How to work from home: A comprehensive guide

March 7, 2022 - 29 min read

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How to work from home

6 challenges of working from home

4 benefits of working from home

Industries most likely to work from home

Popular work from home jobs

How to start working from home

When you’re starting to explore remote work, it may seem challenging to figure out where to start. If you’ve been working from home for a while now, you may be struggling to maintain your momentum. 

You could be transitioning into a remote role for the first time or are already deeply embedded in your home office. Here are some helpful tips to make working from home easier at any stage of the process.

How to work from home

Even if working from home feels like a dream come true, it can become a nightmare without the right skills.

Here are eight valuable tactics to help you become an impactful remote employee, while still loving what you do.

1. Define your boundaries

When you work from home, it’s easy to spend more or less time working than you intended. 

One day, you might get distracted cleaning the house. The next day, you might find yourself engrossed in a project until midnight.

But boundaries are essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

To start, try adding your work hours to your calendar. When it comes to your actual workday, try to plan out your work beforehand when possible. And commit to signing off and closing your computer at the end of the day.

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2. Leverage technology to connect from afar

Staying connected with coworkers through video conferencing and messaging can help you feel like you’re a valuable part of the team. Thankfully, apps and software platforms are available to build virtual connections between coworkers. Programs such as Slack, Skype, and Zoom make it easy to set up a quick video chat or start a conversation over shared interests.

That said, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant digital stimulation. Do your best to disconnect at the end of the day and consider a digital detox to minimize any device dependence.

3. Connect with coworkers in-person

However, Zoom fatigue does take its toll, so meeting in person could be a good alternative. If your coworkers live in your general or metropolitan area, consider meeting them in person. Shared working spaces can help support collaboration. If you want to connect more socially, consider organizing work-friendly lunches or after-work activities.

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4. Connect with people inside and outside of your home

Consider scheduling lunch or a quick check-in with family members or other members of your household. Connecting with someone you already know and who lives with you can help you recharge.

If you’re looking to get out of the house, a Wi-Fi-enabled coffee shop or coworking space is a great place for human interaction. Research shows that connecting with others, even strangers builds resilience and improves mental health. So don’t be afraid to get out there and strike up a conversation. Chance are, they’re in a similar boat.

5. Take calls outside

On days when your calendar is bursting with calls, the idea of getting a sandwich can be daunting, never mind getting outside. On days like this, BetterUp SEO Content Strategist Sara Sugar-Anyanwu recommends stepping away from your desk while on calls, when possible, and getting outside. You can still be engaged and listening while stretching your legs and enjoying the fresh air.

“Take calls while walking if you don’t need to be on camera or by your computer. Walk around the block, walk your dog, or head to the park.” - BetterUp SEO Content Strategist Sara Sugar-Anyanwu

6. Maintain a routine

Creating routines can help you feel more secure and comfortable while working from home.

BetterUp Copy Lead, Nicole Cassese, suggests committing to an exercise regimen before or after work. If you can set this time aside to focus on yourself and do Inner Work®, it has multiple benefits. You build time for yourself into your daily routine while also taking care of your physical well-being and mental fitness

Additionally, scheduling regular coffee breaks and walks, or doing a virtual workout during your lunch break, let you step away from your desk. Block off time on your calendar so you know what to expect at the beginning of every day. 

"Making time for a workout before or after work can be really helpful to kickstart the day or decompress." - BetterUp Copy Lead, Nicole Cassese

7. Limit your social media use

It can be hard to concentrate with notifications pulling you in all directions. If your role allows, try changing the settings on your phone and apps to silence distracting notifications. 

You can also schedule “social breaks” to check your phone during specific times.

If you really want to avoid social media during the workday, try using your breaks in another way. Schedule different activities such as taking a short walk, listening to a podcast, or reading. Rest comes in various forms, and these activities could help give your mind a rest without the endless scrolling.

8. Make a must-do list

To-do lists often get bogged down with tons of tasks, which can become overwhelming. Instead, determine the top three things you must do that day and foster a deep focus to tackle those tasks.

