9 tips for doing your best work from home

March 18, 2020
For many people, working from home sounds like a dream. But working and living in the same place can present a unique set of challenges when it comes to staying productive. As more businesses begin to offer remote working options, it's important to make sure that we're set up for success. Before you get down to business, check out these 9 tips for doing your best work from home!

A woman doing her best work from home

1. Follow your normal morning routine

While it might be tempting to sleep in, roll out of bed, and fire up your laptop at the kitchen table, it's important to stick to a normal schedule when working from home - and that starts with your morning routine.

Make some coffee, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, read the news - do what you would normally do before going in to the office. Starting your day off with structure can serve as a foundation for the rest of your day.

2. Dress for success

When working from home, it can also be tempting to stay in your PJs all day. When we are in our sweats and slippers, our minds tend to revert to relaxation mode. While you don't have to put on that three-piece suit, it's important to dress for success. You may not be going to any in-person meetings, but it can help you get into the right mental state and helps set boundaries between life and work.

3. Designate a separate work space

Another important part of getting in the right mental space for productivity is making sure that your physical workspace is set up properly. Before you begin your day, make sure to designate a specific area for work and work only. How we define a room or space can have a lot to do with what our minds expect to do when we're in them.

For example, when you're in the kitchen, you're probably in cooking mode. When you're on the sofa, it's time to relax and when you're in bed, you're there to sleep. That's why it's important to make a space in your home that says "it's time to get down to business."

That having been said, it's helpful to have areas that are specifically designed "no work zones." Having these clearly defined areas can help your mind transition from working to relaxing, and vice versa.

4. Establish a work schedule

Working from home can be an exercise in self-discipline. It can be easy to get side tracked, so having a structured work schedule can be helpful. Plan out what you're going to be working on ahead of time. If you need to, designate blocks of time for specific tasks and stick to them.

It may sound obvious, but having plenty of tasks to do is a great way to stay busy. We tend to be more productive when there's more on our plate. If there's a lull in assignments, it can often be more difficult to get back into the groove. By keeping your schedule full during designated work hours, you keep that train moving.

5. Take breaks

Sometimes, when we work from home, we feel almost guilty - like maybe we're not REALLY working because we're not at the office. This can lead to working through breaks to make up for it. However, taking breaks is important to productivity. Giving your mind a moment to breath can actually help you stay fresh and focused.

One of the great things about working from home is that when you take a break, you're home! Take advantage of this and take care of quick chores to break up the day. Grab a snack from the fridge, check the news, let the dogs out, or just go for a quick stroll outside. This is the time you SHOULD step away from your workspace.

6. Start and end on time 

Working from home can sometimes give you flexibility in your hours. Because you don't have to spend the time driving back and forth to the office, you might be able to start a little early or work a little later to finish up time-sensitive tasks. However, maintaining a balance between work and life is important to productivity.

It can be easy for your day to stretch when you don't have the commute to bookend your hours. That's why designating a time for work is just as important as setting aside a physical space for work.

7. Make sure your work space is comfortable and orderly

Because you're going to spend a substantial amount of time in your work space, make sure it's comfortable! If you constantly have to adjust your chair, or if you can't get the temperature right, it can have a negative impact on productivity.

Before you start your day, make sure you're happy with your setup, set the thermostat, or keep a jacket nearby just in case. Staring at a computer screen in the dark can strain your eyes, so make sure your workspace is well-lit.

Another part of having a comfortable, productive work space is making sure things are orderly. A messy desk can make finding things difficult, and clutter can often be distracting. Make sure you have enough space to accomplish the task at hand, and make sure that space is tidy.

8. Make sure you have what you need to be productive

There's nothing worse than getting ready to start your day only to find out you don't have the tools you need. Before you work from home, make sure you have everything you need to be successful, regardless of what that may be. 

Most jobs these days rely on a computer in some capacity, so make sure your company laptop is functioning properly and talk to your IT if you have any concerns. It's also important to make sure that the software you need is properly installed and updated.

You'll probably need the internet, so make sure that you have adequate bandwidth to perform your job. Most businesses that offer remote working positions will require you to log on to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for security reasons, so work with your employer to ensure it's working properly.

9. Remove distractions

One of the biggest challenges working from home presents are distractions. In the office, you rarely have to worry about pets, spouses, roommates, or kids. That's why it is essential that you come up with a plan to address these potential distractions beforehand. 

If anyone else is home while you're working, make sure they understand your schedule and give you the space you need to be productive. If your kids are home from school, consider providing them with scheduled activities to keep them entertained and engaged.
But it's not just people and pets that can distract us at home - we are plenty capable of distracting ourselves! When choosing a place to work from home in your house, it's important to distance yourself from things like games, books, and TVs. While some people may find the background noise of a television helpful, most programs are designed to grab your attention and hold on to it. 

Social media can be another distraction for many of us. It's easy to have your attention grabbed by a new post or comment and get sucked into a 30 minute conversation. If you find social media distracting, keep your phone notifications on silent or keep your phone in another room altogether. 

For many people, music can be a great way to drown out external noises and help you focus. If this works for you, consider creating a playlist that matches the task at hand. However, if you find that your mind begins drifting away with the melody, it might be best to avoid music.

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.