Is working from home completely new to you?
Are you a WFH veteran that just never found a way to ignore the distractions and get more done in the allotted time?
I’ve been there.
Learning the remote work best practices that will serve you best while working from home can certainly seem like foreign territory.
Not to worry…
After working remotely for quite a few years, I learned a thing or two about how to work from home effectively. I’ve also learned the hard way about how to avoid certain drains on your productivity while working remotely. Now, I’d like to share these lessons with you.
But first, understand this:
Even with all of the ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade my remote working lifestyle for anything. Once you learn how to work from home successfully, you feel so fulfilled, independent, and empowered.
You may even decide to transition from a work from home lifestyle to becoming a digital nomad. (Best decision of my life!)
If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s found a way to work remotely (or you’re thinking about making the switch), Keep reading to learn some essential remote work best practices that’ll help you succeed.
Ready to go?
1. Mark Your Territory
Even when you’re working from home, it’s still crucial to establish a physical workplace somewhere in your house that you can go to and leave from each day.
Your commute might be much shorter than it would be if you were driving to an actual office (90 seconds or less), but your mindset should be the same!
Depending on your situation, your designated workspace could be a high-end home office or a temporary desk just big enough for your computer and office supplies.
Whatever it is, try to create the ideal environment to make you feel productive and comfortable. Personalize your space with natural light, proper tools, and some inspiring decor.
How you organize and decorate it is up to you – the important thing is that you own your space and always treat it as your office. It should be the only place in your home you ever do work.
Resist the urge to work at your kitchen table, on the couch, or snuggled up in bed. I promise; you won’t get as much done there and mixing your work environment with your home (non-work) environment more than you have to will make adjusting to working from home harder.
Whenever you’re sitting at your home office, you should always be doing work. Do your best to eliminate distractions. Social media, personal calls, and even food can completely throw you off your schedule.
If you need a break during the day (and you definitely will – we’ll cover that later on!), go away from your workplace and leave your laptop there.
This will help you clear your mind and be ready to jump right back into productivity mode when you go back to work.
2. Structure Your Day (And Your Life)
One of the very best things about being a remote worker is the freedom to set your own hours and work whenever you want. But if you’re not careful, this same perk can serve to be your downfall.
In order to ensure maximum remote work success (and sanity), set structured work hours based on your high productivity periods.
Everyone has a time of day where they operate at a higher level of functionality.
How do you know what your high productivity periods are?
Take some time to experiment.
For example, try starting your workday at 7 am for one week and at 10 am the next. Pay close attention to how you feel on both of those schedules and how much more (or less) you manage to get done. Who knows – maybe the 9 to 5 schedule does work for you, after all.
Whatever schedule you choose to set, make sure you enforce a hard limit at the end of the day. Physically distance yourself from work once you’ve reached that limit. Don’t let work invade your personal life.
Once your work hours are over, shut your laptop and your office door. Don’t even open work emails (turn off phone notifications). They’ll still be there waiting for you tomorrow morning when you’re back at work.
Perhaps even more important than setting your work hours is planning how you’ll transition in and out of them. Keeping a daily schedule whenever possible will help you maintain a sense of control and structure in an otherwise chaotic life.
Establish routines or rituals for different times of the day. Michael Hyatt recommends having all of the following:
- A morning ritual
- A workday startup ritual
- A workday shutdown ritual
- An evening ritual.
I work all of these into my Full-Focus Planner:
Of course, setting your work hours doesn’t mean you have to be working nonstop during them. When planning my workday, I add up to 2 hours a day of “buffer time” into my daily schedule by inserting four additional 30-minute intervals.
This gives me permission to take a break and clear my head. (See tip #5 for more info on breaks!)
3. Plan Accordingly (Measure Twice, Cut Once!)
Set clear, actionable, achievable goals for your work to give you direction and keep you motivated.
Even when you’re working on your own, it’s too easy to get trapped in the drudgery of work and daily tasks. Regularly setting and reviewing your goals will help you keep moving forward with a sense of purpose.
To accomplish this, plan tasks that progress you toward your goals by doing a weekly review.
As you’re planning out your week ahead of time, make sure you’re spending your time in a way that actually contributes to your overarching business goals. If the tasks you spend your time on feel connected to your goals, they won’t feel as much like work.
