Work from home essentials: 11 tips for working from home

Samantha Villegas, Senior Consultant (Email)

Though working from home may be new to many employees, Senior Consultant Sam Villegas has been working from home since 2012. The following are some tips she offers for those who are trying to get used to this new work environment.

1. Create a dedicated space

When you work from home, it can be tempting to sit on the sofa or your bed with your laptop, but it’s important to try and keep your workspace separate from your home space to ensure that (a) you are able to truly walk away from your work on breaks and at the end of the day and (b) it sends a clear signal to your family that you are not (as) available to them when you are in that workspace.

2. Check ergonomics

Your makeshift home office might not have the same kind of desk-chair combination you are accustomed to but, if you take care of these three things, you should be able to avoid any unnecessary strain in your wrists, neck or back:

  • Find a chair height that enables your feet to rest flat footed with your knees at a 90-degree angle.
  • Look for a desk height that keeps your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Set a monitor height that aligns with the level of your eyes when your head is in a neutral position. You may need to stack a book or a crate under your computer to achieve this.

3. Wear what makes you productive

One of the best things about working from home is the ability to wear what you want. Should you wear PJs? Get dressed as you normally would? Lots of research has been done to determine whether what you wear affects productivity. What researchers have found is there is not so much a correlation with productivity, but there is a connection to your perception of yourself, meaning, what you wear can make you feel a certain way. For some, wearing PJs while they work gives them a sense of comfort that frees them to be very productive. For others, wearing PJs may have the opposite effect. Some report wearing shoes helps keep them focused. You may learn from trial and error what works for you, so give PJs or sweats a shot and then try less casual clothes, and see what works best for you, knowing that, at any time, a coworker could ask for some face time.

4. Take small breaks

Working from home is different from the office because your time is almost 100% productive. It’s very easy to sit, unmoved, typing at your computer for an hour or more. But this can cause stiff muscles and strain. So stop every 15-20 minutes and stretch your arms, legs and look away from your screen and focus on something further away. Set a phone alarm if you need to.

5. Ask for and honor appointments

At the office, it’s usually easier to reach people at their desks when you call them without warning, especially if you can see that they’re at their desk. At home, know that your coworkers may need to step away from their phones or computers to attend to a child or take a break. If you need to talk to someone, consider asking for an appointment, even for a quick call, so your coworker can anticipate your call and be ready for it.

6. Take advantage of flexibility (within reason)

Remote work offers a kind of flexibility that office work does not. With the added stress of the situation, use this opportunity to your advantage. If you normally begin a commute at 7 am, consider just starting the day at that time. This could buy you extra time at lunch to prep and eat lunch, or to take a walk. Or, at the tail end of your day, you may be able to stop sooner to be with family or pause to get exercise and return later. The key is be available to clients and coworkers during normal work hours, even if you set aside some work for early morning or late evening.

7. Be aware of busy home hours

Make a note of certain times of the day when family members might need you and plan your work time around that. Kids may need help with breakfast or lunch, or a spouse who still works outside the home may need your attention when they return. If you know this at the start of the day, it’s easier to manage when these disruptions arise.

8. Power down when done

With a home office, however makeshift it may be, there can be a temptation to continue to work, long after you’ve put in a full day. For your family and your own health, physically power down and walk away from the computer when you’re done.

9. Schedule face time

Some employees might relish the alone time and others may be craving connections. It’s important for supervisors to balance both. Most folks will get the regular opportunity for daily interactions with others via phone, email and IM, but make sure you set aside one time per week to check in face-to-face. Both Skype and Microsoft Teams enable this function.

10. Mute your line

Now more than usual, it’s important that you use headphones for your calls and mute your line when you are not speaking. This helps minimize background noise on the call and gives your coworkers the clearest way to hear you. Remove headphones when you are not on a call, though, as they can cause soreness in the ears if worn for too long.

11. Raise the temp

You may notice that you can get pretty cold in your home workspace, sitting very still while you work. This is usually because you move around less at home than you do at a busy office where you might be getting up often to meet with others. Also, many folks maintain a lower temperature in their home during the day to save on energy costs. So, increase the thermostat a few degrees to keep yourself comfortable and, as said in #4, take some breaks to keep yourself moving while you work.