The trend of more flexible workplaces, heightened by the COVID crisis, will positively affect society as a whole. According to Deloitte, working from home will give people more flexibility in housing location and time management while also lowering the transport infrastructure burden.
With the whole world now slowly shifting towards remote working, it makes sense to determine how productivity can be maintained and even improved.
Here are 21 working from home tips for 2021 that can help transform productivity and employee satisfaction.
Working from Home Tips for Work-Life Balance
Tip #1: Change for the Work Day
Adjusting to working from home can be hard in many ways, but the favourite thing for everyone is the opportunity to burrow into comfy loungewear.
We’d be lying if we said that we aren’t writing this in pajamas. But the fact is that we need to have some way to tell our bodies that it’s time to get to work.
Every single person needs to dress up for work and this could mean different things to different people. For some, it may be putting together a kickass outfit waist up and then putting on comfy loungewear below. For others, it could be rocking a full workday outfit with killer makeup and hair.
Find out what your work from home uniform sweet spot is and stick to it every day.
The reality is that our brains are wired to take cues from our immediate surroundings. The mere act of taking a shower, doing your hair, putting on a dab of perfume, and getting into your workwear is guaranteed to make you more productive.
Tip #2: Mimic a Commute
One of the biggest perks of working from home is that we don’t have to be stuck in hours of traffic. So why am I asking you to mimic something that horrific?
A commute can be tragic, but it can also be magical. Think of the times you’ve air guitar-ed your way to your office simply because you had an early start and a killer playlist. It’s another one of those social cues that tell your brain to enter into work mode.
My “commute” to the workstation includes:
- Filling up two giant flasks of water
- Grabbing a steaming cup of coffee
- Writing in my dream diary while rocking out to an early 2000s Spotify playlist
This only takes about 15 minutes, but it’s an excellent ritual to kickstart my workday.
By maintaining such rituals, we’re making a decisive step to demarcate a workday from free time.
Tip #3: Maintain a Schedule
Every job, no matter how stressful and hectic it may be, has a natural cadence. We start our office workday when the smell of fresh coffee lures us into the break room and lunch boxes opening around 1 indicate lunchtime. By six, we start tiring and think of trying to head off traffic by leaving quickly, so we begin to wrap up our work.
No one tells us that all this is happening, but it does. Unfortunately while adjusting to working from home, none of these cues exist anymore. It becomes challenging to distinguish when the workday should start and end.
One of our working from home tips is to build a schedule and stick to it. Starting work at 10 am and ending at 11 pm may feel extremely rewarding initially but will only lead to an employee crashing and burning.
Tip #4: A Dedicated Work from Home Setup
In an ideal situation, we’d all have a home office that has beautiful French windows, killer WiFi, and a lighting rig for video calls. But most of us mere mortals have to make do with a dining table or coffee table in the living room.
But no matter what your living situation may be, do not work from your bed. That is a recipe from disaster, however comfy it may be.
Ensure that you have a single space where you do nothing but work. Without this, the separation between work and home life can get fuzzy.
Tip #5: You’re Home but still Working
We can’t be the only ones who have had their video calls interrupted by family members just waltzing into our workspaces like we’re spending a sunny Sunday. While most people post-COVID have remote working experience, there need to be some ground rules set for housemates.
These housemates can be your children, spouse, parents, or even a pet. The older generation or the young guns may often think that you don’t have any set work routine. It is your job to step in and make them understand the boundaries.
There might be days when you want to take a break and help around the house with chores or help someone with lunch. But it would help if you made them understand that this isn’t a hint for them to consider you available all day for errands.
Setting boundaries might be as simple as housemates knocking before entering your workspace or keeping music in the house during work hours to a reasonable volume. But having something in place will allow you to look at remote working as a blessing and not a curse.
Tip #6: Meal Prep in Advance
It can be very tempting to whip up a nice breakfast and lunch for yourself every day. Cooking and eating fresh is one of the biggest draws of working from home.
But the sad reality is that cooking takes time. It doesn’t matter if it only eats into half an hour of your workday, but it is a huge distraction.
Always prepare food ahead of time, either before your start your day or the night before. That way, even if you’re too swamped to whip up a quick meal, you’ll still have something to scarf down quickly.
Working from Home Tips for a Comfortable Work Space
Tip #7: Music to Our Ears
We don’t know about you, but in the past year, even the most hardened introverts have caught themselves missing the hustle-bustle of an office. Sometimes the sheer silence of a home office can feel so loud.
Even those who never thought of listening to music during work because it distracted them are now in the market for something to fill the silence. Video game soundtracks and white noise are absolute perfection for people who get easily distracted.