Self-management can be an unexpected shift for people used to a boss guiding their day. A must-do list can make arranging your day and prioritizing projects easier.

 

7 challenges of working from home

The COVID-19 pandemic made working from home a new reality for many employees.

Overnight, companies shifted to accommodate stay-at-home orders and make home-based work … well, work.

Many essential workers found themselves curious about how to work from home. While working from home became a possibility for many who may have never imagined it before. 

For people used to office work, remote life can be challenging. In the beginning, you may find yourself feeling stressed and not getting much work done. 

Here are seven challenges of working from home to be aware of.

1. Lagging motivation

Without seeing others working around you, it’s easy to feel isolated and lose motivation. Outside the office, you may struggle to see the impact your work makes. 

Keeping in contact with coworkers and your supervisor can help boost your motivation and productivity.

2. Getting distracted

Working from home comes with a host of distractions that aren’t at the office, like a pile of dirty dishes, unfinished laundry, or games on your phone. 

Rather than tackling these tasks sporadically, consider being intentional about your time. Designate a time to clean the dishes, for example, and use that time as a break away from your desk.

If you’re working from home with kids, BetterUp Managing Editor Maggie Wooll recommends being very conscious of the line between work and family time. By focusing all of your energy on one area at a time, you have a better chance of succeeding in both.

These two strategies cut down on multitasking and put you in control of your time. This often leads to more headspace, increased productivity, and a greater sense of accomplishment.

“Be clear about work time and family time. When your kids ask for attention, try to give them your full focus. Even 15-minutes for a game of cards can help, versus trying to split your attention and disappointing both parties.” - BetterUp Managing Editor, Maggie Wooll

3. Being available all the time

Effective communication takes more effort when you can’t just stop by someone’s desk. However, communicating well doesn’t mean being available 24/7.

Many remote workers have difficulty stepping away from work, and 42% feel stressed about being “always-on” and available at any hour. Committing to a consistent work schedule and closing your computer or email at the end of the workday can help prevent burnout.

4. Lack of training on tools

Workers spend an average of 45 minutes a day searching for necessary information. Part of the issue is that many workers never get the training required to use digital channels.

Be your own advocate to get training on any tools you need to do your job. If you have questions or need help finding a document, ask a coworker to help you. 

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5. Unproductive work habits

The best way to enjoy the benefits of working from home is to differentiate between your work time and home time. 

Getting dressed for work, working in a quiet environment, and developing routines can make you more productive and engaged at work. These routines can quickly grow into habits, so you can reap their benefits long-term.

6. Bad internet connection

Consistent internet is a must for remote working. No one enjoys a lagging video call or a slow browser. 

If you have too many people using your internet, your connection can slow down. If necessary, upgrade your internet plan to make your workday run more smoothly.

7. Social disconnection

We mentioned a handful of ways to connect with people at home, at work, and outside your network. But some remote workers are looking for more consistent company. 

According to BetterUp Staff Writer Madeline Miles, in those cases, a pet can offer round-the-clock companionship. It can also encourage you to take more short breaks and get outside during the workday.

Adopting a pet isn’t the best choice for everyone, however. If you’re curious but hesitant to commit, many shelters let you foster an animal for different periods. This trial run could be a helpful way to test out pet parenthood.

"Adopting a permanent work-from-home buddy can improve mental well-being and serve as a reminder to take breaks." - BetterUp Staff Writer, Madeline Miles

4 benefits of working from home

1. No commute

Spending time going to and from your workplace can make your day feel longer. In fact, 78% of employees say avoiding a commute is a top reason they prefer telecommuting.

 Less time and money spent on commuting means more time dedicated to family, friends, and yourself. 

2. Better focus

In 2020, working from home led to a 47% increase in productivity. That may be because a home office is quieter and more conducive to deep work. 

If you don’t have distractions at home, remote work can help you concentrate and check more tasks off your to-do list than you would in an office setting. 

3. Better work-life balance

Being able to do a load of laundry before a meeting can do wonders for your home life. 

