How to Work From Home: 9 Tips for Employees

Due to the current circumstances, many US workers are facing the challenge of working from home for the first time.  For life-long office workers, working from home will feel like a major shift, but with the right approach working from home can be productive and enjoyable.

If you find yourself asking questions about what to do and how in the world you’re going to manage your workload with distractions such as TV, kids, or the ever-present desk loaves (read: cats), this article is for you. Below we’ve highlighted nine key recommendations to help you succeed working from home.

1. Make A Schedule

You may not have to get up at the same time (heck, you don’t even have to wear pants), but even if you find yourself hitting the snooze a few extra times it is helpful to stick to a normal routine and schedule.

Wake up around the same time, shower and dress, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy some light reading to get your mind working (even if that means catching up with the latest celebrity gossip). For many, this newfound work-from-home-freedom will be short lived. When society gets back to normal, so will your workday, so establish and enjoy your new normal while it lasts.

2. Dress the Part

Even though your newfound freedom may not require that you wear pants, it’s still a good idea. Why?  Many studies including a 2012 study by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology show that the way we dress impacts the way we work. It turns out looking the part matters even when people can’t see you.

3. Have Your Own Space

Every home has distractions. Some are out of your control, but others can be easily fixed if you make a nice work-space where you can concentrate. This means being able to close doors, having everything you need for the day close by, and maybe even including a small speaker with your favorite music or podcast playing in the background. The idea is to make it your own and work to keep others (pets and children included) out as much as possible.

Helping your space feel like home:

  • Have windows or natural light
  • Include plants, either real or fake
  • Hang motivational posters, company mottos or inspire boards
  • Include nearby snacks and drinks (healthy ones if you can)
  • Keep the chair/work surface in mind – comfort is key
  • Move to a high-top table or stand desk once in a while if you are able

4. Have the Right Gear

Be mindful of all the technology you will need. Many jobs require specific equipment or software to ensure the safety of company information and processes. Before you get started doing anything, look through what you have at your disposal. What is missing? Do you need extra of anything or help understanding how to set something up? If there are any roadblocks, bring this up to your manager or supervisor right away.

5. Keep Up Communication

If there is one thing you take away from this article, have it be this: over-communicate with your team. Communication is essential in any workplace, but when you’re working remotely it becomes even more vital. When you are no longer face-to-face with your co-workers, feelings of isolation can start to creep in. Take time to regularly connect with others – it will stimulate both your work product and your spirit, and your colleagues will be appreciative.

Email, chat, and messaging apps are easy to use and great tools for regular communication – use them often. Do not overlook, however, the sense of connection that comes from hearing another person’s voice. Make frequent use of the good old-fashioned telephone or the more modern version, video-conferencing (Now you REALLY need to put those pants on!).  Remember that feelings of isolation are self-imposed. Using all the communication tools at your disposal can keep you and the rest of your team engaged and connected.

Great Social Apps to Check Out:

  • Messenger (although, keep in mind you must have a Facebook account for this)
  • WhatsApp
  • Slack
  • Kik
  • WeChat
  • Skype
  • Zoom
  • Google Hangouts
  • And don’t forget the telephone!

6. Understand Expectations

When you first work from home it can be difficult to know what is expected of you. Do you have to clock in a certain way?  What about breaks?  Are you expected to get the same amount of work done? Is there more flexibility in how you use your time? Your manager or supervisor should have already set some rules and guidelines in place, but you may need to be a bit patient as the challenge of supervising from afar may well be new to them as well. It can be helpful to ask questions and ask for guidance to help your supervisor become aware of questions that others likely have as well.

Questions you might ask:

  • What tech will I need and what will be provided?
  • Are hours still set or are they flexible?
  • How do sick/paid leave policies work during this time?
  • Do we have processes for clocking in and out?
  • How will meetings and other communications be conducted?
  • Is it possible to work outside the home? (i.e. café, diner, library)
  • What are the expectations around video conferencing? Should I always have my camera on?

7.  Learn Something

Temporarily working from home may present you a major opportunity to learn and grow. No matter how efficient your company tries to be in facilitating your ability to work remotely, it is likely that you will have some amount of open/flexible time on your hands. If that is the case, don’t fritter the time away playing video games. Invest in yourself. Find great online training or just use your own search skills to find and read great material. It is good to remind ourselves that we have available to us, at the other end of our cursor, access to more knowledge and information than the greatest minds to have ever walked the earth. It is stunning to think that we have access to 1000 times more knowledge and information than did Einstein, Jefferson, Newton, Adam Smith, Franklin, Tesla, de Vinci, Plato, Spinoza, Faraday, Voltaire, and Descartes combined. Given what they accomplished with so much less, it would seem we should be able to do something with that!

8. Know Your Weaknesses

There are many things that can make working from home difficult, including those factors we have hit on so far (isolation, distractions, lack of communication). But, you can be successful in this new endeavor. In fact, knowing that there may be difficulties is the first step in conquering them.

Over the first week or so of your new working environment, pay attention to how you feel. Are you feeling unmotivated? Distracted? Struggling to get work in on time? Are you finding yourself getting lethargic or frustrated? These all can be consequences of working from home, especially if you aren’t used to it. Be mindful and notice when something is amiss. Take action to counteract negative feelings. For example, take a break, go for a walk, check in with a friend, contact a co-worker, or find an interesting online training module to advance your skills.

9. Enjoy It

Every year more and more people are working from home. In the past 12 years there has been a 159% increase, so congratulations, you’re one of them now! Although this can take some getting used to, there are perks that go along with it.  Want to bake a loaf of bread for dinner? You can do that now. Need to run your toddler to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day?  You got it!  Have you wanted to have more time with your family? Well, now you have it so use this time wisely.  The potential for flexibility and freedom that comes with working from home can bring less stress and more happiness.

So, even if your situation is temporary, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the experience and what it has to offer. Happy working!