If you’re someone who isn’t as easily distracted, you can also look to match your playlist to the concentration required for your project. How about Taylor Swift’s Evermore while crushing your planning activities of the day while listening to thumping EDM beats while replying to emails?
One of the most creative work from home tips is to find a playlist that helps you focus on your task at hand.
Tip #8: That WiFi Needs to be Up
One of the critical problems that come up when asked about how to make work from home better is tech issues. If you’re in the office and your laptop is making your life hell, all you need to do is ask for a replacement. The fairy godmothers that are office administrators whisk it away, and an IT person fixes it, all while you take a guilt-free break.
You’re the IT person, the office administrator, and anything else you may need to be at home. A poor internet connection, frequent backup generator restarts of your modem, or even an outdated system can be massively frustrating.
Try to preempt any tech issues that may arise, because missing out on a meeting because your router was on a fritz can be a major embarrassment.
Working from Home Tips for Optimal Communication
Tip #9: Socialise with Colleagues
Although it may seem like an absolute joy to start your workday without any major distractions, over time the silence becomes deafening.
Not having a coworker to share the state of MCU Phase 2 or the gossip from The Bachelor can get incredibly isolating. While socialization may seem like the antithesis of productivity, trust us when we say that is one of the best work from home strategies.
These connections with our colleagues make us enjoy the work we do and the people we work with. A lack of connection can make employee productivity suffer, leave them demoralized and make them wonder if WFH was ever as rosy as they pictured it to be.
HR Managers need to proactively help create channels for employees to interact with one another casually. It could be something as simple as a Slack Channel for casual gossip or even a Friday night Zoom party with company-provided booze to unwind.
Tip #10: Socialise with Everyone
This may seem counterintuitive to one of the working from home tips mentioned above but please, interact with your housemates.
You’re working remotely, not from a remote island that you’re the only resident of. Take a gander about the house during the day and talk to the people you live with.
You don’t need to spend too much time doing this, but even doing this for 15 minutes per day can help chase the blues away.
Tip #11: Intensely Overcommunicate
Gone are the days when “Communication Skills” were just buzzwords thrown about in CVs. With the rapid rise of remote working, it is imperative to master the skill of written communication.
While speaking to one another, it is easy to interpret tone and body language. The written word is much less communicative in terms of non-verbal cues and can be easily misinterpreted.
When you communicate with anyone, be sure to be as detailed and meticulous as you possibly can. It doesn’t matter if you feel that the details may already be known, be sure to reiterate and don’t leave anything to chance.
After all, a message from your manager saying “We need to talk.” can send a chill down anyone’s spine. But what if they just wanted to talk about the recent episode of Bachelor?
Communicate, communicate and communicate some more to make work from home better.
Tip #12: Communicate Asynchronously
Manager on Slack: Hey Monica! Were you able to look over the proposal I sent?
<1 minute later>
Manager: Did you get that, Monica?
<2 minutes later>
Does this annoying situation seem familiar? In most cases, working from home allows employees to structure the day the way they see fit. This may mean that Monica is merely shutting down Slack notifications to work through a task without distractions.
It is the responsibility of HR Managers to build a culture of asynchronous communication within an organization to allow individuals to thrive. Communication like this also facilitates the creation of multi-time zone teams and allows the focus to be on talent alone.
Working from Home Tips to Prevent Burnout
Tip #13: Take Breaks
When you’re working full time from home, it can be easy to get too focused on the task at hand. With no planned breaks, it is relatively easy to get into a work-only mode.
Unfortunately, although you may feel energized and productive in the short run, you will be much less so in the long term. Be sure to pace yourself through the day and take short breaks to give your mind a rest.
A strategy to remain focused throughout the day is the Pomodoro Technique. This involves working in 25-minute increments with subsequent five-minute breaks. After four Pomodoros, take a more extended break of 20 minutes to unwind. Use the longer break to play with your dog, take a nap or catch up on your reading.
Whatever your break strategy may be, be sure to have one.
Tip #14: Set Productivity Expectations
Working from home can bring in a fresh set of anxieties that in-office workers have never felt. One of them is the fear of not pulling your weight no matter how hard you may try. In an office, it’s easy for your boss to see that you’re putting in the hours, but in remote work, there may be a dissonance.
A simple question for remote workers to pose to their managers during their one on one meetings may be a simple, “What does me being productive mean?”
Your manager will tell you what those metrics are and put you at ease. These can range from giving Daily To-Dos with EOD updates or even using a time tracking tool like AttendanceBot.
