tips from Northeastern Graduate Programs.
Tip #1: Set Up Your Workspace | Tip #2: Stick To Your Work Hours
Tip #3: Always Dress For the Day | Tip #4: Establish a Post-Work Routine | Tip #5: Set Boundaries
Tip #6: Manage Expectations | Tip #7: Hold Yourself Accountable | Tip #8: Embrace The Video Conference
Tip #9: Take Breaks | Tip #10: Make Time for Virtual Chitchat
10 Tips for Working from Home
1. Set Up Your Workspace
The biggest physical difference you’ll face when working from home is that you are removing yourself from the comfort of your office. This means that your first task when you embark on remote work should be setting up a workspace in which you can be positive, present, and productive.
Though it may be tempting to operate from your couch or bed, doing so has been found to reduce productivity, as it prevents the brain’s vital shift out of “comfort” mode and into “work” mode. Instead, experts recommend finding the spot in your home that will keep you sitting upright, with your computer at eye level. This will help to replicate the setup in most modern offices and ensure that your mind and body remain engaged throughout the day.
Try This: Spots like your kitchen table, your counter, or even a home office make great options for remote workspaces.
The second and often overlooked aspect of setting up your home workspace is replicating the function of your actual office. There are likely items at work that help to make your job that much easier, whether it be a second monitor, a wireless mouse, or even something as simple as a type of Post-It note that you use regularly. While it may not be possible to completely replicate your office within your home, it’s important to consider what these items are and how vital they will be to your daily tasks and productivity.
If you decide they are significant enough that your daily work might be impacted without them, consider what it would take to bring those items—or duplicates of those items—into your home. Taking the steps to ensure you have what you need to comfortably work when remote will go a long way—especially if you will be doing so often or for an extended period of time.
2. Stick to Your Work Hours
Not having to travel to and from the office is one of the most significant benefits of working remotely. Without a lengthy commute, you’ll gain extra time on either end of your workday you might have previously spent stuck in traffic or braving the rush of people on public transportation. Having these additional hours at your disposal may seem like the perfect way to get in a little extra work done on either side of your usual schedule, yet there can be drawbacks to this approach if you plan to work from home more than once in a while.
Primarily, not setting clear hours at which you’re “at work” makes it difficult for your brain to make the important switch in and out of “work mode”—a shift that’s vital for both your mental state and your job performance. Allowing yourself this clear, set transition will allow you to be more focused, engaged, and productive during your actual work hours, and subsequently let your mind feel free to rest when the workday is done.
Keep in Mind: Setting and sticking to your remote work hours might be more difficult for some professionals than others, depending on your corporate structure or even the expectations of leadership. If you are unable to set these hours on your end, be sure to build in your own transitionary period before and after work for you to make these mental shifts.
Looking To Advance Your Career?
Explore Northeastern’s 200+ programs to find the one that will best help you achieve your goals.
3. Always Dress For The Day
Another way to help make the essential mental shift from your “home” mindset into your “work” one is simply getting ready in the morning as you would any other workday. Though it can be tempting to stay in pajamas or sweatpants when you’re not technically going to be interacting with anyone in person, getting dressed in clothes you’d normally wear to the office, doing your hair, and even putting on makeup can make a substantial impact on your mindset as you get ready to tackle your responsibilities. This may seem like wishful thinking, but research shows that daily tasks like getting dressed can trigger your brain into relying on your ritual habits, which is often necessary in order to feel productive in a new space.
Though you may not be interacting in person when you work from home, you may need to dial into a videoconference or two while remote. Ensuring you look put together and ready to face the day on camera will go a long way in demonstrating to employers or clients that you’re still taking your work seriously, even at a distance. While this certainly does not mean that you need to overdress to work from your kitchen table in order to prove a point, setting aside fifteen minutes to look even remotely put together can make a positive statement about your work ethic.
Did You Know: Wearing a somewhat more relaxed version of your work attire might actually increase your productivity when working from home. According to a recent study, 61 percent of employees reported being more engaged and getting more done when they dressed more comfortably for work.
4. Establish a Post-Work Routine
Similar to getting dressed in the morning, taking the time to wind down after work is an important step in your remote routine. Whenever you hit your hard stop time at the end of your “workday,” be sure to fully shut down your computer and other devices that keep you connected. This will begin to communicate to your brain that work time is done.
Next, begin the transition into your relaxed evening mode with some kind of mindful activity. Yoga, journaling, going for a walk, or even cooking dinner are all examples of activities that allow your mind and body to focus on something other than your daily tasks. Creating that distance mentally between your workday and the present will be incredibly effective in helping you achieve the mental reset you might normally get from leaving the office and commuting home.
5. Set Boundaries
For those who operate on a more consistent remote work schedule, setting and maintaining boundaries will be vital to your success. There are a variety of people you should consider setting boundaries with, including your coworkers, clients, family and friends, and even yourself.
For example, while it’s admirable that you might want to be available to your employer and teammates when they need you, allowing yourself to work late into the night or answer emails on weekends can become a bad habit that can negatively affect your mental and physical health, as well as your productivity during the actual workday. (See Tip #2: “Stick to Your Work Hours” for more.)
