The Ultimate Work-From-Home Guide: Tips and Best Practices

Working from home is rewarding and challenging at the same time. If you crave a remote work lifestyle, here are some tips and best practices to help you succeed.

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Working from home seems like such a simple and fantastic concept. You can work from your dining room table? And you don’t have to commute to the office? There are no meetings to sit through? Sign me up!

But online work has its disadvantages as well. When you’re working from home, you don’t have anyone hovering over you, pushing you to get things done — which may sound great until you discover that that’s what you need to be at your best. Motivating yourself to get things done is a lot harder than it sounds, and while some people are cut out for the remote work lifestyle, others aren’t.

That said, you will enjoy tremendous benefits from working at home if you execute it right. These tips for working remotely will increase the chances that you will get the work done while enjoying all the upsides of your new, flexible lifestyle.

10 best tips for working from home effectively:

  • Place a premium on discipline
  • Set boundaries
  • Take breaks
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique
  • Reach out for help
  • Consider a business phone number
  • Seek human contact
  • Use vacation time
  • Focus on communicating
  • Keep learning

1. Place a premium on discipline

You will fall on your face if you do not focus on being disciplined when working from home. Remote work requires you to be a self-motivator capable of getting into gear and ignoring the temptations to waste time. If not, you will fall behind and spend every day stressed as you try to make up lost ground.

Maintain a strict work from home schedule and manage your time. Remember, comfort does not mean a lack of professionalism, but it does create an environment ripe for procrastination.

Quick tip: Create a small work area where you are only allowed to work — no other activities are permitted in this spot.

2. Set boundaries

If you live with other people, you must set boundaries. Loved ones and roommates must understand that you’re working during certain time periods. Set aside a space for work and let them know this is your work zone.

If you work in your living room and have calls to make or need some quiet time, alert them each day to your schedule so they know they need to be out of the way. Coordinate with others to handle things like domestic chores or child care. Remain flexible and respect their needs as well.

Quick tip: Ask your family members or roommates where they would prefer you to work so you can stay out of their way. This can help to avoid conflict in the future.

3. Take breaks

Many times I’ve said to myself, “I’ve got five hours until the end of the day, so I’m going to put my head down and work straight through that period.” The reality is, when you remotely manage your time, you must take breaks to stay fresh and improve focus. It doesn’t have to be a long break, but you need time to mentally refresh.

Quick tip: Go outside and get some fresh air. A little sunlight will go a long way to reinvigorating you.

4. Use the Pomodoro Technique

This is one of the best work hacks I have discovered for working remotely. With the Pomodoro Technique, you set an egg timer for 25 minutes during which you work without stopping, and then you take a five-minute break. This allows you to break up your work into manageable chunks.

In my experience, staring down the barrel of four or five hours of non-stop work massively increases the temptation to procrastinate. If you just commit yourself to work for 25 minutes on the next project and keep doing that until the task is done, everything gets much more manageable. Give it a try and you might be surprised.

Quick tip: If the Pomodoro Technique doesn’t suit you, try other, similar techniques, like going for 90 minutes before a longer break.

5. Reach out for help

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help — your company has a vested interest in making sure you succeed, and it may have the resources to do so. Contact them if you need equipment or other assistance that might facilitate productivity. Needs may range from a new computer to accessories, such as a mouse, or even just some one-on-one time with a manager.

Quick tip: Find a mentor who has been working from home for a while who can give you advice when you need it.

6. Get a business phone number

Most of us working remote jobs are using our personal cell phone for business-related calls, but consider getting a business phone number. Separating your work life and personal life is important when it comes to managing your time and creating a workspace, so why not apply this logic to your phone numbers?

This maintains your privacy and makes you look more professional. It’s also less intrusive for your family or roommates.

Quick tip: Keep your business phone within your workspace so you’re not tempted to use it outside of work.

7. Seek human contact

Humans are social creatures, and we were not meant to be isolated. You may not realize the impact that a lack of human contact is having on your life and even your work productivity. Use video conferencing software to schedule a remote meeting with your colleagues or clients every now and then.

The benefits of video conferencing are immense — they allow you to have face-to-face time with the people you need to stay in contact with, all from the comfort and safety of your home.

Quick tip: Use communication tools like Slack to keep in touch with colleagues throughout the day. While it’s not the same as face-to-face contact, it’s a better collaboration tool than email.

8. Use vacation time

If you’re an employee, your company provides you with time off. Use it. It’s vital to your mental health and well-being, and you’re working more than you need to if you don’t use it. A well-planned break, even from remote work, is critical in keeping you productive over the long term. Avoid burnout, especially in an environment where you’re isolated from the world.

Quick tip: Use your vacation time to get out of the house. This is your opportunity to break through the isolation, so schedule a trip somewhere, even if it’s nearby.

9. Focus on communicating

Communication is easy when there’s face-to-face contact every day, but you have to be more proactive when everyone is at home. Reach out on a regular basis to colleagues and managers to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

This is vital to reaching project objectives. It’s harder to communicate remotely through an occasional email — so much gets lost in translation. Schedule video conference meetings to maintain those relationships and make sure nothing falls by the wayside.

Quick tip: Have a set time each week when you catch up with the entire team. This helps to keep everyone on the same page.

10. Keep learning

Remote work is a good opportunity for your continued development as a person. Invest in professional training and use the flexibility you have to improve your skills. Because you’re saving lots of time not having to commute, reinvest it in training and education. Develop your skills and seek new opportunities and challenges, either with your current employer or a new one.

Quick tip: Ask your company if they offer training, or if they will pay for classes that could make you a more productive employee. Then you aren’t on the hook for the expense.

Working from home is great, as long as you’re prepared

If you’ve been browsing remote job boards and wondering if this is the life for you, rest assured that it can be absolutely fantastic, at least from my perspective. But you have to have a self-motivated personality, and you have to be prepared.

Use software to organize your work life. The remote tools these software platforms provide will help you manage projects, organize your accounting, make sales calls more efficiently, or do whatever else it is you do as part of your job.

Before taking a new remote position, try out a few software platforms and draw up a plan for what your new work-from-home routine would look like. That way, you can jump into your new career with confidence.

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