Tips for How to Work From Home
Mark Zuckerberg swears by eliminating decision fatigue with grey t-shirts. For Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, it’s about walking five miles before work. On the other hand, Arianna Huffington favors a strict bedtime schedule. The path to productivity can be subjective, but what does science have to say about the remote work tips that definitely work? And can we learn how to work from home effectively?
For most of us around the world, our day-to-day looks a little different — at least physically. As organizations move increasingly toward remote work and hybrid office arrangements, many of us have found ourselves working remotely for the first time.
Though challenges do exist, remote work is also an opportunity to become even more productive than when you’re in the office (something 65% of workers agree with).
Here are some remote work tips to improve your work from home experience and ensure you don’t have a productivity dip.
1. Have a dedicated workspace to concentrate at work
Your work environment can have a huge impact on your focus. Choose a spot in your home where you go each day to complete work-related tasks.
Avoid eating meals, working on passion projects, or even checking social media in this area. Your brain will associate it with productivity, and you’ll get in the zone even faster the next time you sit down. This concept applies to your bed as well, which Feng Shui practitioners say should be reserved for sleep only.
2. Define big picture goals, priorities, and boundaries
It’s important to be on the same page as your team or boss about your work goals for the month, quarter, and year. Agree on one or two main priorities that you’ll work on first thing every day. Then, discuss what you’ll do if you’re assigned a task that conflicts or takes away from these priorities over time.
A project management solution can help you map out your tasks, view task dependencies, and understand co-worker responsibilities. A project management solution can also help predict any possible stumbling blocks across your ongoing projects.
This step is crucial because people tend to incorrectly estimate how long it takes to complete a task. It’s a natural cognitive bias that is easily solved by using a tool that organizes all your creative pursuits in one place so you can track how long each step takes and whether or not you remain on track when you do experience setbacks.
3. Be realistic about your workload and boost your WFH productivity
There will be days where your mental state is more receptive to wind sprints of online productivity. And there will be days when it isn’t. Productivity coaches say it’s best to work with, not against, your general moods. So set up a workflow system that takes care of your mental and physical health in the process.
4. Create a virtual workspace
Make remote work from home easy. Eliminate the need for meetings by creating a digital hub accessible to all team members.
When face-to-face meetings are unrealistic or even impossible for some teams, a software solution that houses documents and tasks in one centralized, digital location can make working remotely more productive.
5. Establish remote-friendly work routines
If you are new to working remotely from home, it’s time to create new routines that involve checking in via video conference and team chat software. Your weekly status meeting or 1:1s can be conducted as efficiently via a video conferencing tool like Zoom. Collaborative work can also be hammered out through applications like Slack.
6. Check if you need a VPN
If employees require a VPN to access the company’s private networks remotely, make sure to set that up sooner than later. Your teams may need to access your company’s private networks from home. Speak to an administrator about setting up a secure VPN so no one misses out on important tasks while working remotely.
7. Get a reliable internet connection
Make sure you have access to a good internet connection. A spotty or unreliable internet connection can be a significant challenge for remote workers. Have a contingency plan in place, if it’s not stable.
8. Take regular breaks to refresh yourself
Take regular breaks in the same way you would in the office. When working from home, it can be tempting to work through lunch or coffee breaks. Take the time to eat away from your computer, stretch, or regroup as needed. A recent survey found that taking regular breaks can lead to increased productivity and improved well-being.
9. Keep yourself updated virtually
Take advantage of webinars and virtual events. If your job requires you to attend conferences, keep an eye out for opportunities in the virtual space. These can include webinars and other virtual events.
10. Adopt cloud-based collaborative software
Make use of collaborative software (like Wrike) and cloud-based apps. Working from home has become more efficient thanks to cloud-based tools that allow for collaboration and remote access to documents and assets. Make the most of these tools as your teams navigate changes to their work schedule and environment.
11. Pare back your physical workspace
If your workspace is cluttered and you find yourself having trouble concentrating, the two could be related. According to Forbes, a messy desk can impact your productivity, state of mind, and motivation.
“Most people spend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day looking for things,” explains Laura Stack, President of the time management firm, The Productivity Pro. When you’re used to going to a separate space to work, you may not have the same organization tactics after commandeering your kitchen table.
Organization expert Peter Walsh suggests, “the only stuff in the radius of your arms should be the stuff you need immediately.” For most people, Walsh says this means a monitor, keyboard, phone, two pens, one notebook, a lamp, and one family photograph.
12. Start with your hardest task first
Sometimes, figuring out how to work from home starts with knowing what work to focus on first. If you have a difficult task on your list for the day, it can be tempting to put it off until later.
However, according to behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, this is a major missed opportunity for productivity. Ariely says that the first two hours after we wake up are often our most productive of the day.
According to Business Insider, one of the best ways to tackle these complex projects is by breaking them down into small, manageable milestones (you can do this in a few clicks with Wrike’s task management software) Doing this results in the same “completion high” you get from finishing easy tasks.
13. Break your work into 90-minute cycles (or try a tomato timer)
One way to work from home effectively is by beating that afternoon slump. According to Inc., sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman (the guy who discovered REM) found that, when we are awake, we experience ”ultradian cycles” of 90 minutes of high-frequency brain activity. This is followed by 20 minutes of low-frequency brain activity.
This means that trying to focus for longer than 90 minutes likely won’t result in high productivity levels. Instead, Forbes recommends the Pomodoro Technique, where you can use a free “tomato timer” to ensure that you focus on one task for a set amount of time. Then, you can refresh your brain with timed breaks.
14. Stop multitasking, once and for all
Ever find that your productivity decreases with every additional tab you open? In a world where we are expected to stay constantly connected, maintaining focus can become a nightmare, especially when working from home. The truth is, our brains can properly focus only on one task at a time.
“When you try to multitask, in the short-term it doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task and it usually at least doubles the number of mistakes,” says psychologist Dr. JoAnn Deak.
Harvard Business Review notes, it also increases the overall number of incomplete tasks.
When learning how to work from home, it’s tempting to take care of several personal tasks and work projects simultaneously.
Instead, choose one task to focus on in your 90-minute sprints (bite-size work project progress) and another during the 20-minute break (clean sink, anyone?).