For this reason, it’s important to make your need for boundaries known early and often—especially if people in your life are having trouble respecting them. It may be difficult to let your team know you’ll be logging off at 5:30 every day, for example, but the reality is that practices like this will allow you to be a better version of yourself during the hours you do set aside to work. Try to approach these conversations from the most positive place possible, and frame your boundaries as the tools you need to thrive.
6. Manage Expectations
Setting boundaries is one significant example of managing expectations with the people in your life when you work remotely. However, your availability is just one of many important topics to address with your team before you embark on working from home.The practice of managing expectations centers on communication and ensuring that you can ask for what you need while simultaneously providing insight into what you can realistically accomplish. Click To Tweet
Consider, for example, that you are working from home for a week while a spouse recovers from surgery. While you may be viewing this work-from-home time as an opportunity to balance your professional commitments with your life commitments, your boss might be thinking that same week will be a distraction-free opportunity for you to log extra hours. Take the necessary steps to manage expectations ahead of time, explaining your situation and what you realistically think the week will look like. More often than not, employers are compassionate and can show flexibility and understanding when given enough time to mentally prepare for the situation at hand.
7. Hold Yourself Accountable
There is a lot of freedom that comes with working from home, but sometimes the combination of a lack of physical supervision and a more open-ended schedule can lead to less than impressive results. In these situations, it’s important that you begin to hold yourself accountable for your own productivity.
Though this type of accountability looks different for everyone, you might try to:
- Make yourself lists of important tasks that need completing. You’ll feel like you’re achieving something every time you cross an item off as done.
- Set timers to keep yourself focused and on track. No one is able to realistically focus for a full 8 hours at a time, so doing your work in focused sprints helps keep you organized and allows you to hone in to finish one task at a time. This is an especially effective approach to large amounts of work, as multitasking has been proven to be ineffective.
- Write down your larger goals and post them somewhere you can see them while you work. Being able to physically see what you’re working toward will help keep you motivated.
- Self-incentivize by rewarding yourself every time you reach a pre-set goal. Whether it’s with a snack, a break, or a favorite activity after work, having something fun to look forward to will help keep you focused on doing great work.
8. Embrace the Videoconference
One of the biggest challenges remote professionals face is a feeling of disconnect from their teams. Luckily, face-to-face connection doesn’t have to just be in person anymore. Videoconferencing technology makes it easier than ever to connect with your co-workers when working from home.
For those who work outside of the office regularly, utilize videoconferencing as often as possible. A good rule of thumb is, if it would take you more than 20 seconds to type a question or thought out, consider making it a quick call or video-call instead. Not only is this approach a time-saver—as you can more efficiently get to the bottom of issues orally than you can in writing—but it also allows you to maintain a virtual presence with your team, even from afar.
Did You Know: Research shows that reading facial expressions is a key component in effectively managing relationships in business—something which is at risk of being lost when teams work remotely. Introducing or leaning into video conferencing within your employees will go a long way in bridging any gaps remote work threatens to create.
After you personally have begun to embrace video calls as a primary form of remote communication, consider the steps you will have to take to get the rest of your team on board. If your company already has access to one of these tools, make it a point to ask for the addition of a video invite on meeting requests when you are remote. If they don’t already subscribe, try explaining the business benefits of these products. Encouraging your teammates to utilize video conferencing tools when they have questions or ideas on their end, as well, will help drive productivity across the board.
9. Take Breaks
While it might sound counterintuitive, one of the best ways to stay productive when working from home is to commit to taking breaks. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to spend them, so long as you set aside time to stand up and step away from your computer at various intervals.
Taking breaks has been proven to keep your mind and body operating effectively, and to help you stay focused throughout the workday. Sitting for long periods of time without breaks, opposedly, can have an incredibly negative impact on your physical health. Experts have found that the human brain works best in phases of hour-long, high activity before it becomes exhausted and craves mental rest. For this reason, data shows that the best approach to consistent productivity is to stick to a cycle of 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of break time for the best results.
10. Make Time For Virtual Chitchat
Research shows that employees across industries consider company culture a defining quality of organizations today. For those who work remotely, however, this culture is often the first thing that is lost. While those who spend time both in the office and at home may not feel as much of an impact, employees who are fully remote—and especially those who work on teams that operate otherwise primarily in-person—rarely feel the built-in balance between work and play that happens naturally in the office.
For some organizations like tech startups, this idea of “play” may actually include fun in-office events, happy hours, and games. However, even most corporate organizations often permit employees to socialize with one another on occasion throughout the workday.
When working from home, be sure to set aside some time in your schedule for this kind of vital relationship building. If the opportunity presents itself, don’t shy away from the chance to get to know the people on your team. It can be as simple as chatting with a coworker about a common interest via your company’s instant messenger service or staying on at the end of a meeting for a few minutes to talk about your upcoming weekend plans. Making a point to build this aspect of an office into your remote routine will go a long way in keeping you engaged and feeling like a part of the team, even from a distance.
Looking for more career advice content? Check out our Career Advice & Advancement page for more expert tips from Northeastern Graduate Programs.