The number of people working from home has skyrocketed in recent years, but it’s old news for some of us. I’ve been WFH for 10+ years and I’ve learned a lot in that time. Here are some tips I’ve picked up.
I got my first remote job in 2011, and I’ve been working from home ever since. What started as just a laptop in my bedroom has evolved to a desktop PC and a dedicated office. While the right tech certainly helps, the key to successfully working from home is building good habits.
Put on Real Clothes
Let’s start with what might be my most controversial WFH opinion: You should get dressed to work from home. I don’t mean just throwing some sweatpants on over your boxers. Put on some “real” clothes.
You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but simply putting on a pair of jeans and a different shirt than the previous day helps me transition into “work mode.” There are certainly days where I still roll out of bed and go straight to my computer, but I always feel better when I take the time to put myself together a bit.
Create a Dedicated Work Space
Speaking of “work mode,” you should have a dedicated space in your home for doing work. You don’t have to have a fancy office; even a desk in your living room will work. The idea is to have a spot in your home that you can go to for work and leave when you’re done.
That second part is just as important as the first. You don’t have the luxury of leaving your work in a separate building, so it’s important to have a workspace in your home that you can walk away from. It’s tempting to work from bed or the couch—I certainly do that sometimes—but dedicated workspaces are good for maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
Work Space on Your Computer
Maybe a separate physical workspace isn’t possible. You can also create a separate workspace on your computer—assuming you don’t already have a “work” computer that you’re required to use. That way, you will have clearly defined work and personal digital areas too.
There are a couple of ways to do this. I use Microsoft Edge for personal stuff, and Google Chrome is where all my work happens. In the past, I’ve set up separate personal and work profiles in Chrome as well. The goal is to be able to easily open and then close all your work-related tools at the end of the day, sorta like leaving a physical office.
Stick to a Schedule
One of the big benefits of working from home is flexibility, but it can be too much of a good thing if you’re not careful. Try to stick to a schedule as if you’re working in a traditional office environment.
You might remember something you wanted to do, and since your computer is just a few steps away, it’s tempting to quickly log on and take care of it. However, if you wouldn’t make a separate trip to the office for it, you should wait until tomorrow.
I’m not saying you need to be super rigid about your schedule. Flexibility truly is one of the best things about working from home, and you should take advantage of that. But having some general work hours is another good way of putting yourself in “work mode” and disconnecting when you’re done.
Don’t Eat Lunch at Your Desk
This tip can apply to people who work at an office as well as those who work from home. When lunchtime comes around—or whenever you get time to eat—get up and leave your computer.
Why? Similar to the previous tip, you can easily find yourself working more than you should simply because of the convenience. Give your brain a rest so you can finish the day strong. Watch a couple of YouTube videos on the couch, or go pick up some food nearby. Just look at something else while you eat.
Get Out of the House Occasionally
Work from home doesn’t have to be work from home. If the nature of your job allows for it, you should leave your home and work from somewhere else once in a while. A change of scenery can be very helpful.
Working from home can be very isolating. All your interactions are happening through a screen and webcam. To ward off cabin fever, I like to work from a coffee shop occasionally. It’s nice to feel like you’re actually a part of society for a while, and being around other people can be energizing. It’s not possible with every WFH job, but I highly recommend it if you can do it.
Use Do Not Disturb When You’re Off the Clock
The last tip is yet another way to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Working from home requires a lot of communication over the internet, and that means you’re easily reachable at all hours of the day. Unless your job explicitly requires that, you should set some boundaries.
Both Slack and Microsoft Teams have settings to block notifications during certain hours. You can also use your iPhone or Android phone to block apps at certain times of day. It’s important to set boundaries so you can truly disconnect from work. It also allows co-workers to message you without fear of bothering you if they know you’ll see it when you want to see it.
If there’s one theme to take away from all these tips, it’s compartmentalization. Getting dressed, having dedicated workspaces, making a schedule, eating away from your desk, and so on. All of this is about creating clearly defined walls between work and personal life.
Working from home is not as easy as people might think. You have to actively work at maintaining your workspaces, sticking to boundaries, and keeping yourself on task. However, with a few of these tips in mind, you’ll find yourself being more productive and less stressed out.