To stay productive and focused, I recommend using the time-blocking method. Organize your schedule into blocks of tasks or groups of tasks you want to focus on and accomplish (batch your work).
When you time-block certain projects days in advance, you won’t have to constantly make choices about what to focus on at any given time. It promotes focused deep work and helps you stay aware of how you’re spending your time.
Here are a few of my favorite goal-setting and planning resources:
4. Dress for Success
This is easily one of my top remote work tips.
I know, I’m sorry, but…
Working in your PJs isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
As the saying goes…
You Cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure–Zig Ziglar
This is especially true when working from home.
Before you go to sleep, choose and lay out the clothes you’re going to wear the next day. (Studies have shown it helps boost productivity.)
Make getting dressed part of your daily routine. Even if you aren’t planning on leaving the house at all, plan on dressing for work as though you were headed to the office. (Shoes can be optional, but pants aren’t.)
In the morning, get out of your PJs ASAP and get ready to head to work.
Getting ready for the day will help you be more productive from the very start. It puts you in the right mindset for work, makes you feel better about yourself, and even prepares you for any unexpected video conferences that might pop up throughout the day (it happens).
5. Take Breaks (Find An Escape)
This is a major key in learning how to work from home successfully: don’t spend all of your time working! Make sure you manage your energy and take plenty of breaks throughout the day.
Plan breaks into your schedule, and allow for some flexibility so you can step away from your home office when you feel a bit burnt out.
Staying glued to a computer screen for 8+ hours a day can get pretty draining, even if you’re doing so from the comfort of your home. Use breaks to add variety to your WFH day.
How you use your break time is up to you, but here are a few suggestions of activities to do on your regular breaks:
- Have a real lunch break. The kind where you sign off, “clock out”, and eat a whole meal away from your desk.
- Get some fresh air. Eat a snack on your patio or take a quick walk around the block.
- Take stretch breaks. Trust me, your body needs it.
- Exercise. Do a 5-minute Zumba class or a 20-minute yoga routine on YouTube. If you have the time, maybe even head to the gym.
- Socialize. FaceTime your mom, call your siblings, and/or meet up with some friends for lunch.
- Practice self-care. Do something nice for yourself for a few minutes, whether it’s eating a cookie, practicing meditation, or even some personal grooming.
6. Set Boundaries And Expectations
The workday is for clients, colleagues, employees, and contractors. During your working hours, try to avoid family, friends, and even pets. These can all serve to be powerful distractions from important tasks at hand.
Discuss clear boundaries with your family about your working hours. Establish expectations about family time and work time, and do your best to be extra-present during family time. If you have children, coordinate responsibilities with your partner or consider hiring a nanny to make sure they’re taken care of.
Be patient with your family members (and even your dog) as they navigate changes. Let them know you love them even though you can’t spend all of your time with them.
Adjusting to working from home will take time, but eventually, you and your family will get into more of a rhythm. (No, I don’t mean a rap battle!)
If you need to squeeze in some personal time with family throughout the day, scheduled breaks are a great way to do so.
Stick to your boundaries!
7. Communication is Everything
The 2020 FYI Remote Work Report found that communication was the #1 challenge remote workers face, and it’s not hard to see why. Depending on the study you read, experts say that communication is anywhere from 60-93% nonverbal.
That means you could be missing up to 93% of the overall message when you get feedback over text rather than hearing a client tell you their feedback in person.
Anyone who’s been working remotely for a significant period of time can point to various times throughout their professional life when an email or a message was totally miscommunicated or misconstrued.
Assume people have the best intentions when you can’t rely on cues like body language or tone of voice.
When in doubt, overcommunicate.
There’s no harm in being too clear about your intentions. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. When you need to work together with someone on a project, use a video chat platform rather than emailing each other back and forth.
Document meetings and decisions way more than you usually would, and designate a place to store all of those files.
When you and your colleagues or clients are on the exact same line of the exact same page, it makes it way easier to collaborate effectively.
8. Don’t Forget to Socialize
Another major struggle remote workers report experiencing is loneliness and isolation (#3 on the Remote Work Report).
