Working from home? 25 tips that will help you thrive

May 7, 2021 - 27 min read

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Why is it essential to have a good work-from-home schedule?

25 fundamental tips and best practices to work from home:

Find what works for you

To your success

I left my steady job to pursue a dream of owning my own business and working from home. But for the first few months, I struggled with designing a healthy work-life balance.

I swayed from one unhealthy extreme to another — from working 20 hours one day to working two hours the next. But all wasn’t lost. I learned a lot from my mistakes. And today, I’m proud to say that I’m part of an incredible remote team, and I have the work-life balance I’ve always dreamt of. 

If you’re interested in improving your work from home experience, we’ve got a treat in store for you. 

In this article, we’ll share 25 work from home best practices, so you can be equipped to design the work from home experience you’ve been yearning for.

Why is it essential to have a good work-from-home schedule?

Our business and work environment is becoming increasingly more demanding and less predictable. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, only 17% of U.S. employees worked from home — a number that increased to 44% during the pandemic

But remote working will likely not disappear when the pandemic is over. As our work environment continues to be fast-changing, we need to focus on structure and accountability to see us through. 

That’s why having a work schedule with specific working hours is essential.

working hours is essential - working from home

Additionally, having a set schedule can help you:

  • Keep yourself accountable 
  • Finish deadlines early or on time
  • Post office hours so clients, coworkers, and managers can get a hold of you
  • Increase your productivity 
  • Make the most out of your workday
  • Have a healthy work-life balance 
  • Build resilience through routines 
  • Prevent burnout 

But having a set schedule doesn’t mean you have to work the typical 9-5 if that’s not for you. Our bodies are more energetic and motivated at specific times of the day. The key is to create a schedule that supports your body’s natural ebbs and flows. 

For instance, you might have higher energy in the afternoons, and working from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. is better for you. Or, you might be an early bird and prefer to work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Since we all experience energy differently, we have to find what works best for us rather than what works for someone else. 

It’s also important to have a designated workspace that’s not in one of your living areas, such as your bedroom or living room. 

Susan Hallbeck, director of health-care-system engineering at the Mayo Clinic (one of the largest medical research institutions in the U.S.), says that your back, hips, and neck are more strained when you’re on a soft surface like a couch or a bed. 

From headaches to arthritis to neck pain, if you’re on a soft surface, “you’re really not supported in a way that’s conducive to work,” Susan says. What’s recommended is having a comfortable chair with proper back support and keeping your screen at eye level.

However, if you do continue working in bed, here are some ways to support your body:

some ways to support your body - working from home

  • Recreate the experience of sitting in an upright chair
  • Avoid putting strain on any one part of your body
  • Use a neck pillow
  • Aim for a neutral posture
  • Stick a rolled-up pillow under your low back
  • Put your display at eye level or higher
  • Put pillows under your knees 
  • Don’t lie on your stomach. 

Note: If it's at all possible, invest in an ergonomic workstation and get up to stretch your body every 45 minutes.

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25 fundamental tips and best practices to work from home

In this section, we’ll provide our best tips for working remotely.

Communication 

  1. Build trust with your managers

Although we have more technology to aid in project management, communication, and time-tracking, trust between managers and employees is decreasing — and remote work is adding to the strain. 

From wanting to avoid potential conflict to fearing that a conversation may upset or disrupt an employee, managers are afraid to give employees feedback. But employees are actually craving more feedback. 

The key to navigating this challenge? Putting your manager at ease about your intentions by knowing how to ask the right questions.

build trust and transparency - working from home

  1. Over-communicate

Erring on the side of over-communicating is essential when working from home. Be sure to ask for clarification around assignments, details, meetings, and anything else you’re unsure of. 

If you’re using a text communication platform like Slack and you’re still unclear about something, try video conferencing or jumping on a call if you can. Your team will appreciate your willingness to understand and your attention to detail.

  1. Nurture relationships with colleagues 

Following the same rituals you would in an onsite workplace is just as important as when you’re working from home. 

Nurturing and maintaining relationships with your colleagues is a big part of that. This means being a part of online group conversations and one-on-one conversations — both formally and informally, when appropriate. 

For instance, if there’s a ‘water cooler’ channel on your messaging platform, join the lighthearted fun with a meme or fun fact. The same goes for one-on-one conversations. Even a simple ‘how’s your day going?’ is enough to make you feel connected. 

While your main focus will be on tasks, having positive relationships at work will help you prevent loneliness and social isolation at work. 

  1. Be responsive

When you’re part of a remote team, that team relies on online communication tools to relay important messages. Responding to messages or even just adding a thumbs-up or a checkmark emoji will show the team that you’re paying attention. 

To help you remember important messages, save them in a place you can easily reference. 

  1. Build effective communication habits 

When communicating with your team, be thoughtful, considerate, and solution-focused. Being transparent and communicating effectively is one of the best ways to prevent and solve problems efficiently.