It’s no surprise that, according to research from OWL Labs, 91% of people say work-life balance is the top reason they choose to work remotely.

4. Increased job satisfaction

Working from home also offers more time to spend on hobbies, being with friends or family, and enjoying home life. 

Research from OWL Labs found that 77% of people think having the ongoing option to work from home would make them happier. When we’re happier at home, we’re more likely to be happier at work, which can boost productivity.

Industries most likely to work from home

In some industries, there are tons of opportunities to work remotely. When you’re exploring how to work from home, you may have better luck finding work in the sectors you have experience. 

Here are the most popular industries that offer work-from-home positions in the U.S.

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Healthcare

Many healthcare jobs can be done from home with the right software and permissions. Healthcare facilities, hospitals, and insurance companies frequently offer remote positions. 

The rise of telemedicine may make it so even doctors can work remotely regularly.

Tech

Many tech companies take a remote-first approach. While some even go further and don’t have a formal office space. 

Fully remote teams are common for startups, while large tech firms like Twitter and Facebook often have a flexible remote work policy.

Financial services

Working from home is becoming increasingly popular for financial services and banking companies. 

Some positions still require the occasional in-person meeting. That said, 61% of CFOs in financial services plan to make remote work permanent for specific roles.

Education

Whether it’s teaching a second language or a college course, COVID-19 has made remote learning the new norm. Many educators and administrators may have the option to work remotely and not from a classroom.

As remote work becomes more common, it makes sense that students experience learning from home. This learning environment can help them prepare for their future careers where remote work may be an option.

The most popular remote work from home jobs

If you’ve always worked in an office, it may seem daunting to find remote work. But finding a work-from-home job doesn’t have to be tough. 

There are many opportunities to find a job you love that you can do from home. Here are 10 of the most popular remote jobs.

1. Financial advisor

Financial advisors help individuals work towards financial wellness. With that said, tax preparers, financial advisors, and accountants don’t always need face-to-face interaction with clients.

Plus, a lot of their work requires deep focus, making these roles perfect for remote work.

2. Customer support representative

You may be shocked to learn that many customer service people work from the comfort of their own homes.

Answering customer questions by phone or chat is an excellent work-from-home job.

3. Recruiter

Finding the right talent can be done from home.

Screening candidates, researching potential candidates, and scheduling interviews are well-suited for a home office.

4. Project manager

Project managers are used to handling teams in different locations, so working from home is a breeze for these expert organizers.

With the right tools, a project manager can connect with teammates and keep a project on track from home. 

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5. Sales representative

Phone calls are a great way to build relationships with potential clients. But, there’s no reason you need to be in an office to make calls. 

Sales teams can work remotely, but regular team meetings may be necessary to keep remote reps engaged.

6. Writer

Repurpose your existing experience and write what you know.

Many writers work from home, so this flexible job is a good option for any industry. Plus, depending on the position, you may be able to work less traditional work hours.

7. Tutor

Tutoring in any subject is a great way to help kids and adults learn while working remotely.

Many teachers have learned how to apply their skills and support students online during COVID-19. Using those skills to tutor can offer you job opportunities outside a classroom setting.

8. Web developer

There’s no need to be in an office when you’re a web developer or software engineer. 

Almost every industry needs web developers, so there are plenty of remote opportunities that are both challenging and engaging.

9. Medical coding and billing

Many doctors and hospitals need certified medical coding professionals to help them bill insurance and send invoices to patients.

Since medical coding is largely solitary work, this work-from-home job can be perfect for those looking for remote work.

10. Registered nurse

While doctors may return to the office, telehealth likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

Registered nurses can work triage during telehealth sessions. They can also manage cases and answer patient questions by phone, chat, or on a dedicated website.

12. Virtual bookkeeper

Depending on your background, virtual bookkeeping could be a good option. Excel skills, alongside experience managing invoices, creating financial statements, and organizing accounts, are assets for this job.

13. Transcriptionist

Transcriptionists require swift and accurate typing abilities. They also need to have a sharp ear for details while transcribing voice recordings into written format. 

