Establish a dedicated work space.
As a remote worker, the lure of your couch, television, or a pile of unwashed laundry can be quite difficult to overcome. In order to ensure you stick to your task list, it’s best to establish a dedicated work space. Whether it be a desk in a separate room or even a TV tray set up in the corner of your dining room, your workspace should be used only for taking care of business.
If you’ll be working on a comfortable chair or couch, consider a laptop desk. It’s much healthier than keeping your computer on your legs for hours at time.
Keep things neat and organized.
While you’re at it, be sure to keep your space clean and in good order. Just as you wouldn’t want an in-office boss to see your desk looking frightful, you should not want your at-home supervisor (yourself) to have to deal with a mess. By staying organized, you can help yourself to remain on task and avoid wasting time with lost post-its or forgotten to-do lists.
Use a second monitor.
If at all possible, invest in a second monitor for your work station. This is particularly useful when your work involves referring to multiple documents, websites, or images. If you have certain business structures and can write off business expenses, you may even be able to claim the purchase of a second monitor on your taxes at the end of the year.
Have set office hours.
Just because you are working from home does not mean you can’t stick to set office hours. In fact, it’s encouraged that you create and commit to a particular schedule. You should be available to clients, coworkers, and supervisors during hours that they can count on.
On the flip side, you deserve to have non-work time, and you should not let your tasks bleed into personal or family time. Decide when you’ll focus on business and be firm. When those hours are up, stop working, close your laptop, and don’t check your work email until the next day. This is another way having a dedicated office space will help you–by creating a physical reminder that you are not “at work” when you are elsewhere in your home.
Be professional but don’t apologize.
Just as meetings crop up unexpectedly in a traditional workplace, you may find that spur-of-the-moment video calls or conferences are required when you’re working from home. In fact, video conferencing can be a great way to keep teams on task and connected while working remotely.
That said, you should always be aware of the possibility that you may need to look presentable during your office hours. Brush your teeth and hair, put on a clean shirt, and otherwise act like you are in a real workplace. Doing so will also help you to focus on the work before you.
Say your self-imposed office hours end at noon, though, so you can get a workout in before you return to business at 1 PM. If an impromptu video call crops up at 12:30 and you happen to notice the request and decide to join in, don’t apologize for having your yoga pants on or for not having any makeup. The flexibility to avoid business professional attire is one of the benefits of working from home.
Find your zen.
Whether you choose to listen to calming classical music while you work or keep things silent through the help of noise-cancelling headphones, you should find what works for you to keep your focus. This may require some trial and error, but once you determine how you work best and can find a flow, stick with it.
Work outdoors when possible.
If it’s feasible and the weather cooperates, take some time to work outdoors. Have a picnic table or patio? Bring your laptop and a cup of coffee outside for a change of scenery. Fresh air can be refreshing and bring clarity, so it’s a great way to break up a tedious project.
In addition to making time for exercise, you should commit to healthy meals and snacks during your work day. It can be extremely difficult to practice self-control when you are working from home and have a stocked refrigerator just steps away from your makeshift office. One way to tackle midday cravings is to pre-portion snacks you know you’ll be unable to resist, just as you would when heading to an office out of the home. This way, you can commit to only eating as much as you should of certain foods. While you’re at it, fill a water bottle and sip it throughout the day to ensure you stay hydrated.
Make sure all of your computer collaboration tools (like Slack, Asana, etc.) are on your phone as apps for easy access. As a remote worker, you may find yourself making midday appointments or needing to run out of the house from time to time (provided you are not quarantined). If your collaboration tools are signed in and ready to go, with notifications turned on, you can be sure you won’t miss anything urgent during your breaks.
Get up and stretch.
It’s important to get up frequently to stretch, get your blood flowing, and burn calories. If you have a dog, take a break and walk your dog a couple of times each day. This is a great way to keep active and take a mental health break during a busy work day. No pets? Take your kids for a walk or carve out time for an exercise video, even if the weather is poor.
Invest in high-speed internet.
As a remote worker, your ability to connect to the internet is everything. Invest in the highest speed internet you can afford (or that your employer will reimburse you for). Keep in mind that you may be able to write off the cost of your internet on your taxes. While you’re at it, consider a mesh WiFi system like Google WiFi. When set up and distributed properly, these WiFi connection points can make your work day much easier.
Make portability a priority.
When working from home, you do need to be prepared to relocate. If your power goes out, internet goes down, or you need a printer or other resource, you should have the ability to work on-the-go. Even in a best-case scenario, you may want to get out of the house or have to travel for business.
Invest in a tablet with mobile internet access, portable travel printer with scanner, and a full-sized Bluetooth or wireless keyboard and mouse. You should also be sure that your laptop has a carrying case and is lightweight enough to transport with ease.