Tips for Working from Home Effectively

Girl using her laptop to work from home with her cat

If you’re like many employees in the current era of COVID-19, you’re probably working from home right now. Many workers in many industries have been displaced from their offices and shared workspaces in an effort to curtail the spread of germs as this highly contagious virus continues to spread.

For some employees, working from home is no big deal. Whether it’s once a week or its full time, there are many companies that allow remote work on a regular basis. Some even encourage it.

But for others, working remotely outside the office is a new challenge, one that likely feels like it’s limiting productivity and making the everyday tasks required of them significantly more difficult.

How to Make Working From Home Work

Wondering what you can do to make working from home more effective while we are practicing social distancing? Here are a few tips and tricks to help make working remotely work for you.

Separate Work from Home Life as Best You Can

When you first start working from home, it will likely feel like your worlds are colliding. Some days you’ll feel like you now live at work, and other days you’ll feel like your work is taking over your home life. 

In situations like those presented by COVID-19, where people are likely going to be working from home for an extended period of time, it’s important to maintain some semblance of separation between your work life and your home life. 

There are a few ways to go about doing this. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Set up an isolated, dedicated workspace with the equipment you need to work effectively all within reach
  • Establish work hours and do your best to stick to them
  • If you have children, set up childcare if possible. If not possible (and for many during the COVID-19 pandemic it is not possible or recommended to have outside help), do your best to work outside the hours that you will be parenting so you can give your full attention to each task. You can also set up a schedule with your spouse or partner so you can tag-team parental duties.

Be Flexible

With all of the above being said, do what you can to embrace flexibility. Work life and home life will inevitably intersect when you are working from home. That’s just a fact. 

If you approach working from home with an attitude of flexibility and the willingness to go with the flow, you’ll have much more success. 

Your start time might change, your lunch break may need to be extended so you can walk the dog and feed your child, and your workday might not end right at 5pm. Some days you might find yourself working late at night so you have uninterrupted quiet. And all of that is okay (assuming that your employer is on board, of course). 

You will be most successful working remotely if you find a rhythm that works best for you, your company, and for the others in your household that you need to accommodate. It might not look the way you expected it to, but be comfortable exploring until you find that solution.

Find Ways to Connect

In person meetings aren’t an option when social distancing is in place, so it’s important to find other ways to connect when you’re working from home, both with clients and customers and with your coworkers. 

Phone calls are a great way to communicate, and often they are faster and more productive than sending an email. 

Video conferencing is another great option. There are a handful of platforms out there – many of them free – that will allow you to chat via video with multiple people at a time. It’s a great way to continue getting facetime while keeping your distance. (Getting ready for your first video conference? Be sure to check out our tips for effective online meetings here.)

Instant messaging is another important way to keep in touch with your team while you’re working remotely. You can chat instantaneously, which makes quick questions and comments a breeze and keeps those channels of communication open.

Communicate

Communication is key when you’re part of a team, but it’s especially imperative during times when you’re isolated and working from home. Many times, word gets around the office and information gets casually disseminated when everyone’s working in close proximity – but that changes when your team is working remotely. 

As a result, when you’re working from home it’s important to communicate effectively, even to the point that you feel like you’re overcommunicating. Don’t hesitate to cc people on emails or send messages about seemingly minor details. Take careful notes and save them where the people who need them can refer back to them. Do your part to keep people in the loop perhaps more than you think you should. It will pay off in the long run.

Invest in the Equipment You Need

If you’re planning to do your job from your 10 year old laptop while sitting on your bed, think again. It’s not realistic that you’re going to do your best work that way even for one day – and with many offices closed for weeks if not months due to the coronavirus, it’s especially unrealistic to think that this plan is a long term solution. 

Many companies are offering to purchase or loan out equipment their employees need to continue providing the necessary services to customers. With that in mind, ask for what you need. Even if your employer won’t lend it, it may be worth it to purchase what you need yourself.

Noise canceling headphones with a microphone, a web-cam, a desktop computer, an extra monitor – these are just a few of the basics you’ll want to consider if you’re planning to work remotely for the foreseeable future. If you’re set up for success, you’ll find that working from home is much more productive and much less frustrating short- and long-term.

Keep an Ongoing To Do List

With so much on our plates and on our minds during this coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to stay on task and focused while you’re working. This can be especially hard to do when our regular routines are in a state of upheaval and nothing feels “normal.”

Keeping that in mind, and with the goal of being intentional with the time you do dedicate to your work, it’s important to stay on task. A to do list can be immensely helpful with that. 

Don’t trust your brain to remember the dozens of tasks you need to do as part of your job on a daily basis. If you need to get back to a client or follow up about something, write it down. If you have something you need to wrap up or go back to, add that to the list as well. It’s even a good idea to add things you’d normally remember or do on ‘autopilot’ – just in case the day gets away from you or you’re a bit more distracted than usual.

An ongoing to do list is an easy tool you can use for the duration of your work from home stint that will help you to work much more effectively.

Remote Work Can Be Productive and Efficient

The coronavirus has created challenges for employees and employers in most industries. Though the prospect of working remotely may feel daunting, keep in mind that it is in your best interest to do so, and it’s important to do your part by respecting the guidelines of social distancing. These regulations were put in place to protect our communities and our society as a whole.

With these tips and a positive mentality, you can continue doing your best work no matter where you’re working from. 

Spending a lot of time looking at screens these days? You’re not alone. Here are a few helpful ways to protect your eyes from becoming overly strained no matter where you’re working from.

Looking for additional tips about making working from home work for you? Check out our post about WFH tips for entrepreneurs for additional ideas to keep you on task while you work remotely.