Ever been worried at the office about COVID-19, or panicked when a co-worker sneezed? Started considering working from the safety of your home?
Well, you’re not alone. A staggering 99% of participants from a 2019 study from Buffer expressed that they would like to work remotely, either permanently or partially, for the rest of their careers – and that was before the global health crisis.
Another study from Zapier found that 95% of US workers (that use a computer as part of their job) would want to work from home and 74% would be willing to resign to do so.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we think, how we live and how we work.
It is therefore not surprising that increased health awareness and precaution is persuading more people globally to consider working remotely.
The good news is that one in six employees could potentially work from home.
If you are one of the six, or a freelancer, or if your company has adopted a new remote-work policy, you will probably want to know how to adapt to this new home working environment and what steps to take to maximise your productivity.
This article will provide you with 12 essential tips for working effectively from your home.
Tip 1: Define a proper schedule
Working from home can be quite tricky as people are used to having a lot of freedom and flexibility while in their personal space. If your company has not defined explicit working hours for you or if you are a freelancer, it is important that you allocate specific hours each day for your work.
A good practice is to follow standard company hours such as Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 17:00 in order to be available to other businesses during their hours of operation.
However, this is not mandatory. You may decide to set different working hours that better suit your line of work and your personal lifestyle – an added bonus to working from home.
Tip 2: Designate a space
Finding an appropriate room or zone to set up shop is an essential step in creating an effective working environment at home. If you have an extra room that can be designated as an office, this would be ideal. A separate room has the benefit of being private, quiet and allows you to set up a proper infrastructure without disrupting the aesthetics of other common areas.
Put some thought into your home office and you will reap the benefits. Some key things to consider are layout, circulation, storage, shelving, lighting, comfort and decoration.
If a separate room is not available, you can find a suitable area in your living room or bedroom with enough space to fit a desk and chair. Try to isolate the zone as much as possible by using other furniture to create partitions and pick a spot that has the least distractions – maybe next to a window or facing a wall.
Tip 3: Organise your workspace
Stock up on pens, pencils, notepads, post-its, files, folders and any other stationary items you commonly used at the office, as these will no longer be supplied to you. Make sure your desk surface is clean and decluttered and that all your tools are organised and easily accessible.
Enforce your own clean desk policy. Try to spend 5-10 minutes at the start of each day solely for the purpose of organising and decluttering your desk.
A clean and well-organised workspace can not only inspire you but can drastically improve your overall efficiency and productivity.
Tip 4: Buy the necessary equipment
As a starting point, you should spend some time researching a good laptop or desktop computer (or even a tablet) that has the features and specifications required specifically for your job.
If you use very specialised software, you should spend time looking into your exact performance requirements and technical specifications such as storage, memory, graphics card and processor. You may also wish to buy a decent monitor as this can provide you with a larger work area and can be less stressful on the eyes.
You should also purchase other supporting devices such as a printer, a scanner, a router, an access point, a telephone or a fax (if you’re a dinosaur). Consider your budget and invest wisely in your technology. Avoid purchasing any items you won’t be using on a regular basis. Make sure to organise all your devices in an efficient and accessible way so that you don’t waste any time when carrying out regular tasks such as printing.
Lastly, invest in a functional desk and a good ergonomic chair. A well-designed chair can help you work comfortably without strain and can help you prevent accumulated back injury. However, there is no better remedy than to stand up and stretch every 20 minutes to give your body a proper break to recover.
Tip 5: Get connected
Other than linking all your devices to your main hub (being your laptop or computer) make sure that you have an active internet connection and telephone line as these are your core communication routes while working remotely.
Make sure to have an extra set of chargers for all your mobile devices permanently stationed and connected in your work area. It can be quite distracting (or even embarrassing) to have to move to another room to look for a charger when your phone is low on battery while on an important business call.
Lastly, make sure to install any email software and conferencing software you may require on your main computer to ensure that you are fully set up for remote communication.
Tip 6: Avoid other activities
Being at home can be challenging as we have immediate access to entertainment, plus we associate our homes with freedom and relaxation. Unfortunately, surrendering to such temptations during “working hours” can really harm your attention span and absorption.
Avoid surfing the web, listening to music, playing games or indulging in other home entertainment activities during your allocated working hours.
You should really avoid taking impromptu breaks while working as this can disrupt your routine, concentration and effectiveness, which leads us to the next tip:
Tip 7: Define your breaks
Taking breaks is essential to give your mind and body a rest, however completely random and frequent interruptions can harm your work routine. It is important to somewhat define your breaks by allocating specific time slots in your schedule to unwind, spend time with your family, have lunch or indulge in home entertainment activities.
Tip 8: Get the support of your loved ones
Working from home can be especially challenging when you have a family or a roommate living with you.
It is therefore important to set healthy boundaries and explain your working arrangement to your cohabitants to gain their support and understanding.
Getting your family’s involvement in the process of defining your working hours and break times can help them be more understanding, respectful and feel included.
Tip 9: Look the part
We all wish we could jump out of bed and read our emails in our pyjamas, but you should make an effort to dress for the occasion. Wearing professional attire even when working from home can put you in a better mindset and boost your psychology, clarity and efficiency.
When you look the part, you feel the part.
You should always be ready to answer a video call or conference call during your allocated working hours and I am sure your boss or client wouldn’t be too happy seeing you in your underwear.
Tip 10: Prepare your snacks
Having your kitchen at arm’s reach can be very tempting and can lead to many interruptions for snack breaks. It is good practice to prepare some healthy snacks at the start of each day to minimise the need for leaving your office area and harming your concentration.
A healthy body can lead to a healthy mind.
Pick snacks that have good nutritional value and are low in saturated fats, such as vegetables, fruit, oats and nuts. Snacking on crisps and chocolate might make you feel good and help with stress but will only cause you harm in the long run – both physically and mentally.
Tip 11: Close the door
If you have one, close it.
Shutting the door can really help minimise distractions as it can reduce noise and unwanted interactions with other people in the house during working hours. It also creates a very distinct and isolated working zone helping you stay focused and productive.
If you have an open plan setup in your living room or bedroom, closing a door is not an option but you can always use bookshelves or other furniture to create some sort of zoning to give you that extra bit of privacy.
Tip 12: Know your limits
When working from home, you do not have obvious signals for when the workday is over. At a corporate office, you would normally see your colleagues leaving at the end of their shift and maybe some lights being turned off, but at home it’s just you and your laptop. You also don’t have the issue of commuting to think about as you’re already at home.
It is therefore easy to lose track of time at your home office and can end up overworking.
It is important to check the time regularly and be aware of your physical and mental limits in order to not suffer from fatigue and exhaustion and to maintain a healthy balance. Calling it a day can sometimes be a challenge, but it is usually the right thing to do.
Enjoy working from home
Now that you have learnt these 12 essential tips for remote employment, you are ready to start working productively from the safety of your home. Enjoy!