Tip #15: Don’t Forget to Use Your Vacation Days
At AttendanceBot, we’re a completely remote team with Unlimited PTO, and while that sounds magical, we do get confused about opting for it.
Sick days and special occasions aside, what do we even use it for? We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so holidays are almost entirely out of the question.
More importantly, what about a mental health day?
As a remote worker, one of the biggest sources of guilt may be wanting to take a mental health day every once in a while. We’re already working from home, what could we possibly do with one?
But that’s a very unhealthy way of looking at it. Working from home is great but being 100% at home with yourself is just as important. Use that mental health day to focus entirely on yourself. To truly enjoy that day off, turn off all work notifications and do something you love.
A mental health break allows you to come back to work with a clear mind and heart. These are even more important in the stressful times we live in.
HR Managers must go out of their way to ensure that employees aren’t overworking themselves by taking minimal to no leaves. Using absence trackers can help curb the rise of rapid presenteeism.
Working from Home Tips for Employee Health
Tip #16: This Isn’t the Time To Become an Owl
When you’re working from home, you have the opportunity to set up your workday as you see fit. The first thing that goes for a toss is your sleep cycle.
After all, you don’t need to accommodate your commute into your day. Why not just use that time to sleep in and binge watch at night? Anything like this situation is a slippery slope.
You need to make sure that nothing is cutting into your 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule has been proven to boost mental clarity and reduce stress.
So limit your binge-watching to the weekends and implement good sleep habits to boost productivity.
Tip #17: Workout Regularly
One of the first things tossed right of the window on a hectic workday is your workout. But the fact is that workouts help keep your physical form healthy and your mental one energized.
No one’s asking you to get ripped unless you want to. But incorporating at least 30 minutes of light cardio everyday helps in keeping cardiovascular illnesses at bay. You could also add in a strength training session to mix it up.
No matter what, keep your body moving every day, and you will see the mental benefits too.
HR Managers can set up Zoom workout classes for employees to ensure that they’re focusing on their health. Simple workout plans from home can also be shared regularly to keep everyone motivated.
Tip #18: Fast Food is Never the Answer
No matter how stressed you may be, try to eat healthy during the workday to keep your mind clear. One of the previous working from home tips ties neatly into this one. By meal prepping healthy meals in advance, you can steer clear of the siren call of Postmates.
This tip not only helps in maintaining your overall health but also keeps your wallet happy.
Working from Home Tips to Stay Focused
Tip #19: Communication Free Time
It would be magical to sprint through an entire workday powered up and motivated to crush every task. But we all have different times of the day when we’re most productive. Some may be bright eyed and bushy tailed morning people, while others may be most productive in the evening.
Recognize and capitalize on your most productive periods by knocking out more challenging tasks during them. Use slower points of the day to knock out more logistical ones.
Remote work can often feel like a parade of Slack messages, Zoom calls, and emails. They may eat into your productive work hours, so do make sure that you’re silencing them all when you wish to be the most productive.
Tip #20: Monitor Your Social Media Usage
We’d all like to believe that if our phone blew up one day, we’d be just fine. But is that true?
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
What do you avoid an awkward silence?
What do you do before sleeping?
No matter who you are, your answer to all of this is probably a social media app. It could be anything between Instagram, Reddit, TikTok, or Facebook, but it’s one of them.
Social media is a massive drain on time. Interacting and reading articles can be highly addictive. We understand that looking at your phone now and again isn’t all that bad, but picking it up every time a notification pops up can lead to drastically reduced productivity.
What can you do to prevent this?
iOS users have an in-built widget that tracks screen time, and there are many other apps that can do the same. You can also use these apps to limit your usage of certain social media too.
Get off that addictive TikTok feed and watch your productivity soar.
Tip #21: Align Your Tasks with Long Term Goals
Working from home can make employees want to look hyper-productive. But this may lead to working on tasks that are easier rather than more important. Research suggests that it is counterproductive in the long run, even if it may be deemed productive in the short run.
A useful framework for long term planning can be OKRs. Keeping OKRs in mind while constructing a daily task list can help focus your efforts on what matters.
When you construct your everyday task list, think about your monthly and quarterly goals to create tasks that work towards those. Visualizing milestones to your long term goals and tasks to get to those milestones can help keep your eye on the prize.
We don’t want to toot our horn, but we are pretty comfortable and productive with our remote working structure. If you have any queries about remote working, feel free to tweet @HarmonizeHQ.
If you’d like to speak to us about how remote working productivity can be tracked with our attendance tracking software, please schedule a demo with us.