  1. Assume positive intent

Keep in mind that when you’re communicating via chatting platforms, it can be difficult to express ideas clearly and convey tone. This means that quick remarks might come off as flippant or rude. 

But instead of taking short remarks offensively, assume positive intent where it might otherwise not be seen. Some team members are always busy when replying and others prefer to be efficient in their replies. 

Another tip: Consider using emojis to convey tone when you're communicating with your team.

Healthy boundaries 

  1. Create a morning routine

Oftentimes, remote employees wake up, grab a cup of coffee and a snack, then go straight to opening their laptops to work. But from that point on, the whole day can feel like rushing from one thing to the next. 

Instead of being in a go-go-go state as soon as you wake up, consider creating a morning routine to set the tone for a healthy and productive day. 

For instance, create a short routine, like drinking green juice, doing five minutes of tai-chi, and reading a chapter in your current book. Or, try a long routine, like eating breakfast and following it up with an hour walk (no technology allowed).

creating a morning routine - working from home

  1. Create a daily routine

A daily routine is just as important as your morning routine. As we touched on before, find what works for you by trying a few different schedules. 

Maybe that means working in the early morning, afternoon, or evening. Or maybe that means working four days a week and relaxing or adventuring three days a week. Aim to have a plan for your mornings, afternoons, and evenings. 

For instance, follow your morning routine early, follow your work schedule in the afternoon, and catch up with loved ones in the evenings. 

  1. Limit distractions

Fewer distractions at work means more productivity. When you’re in work mode, it’s important to set boundaries with loved ones who may be at home with you. 

For instance, tell your loved ones that you won’t be available during working hours and ask them not to open your door unless it’s an emergency. 

The same goes for social media and notifications. Sign out of personal emails and social media channels on your desktop and turn on ‘do not disturb’ mode on your phone to avoid hearing notifications during work hours. 

Drawing boundaries around your work is essential to preventing work from bleeding into your personal life and vice versa. 

  1. Know when to stop working

Whether it’s finishing a project or prepping for the next day, it’s easy to find reasons to keep working past your scheduled work time. Doing this when it’s absolutely necessary is okay, but making a habit of overworking can lead to burnout, emotional exhaustion, and even depression. 

A study of 20,000+ adults in the BMJ's Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that after income, age, job characteristics, and health, women who worked extra-long hours had 7.3% more depressive symptoms than women working a standard 35-40 week. 

Additionally, working on the weekend was linked to a higher risk of depression among both men and women.

If you find yourself still working past your scheduled work time, pay attention to the cues your mind and body are sending you. Are you dozing off? Do your eyes hurt? Do you have low energy? 

If your mind and body are signaling that they’re running out of battery, it’s time to put work away until tomorrow.

Self-care

  1. Take regular breaks

Working from home generally results in less walking and moving around, which can negatively affect your long-term health. 

To prevent this, try setting scheduled alarms every 45 minutes to remind you to get up, stretch, and walk around for a few minutes. If possible, move away from your workstation during breaks to help you refresh before returning to work.

  1. Take care of your physical health

Physical activity impacts conditions like depression, anxiety, cognitive agility, and stress tolerance. Without physical well-being, you can’t have mental well-being

To achieve optimal physical health, it’s important to have proper hygiene, a healthy diet (don’t skip your lunch break), plenty of water, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. Set realistic goals and focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. 

For instance, if you loathe running, don’t force yourself to run. Instead, focus on the physical activity you enjoy — i.e., swimming, walking, and cycling are great alternatives. If possible, add physical activity to your morning routine and make sure to take walking breaks during the day.

  1. Improve your mental fitness

Just like exercise programs improve health and well-being, employees need practice to strengthen their psychological core. Building resilience, coping skills, and understanding how to manage stress are buffers against depression and panic. 

Keep in mind that these healthy habits look different for different people. For instance, some employees may prefer regular meditation and yoga to cope with stress, while others may prefer deep breathing and meeting with mental well-being coaches. 

Focus on building your own coping skills toolkit. For you, that may be taking your mind off a problem with a puzzle, nurturing your emotional intelligence, or writing down positive affirmations. If you find yourself still struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for support

  1. Set up an ergonomic workstation

We mentioned this a bit earlier, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it again. Be sure to set up an office that supports your physical health. 

Consider alternating between a standing desk, a yoga ball, and a seated desk. Or, invest in a comfortable chair with back support, a footstool, and a computer stand to keep your screen at eye level.

  1. Go easy on yourself

If this is your first time working from home, go easy on yourself. It’s normal to feel frustrated, confused, or unmotivated. And on the flip side, it’s normal to feel excited and relieved. Give yourself some grace as you transition into your new work-from-home life. 

  1. Have a life outside of work 

To support your overall well-being, it’s essential to have meaningful relationships and activities outside of work.

In studying professionals for two decades, Rob Cross, the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College and co-founder and research director of the Connected Commons, has found a predictable pattern behind why some working professionals go off track:

When professionals become hyper-focused on work and believe it will provide the money, status, and meaning they’re looking for, it often goes wrong. They end up unhealthy, possibly divorced, and with limited friends and activities to help them get out of their situation. 