Spending all of your time out on the road or working from home remotely can get pretty lonely at times. Be sure you make time to nurture relationships you already have and cultivate new ones.
Be friendly with your colleagues, clients, and employees. Check-in with them and make sure they’re doing alright, even outside of work. (Depending on the culture of your company, this may or may not be ideal.)
Alternatively, you can find other ways to be social.
Working remotely doesn’t mean you have to fly solo. There are plenty of other online workers looking for social opportunities out there.
Keep an eye out for meetups or coworking events that might be going on in your area. Those are great places to meet like-minded people, whether for networking purposes or just to make some new friends.
If you’re currently traveling, schedule weekly FaceTime dates with your closest friends to catch up and see a familiar face every once in a while. Call your mom and let her know you’re still alive. (Trust me, she’ll appreciate it.)
9. Leverage Technology
Today’s technology doesn’t just make the ability to work online possible. It also has the potential to make your location independent work experience much more efficient, effective, and convenient.
There are so many tools for remote work at our fingertips. Some are free, some are paid, and some offer freemium options. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few highly recommended tools for remote work…
Project Management Tools
Monday – Monday is excellent for staying organized, setting deadlines, and working on projects collaboratively. I’m not exaggerating when I say that both my personal and professional life would fall apart without it.
Trello – Trello is another popular project management app that allows you to visually organize your tasks on different boards.
Asana – Asana is a great project management app for teams, allowing you to coordinate and organize important tasks.
Time Management Apps
Harvest – Harvest allows you to track time and expenses, whether for your own personal insight or for clients.
RescueTime – RescueTime tracks your time and blocks distractions, with both individual and team plans.
Freedom – The Freedom app allows you to block your own access to any distracting websites for any period of time.
Slack – Slack provides an easy way for remote teams to chat with each other through organized channels.
WhatsApp – WhatsApp is a popular messaging service used all over the world. Since it uses data (or WiFi) rather than your phone plan to send messages and take calls, it’s ideal for keeping in touch with international clients or friends.
Video Conferencing Tools
Zoom – Zoom is a free, easy-to-use platform for video conferencing, webinars, and screen sharing.
Skype – Skype is an excellent tool for setting up one-on-one video meetings or group conferences.
GoToMeeting – GoToMeeting is great for hosting online meetings and webinars.
Document Sharing Tools
Headspace – Headspace is a stress-relieving app aiming to teach meditation and mindfulness in just a few minutes a day.
Hypnosis Downloads – Hypnosis Downloads allows you to choose a guided meditation that’ll train your subconscious mind to internalize habit-building or habit-breaking behavior over time. From Overcoming Procrastination to Building Wealth to Finding your Soulmate, Hypnosis Downloads has something for everyone.
Time Out – Time Out allows you to choose the length of your break and how often they occur. During a break, your computer screen will dim until your Time Out is over.
YouTube – From exercise videos to cooking classes to how-to tutorials for pretty much anything you can think of, YouTube’s a great free resource.
10. Experiment & Find Out What Works for You
The truth is, there’s no one “right” way to work remotely. It’s important to figure out what remote working best practices truly are best for you.
We’re all unique and diverse individuals. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.
When you’re establishing your remote working routine, experiment a little to figure out what you like best. Ask yourself:
- Do I work best when I have a 2-hour break in the middle of the day, or do I prefer having 20-minute breaks every hour?
- Am I an early bird or a night owl?
- Do I thrive on a rewards system or am I mostly self-motivated?
- Do I like to listen to music while working or do I need absolute silence in order to concentrate?
You’re the only one who can figure out the unique remote work best practices you need to embrace in order to succeed.
As you implement these simple work from home best practices, you’ll be able to lead a more productive, stress-free, and independent WFH life. (And you’ll have plenty of time to explore whatever area you’re currently living in while you’re off the clock!)
Over to you!
Now, I’d like to turn it over to you…
Which of these remote work best practices will you try first?
Will you start dressing for success while working from home? Or will you leverage technology using a new online tool that creates efficiency?
Maybe you’re already an online working professional with loads of experience. If so, I’d love to know what remote work tips you recommend!
In either case, We’d love to hear from you.
Leave us a quick comment below!