Between the pandemic and the rise of the gig economy, roughly 45% of U.S. employees work from home either full- or part-time, according to a 2021 Gallup poll. But working from home is a brave new world for many people, and one with a different set of rules.
Working from home without a boss or team on-site requires a different skill set, as workers struggle to combine work with family life. Although everyone has work-from-home solutions specific to their situation, here are our general tips for working from home effectively and efficiently.
You don't have a time clock telling you when to punch in and out, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't work at creating a work-from-home schedule. Once you've determined the hours you'll be working, avoid doing work at other times. Set and abide by some boundaries. If you let the convenience of a home office lead to work spilling into your home time, you'll be frustrated and at risk of burnout.
One of the best working from home tips is this: set your timer to go off every 45 minutes (or whatever period works for you), and when it does, take five or ten minutes to stand, stretch, play a game on your smartphone, or get coffee. It doesn't matter what you do, but leave your computer for a few minutes to relax. You'll find that your productivity increases rather than decreases if you take a break every hour.
If you're lucky, you have an office space in your home that you can dedicate solely to your professional life. But some people look around and wonder, how can I work from home? If you live in an apartment or smaller home without room for a dedicated workspace, invest in some plastic or wicker baskets that you can use to corral your work materials at the end of the day, and set them aside. Close your work laptop. Think about separation.
If you can, keep your work computer and your home technology needs on separate devices. Make sure your family — especially the kids — know that work materials are hands-off and not to be touched.
Anyone who's worked from home knows there are always people needing them during work hours — a fretful child, a busy spouse, or that one friend who always calls when you're busiest. Your working from home productivity can take a nosedive from these interruptions.
One suggestion for how to successfully work from home is to talk to family and friends and let them know that even if you're there physically, you aren't available during the hours you've designated as work time. Here's where closing a door can come in handy. It may take some repetition, but eventually, you can train your loved ones to leave you alone while you're working.
A significant drawback to working from home is isolation: you won't be surrounded by friendly co-workers willing to chat and eat lunch with you or customers who quickly make the time pass. One of the work from home best practices we advise is to take advantage of opportunities to connect. There are countless work-from-home support groups on the internet, and you may even have one through your employer.
If you're self-employed, look for online communities through social media platforms. Reach out to others you've seen on Twitter or Instagram and ask them if they'd like to connect online to talk about work.
If you're an introvert, you may need to step out of your comfort zone, but it's worth it to connect with others in similar situations and share the challenges and joys of working from home.
Everyone needs help sometimes. Perhaps you're stuck on a project, or your computer needs an upgrade. Or maybe you need extra time added to your work deadline. Whatever the case, if you need creative ways to work from home, consider this: your company may have resources to leverage that can make it easier for you to work from home.
For example, if you need equipment you don't have, such as a printer or ergonomic chair, don't hesitate to ask your company for assistance with the purchase. Ask for time off when you need it. If you're a freelancer, post questions to your online group chats or support groups.
One of the best tips for working at home productively is to give yourself a mental reminder when you start and end your workday. Maybe in the morning, your routine is to get your coffee, read something non-work-related, and then get to work.
Perhaps at the end of the day, you spend 30 minutes going over the day's emails or reviewing your Zoom meetings. Whatever helps you transition from home life to work life will increase your productivity and help you and your family understand the rhythms of your professional time. And, by putting some rituals into place, you may find you respect your work and yourself more.