The same studies show that people who manage to succeed at work while reporting stronger well-being overall are maintaining social connections and outside activities in spiritual, civic, personal, and family pursuits. 

This means that having a life outside of work is essential to creating meaning and overall well-being in your life.

  1. Get some fresh air

When you’re used to being home all day, it can be difficult to leave the house — especially when nearly anything you need can be delivered to you. But stepping outside for some fresh air can be regenerative for your physical and emotional health. 

Dr. Eric Morley, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California says “while there is no magical ‘fresh-air cure,’ there are clearly both physical and emotional health benefits to spending more time outside in the fresh air.” 

Whether it’s eating lunch outside, going for a short walk, or just standing outside for a few minutes, make sure to get some fresh air as often as you can.

  1. Engage with your community

Social dynamics shift when working from home. Our work colleagues are only accessible through technology and even if loved ones are home, we can still feel disconnected and isolated from the outside world.

Being a part of your local community can help navigate this challenge. This can mean volunteering at your neighborhood vegetable co-op, participating in HOA events, or having meaningful conversations with your neighbors. 

Processes 

  1. Streamline repetitive processes

One of the best ways to make the most of your time at work is to streamline repetitive processes. 

For instance, let’s say you’re a content writer for businesses. Instead of starting your outlines from scratch every time, create outline templates for each client. 

Or, if you’re a social media marketer, create a digital vault of caption templates. Do this for every system you have at work — from client management to project management and everything in between. 

  1. Look for shortcuts

Piggybacking on the previous tip, stretch your time by finding shortcuts. 

For instance, if you’re a researcher looking for a specific finding in a study, use ctrl+f on your keyboard to find the text you’re looking for quickly, instead of scrolling through the entire study (command+F if you’re using a Mac). 

Or, if you’re an operations manager, use digital automations to reduce manual tasks.

work from home processes - working from home

  1. Plan and organize your tasks

Reduce stress and overwhelm by breaking down big-picture items into digestible pieces. To plan and organize your tasks, consider using a digital platform with a Kanban system, like Trello

Not only will this save you time on managing tasks, but it will also help you focus on one task at a time.

  1. Adjust and improve as needed

As your career progresses, you’ll likely run into a variety of changes within your role, along with added responsibilities. To ensure that your processes are always working for you, analyze, adjust, and improve your processes as needed. 

For instance, maybe you originally created automations with a workflow management platform, but after trial and error, you realized a productivity platform was a better fit for your needs. 

Since no processes are perfect, continuously improving and adjusting your processes will eliminate unnecessary tasks and improve productivity and efficiency.

  1. Invest in quality technology 

When you’re managing communication, research, and assignments, you need reliable, high-speed technology to support your work needs. To find equipment that supports your needs, start by making a list of top priorities. 

For instance, does your system need to be portable? Do you need long battery life? A detachable display? A lot of storage? 

After you’ve made your list, do some research to find out what other criteria you need to add to your list. Once you’re clear on what to look for you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which system to invest in.

Money

  1. Reduce your utility consumption

When we’re working onsite, we usually don’t think about how much water we use, the lights we turn on, or how much heat and air conditioning we’re consuming. 

But, when we’re working from home, we have to prepare for an increase of up to 15 to 20% or more, depending on how much we use.

To reduce your utility consumption, try this:

  • Ask your utility companies for consumption reduction tips.
  • Unplug devices that aren’t in use.
  • Use natural light as often as possible. 
  • Turn off lights in rooms that aren’t in use.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth.
  • Limit how often you use large power appliances (i.e., dishwashers and dryers).
  • If possible, turn off heat and A/C in rooms that aren’t in use.
  1. Ask your job if they offer work from home credits

More and more employers are acknowledging the added expenses their employees are accruing from working from home, especially after the pandemic. 

As a result, some companies have decided to pay for some of their remote employees’ expenses such as desks, chairs, computers, WiFi, phone costs, and utility bills. For instance, E-commerce company Shopify announced that it would give its remote employees $1,000 for a new home office.

With that in mind, it never hurts to ask your employer if they offer utility rebates, WiFi allowance, or bonuses for working from home. Even if they don’t currently offer credit, if enough employees ask about it, they may consider offering it in the future.

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Find what works for you

Remote workers report equal productivity to onsite workers. They also feel a greater sense of creativity and energy at home than in the office. Remote workers are even slightly more satisfied with their work than those who work fully onsite. 

The key? Designing routines that work for them. 

The best way to work from home is by finding what works for you. It’s okay if you’re still trying to design the most helpful schedule and boundaries. 

With a little patience, enthusiasm, and some trial and error, you’ll design a system that works best for you.

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To your success

We hope these working from home tips were just what you needed to read today. If you’re interested in learning more about how to work from home, we’d be happy to help you sharpen your skills. Start a free trial today to find out more.

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Published May 7, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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