Transcriptionists may receive complex information for transcription. These can include medical, scientific, and legal recordings. Given the subject matter, they usually have a strong ear and a lot of patience to get each document as accurate as possible.

14. Virtual assistant

Virtual assistants support clients by taking care of administrative tasks outside the office. They typically schedule appointments, manage travel arrangements and bookings, and manage email accounts.

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Look out for these challenges when working from home

Working from home can be a big transition for people used to office work. In the beginning, you may find yourself feeling stressed and not getting much work done. 

Here are six challenges to be aware of when you begin working from home.

1. Lagging motivation

Without seeing others working around you, it’s easy to feel isolated and to lose motivation. Outside the office, you may struggle to see the impact your work makes. 

Keeping in contact with coworkers and your supervisor can help boost your motivation and productivity.

2. Getting distracted

Working from home comes with a host of distractions that aren’t at the office, like a pile of dirty dishes, unfinished laundry, or games on your phone.

A must-do list can help keep you focused and on task. 

3. Being always available

Effective communication takes more effort when you can’t just stop by someone’s desk. However, communicating well doesn’t mean being available 24/7.

Many remote workers have a hard time stepping away from work, and 42% feel stressed about being “always-on” and available at any hour. Closing your computer or email at the end of the workday can help prevent burnout.

4. Lack of training on tools

Workers spend an average of 45 minutes a day searching for necessary information. Part of the issue is that many workers never get the training they need to use digital channels.

Be your own advocate to get training on any tools you need to do your job. If you have questions or need help finding a document, ask a coworker to help you. 

5. Unproductive work habits

The best way to enjoy the benefits of working from home is to differentiate between your work time and home time. 

Getting dressed for work, working in a quiet environment, and developing routines can make you more productive and engaged at work.

6. Bad internet connection

Consistent internet is a must for remote working. No one enjoys a lagging video call or a slow browser. 

If you have too many people using your internet, it can slow your connection down. If necessary, upgrade your internet plan to make your workday run more smoothly.

woman-thinking-how-to-work-from-home

How to start working from home

Now that you know all about remote work, all that’s left to do is start! 

Here are five steps to help get you started on the remote job of your dreams.

Step 1: Figure out your ‘why’

What drives you to work from home? You might want to work from home for your mental health, to spend more time with family (rather than traffic or the train), or because you’re more productive.

No matter your motivation for working from home, some self-reflection can help you define the best types of roles for you.

Step 2: See if your current job has remote roles

Before you leave your current job, ask your manager or HR if there are any available remote jobs in the company.

Even if you’re not satisfied with your current role or company, shifting to remote work can change your perspective. Plus, it’s a great way to test if working from home is right for you.

Step 3: Design a workspace that works for you

Having a consistent and focused workspace can make a massive difference in your productivity. 

If possible, create a dedicated room or area of your house that you’ll only use during work hours. If you live in a smaller space, a designated workspace may not be available. But even finding a comfortable chair or ergonomic work equipment can help your area feel more divided.

Avoid the temptation to turn on the TV or work from your bed, where your focus can suffer.

Step 4: Search for roles

Once you’re sure you want to leave your current role, you can start looking for new opportunities.

While many job sites feature a filter to find remote work, there are also dedicated websites that list only remote jobs. Some companies also offer flexible working arrangements. So you could reverse-engineer your search.

Explore which options are right for you, based on your why. Remember that some remote jobs may require you to be in a particular city for the occasional in-person meeting.

Step 5: Develop the right mindset

Working from home takes focus, and the wrong mindset can steer your ambitions off track. Prioritize your emotional well-being and plan your day, so you get your must-do list done without burning out.

Ready to start working from home?

Remote work has become available to many professionals during COVID-19. However, the cultural shift to working from home is only beginning to take shape. This is the perfect time to develop a new career working remotely. 

Having the right mindset is crucial when learning how to work from home. BetterUp can help you transition into a career you love from the comfort of your own home. Sign up today and start working toward your dreams.


Published March 7, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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