Work-from-Home Guide: 25 Tips for Being Productive
Updated May 5, 2023
Companies often allow employees to work in a remote environment. It can take time for individuals to transition from working in person with their colleagues to working from home. Reviewing a work-from-home guide can help you maintain your productivity and relationships with members of your team while staying motivated to perform well in your role.
In this article, we discuss the best practices for working from home including staying motivated, productive and healthy.
Staying productive while working remotely
Here are some tips for eliminating distractions and boosting productivity while working from home:
1. Follow a morning routine
Try maintaining your regular morning routine to set boundaries between working and living at home. Go to bed at the same time every night and set an alarm to wake up at the same time every morning. This helps your body to get into a routine. This also helps to set boundaries between working and living at home.
2. Dress for success
In place of your morning commute, you might try another activity to boost productivity, such as a walk, light workout or meditation. Then, get dressed and ready for your day and make a healthy breakfast. Dressing for the tasks ahead of you can make you feel more motivated, and is also a helpful practice in case of unexpected video meetings.
3. Identify working hours
Set your working hours apart from your personal home time. For transparency, tell your manager when your working hours are when working from home and indicate on your calendar when you're available. Check if your employer has core business hours that the company expects you to work. For instance, your supervisor may require you to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break. If you have a flexible work schedule, then establish which times of the day are best for you.
4. Plan your workday
Here are a few tips on managing your daily schedule to optimize productivity:
Start each day off by reviewing the tasks you want to get done to make progress towards your goals that day and throughout the week.
Prioritize your tasks by understanding the time investment, complexity and impact of each.
Provide key status updates to your manager and team members at an agreed-upon cadence.
Take regularly scheduled breaks to stretch, get outside and rest.
Block time off on your calendar to complete specific tasks to keep you on track and hold you accountable for getting your work done.
5. Take breaks
Build in regular breaks for your brain and body. This can help you feel refreshed and maintain a healthy work-life balance. These breaks can take any form, including:
Reading a chapter of a book
Listening to a podcast
Doing a short yoga video
Taking a walk
Calling a loved one
6. Create a workspace
If possible, it is best to set aside a separate space in your home for work, such as a home office. This can help you separate your home and work activities, and boost productivity when you're working in your designated space. When you distinguish your workspace, you can also associate areas in your home with work and other areas, such as your bedroom, with rest.
7. Limit distractions
Communicate with your friends and roommates that even though you're at home, you're off-limits during your scheduled work hours. You can also work in an area that has minimal distractions, such as a quiet room without a television. Consider putting your phone away to suppress the urge to scroll on social media.
8. Use technology
Video technology is also an incredible tool to leverage when working remotely. It helps you to stay connected even when you're physically apart from your colleagues To optimize your video meetings, you can:
Test out your computer microphone, speakers and camera before important meetings to make sure they work.
Be conscious of your physical background when in meetings and change to something more professional when needed.
Use your video camera whenever possible, which can improve understanding and communication.
9. Pay attention to burnout
The fusion of workspace and home space can lead to a lack of boundaries and breaks. Align with your manager and team on expected work outcomes so you're focusing less on how much you work and more on what you achieve. You can also celebrate your achievements to improve your motivation.
Related: Burnout: What It Is and How To Cope
10. Know when to log off
Create work start and stop rituals and forced movement moments, such as walking the dog and scheduling stretches. For example, try the Pomodoro Method by focusing for 25 minutes, then taking a mandatory five-minute break. Here are some additional ways to create boundaries around work and home time:
Shut down your computer at the end of the day.
Avoid opening your email or online chat after you've decided to sign off.
Identify an activity that starts around the time you want to disconnect, such as a workout class, errand or appointment with a friend.
Related: Top 11 Work-From-Home Chat Jobs
Communicating with remote teammates
When working from home, in-person communications are limited. That means you're not as able to rely on building rapport through small talk and nonverbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions. To maintain healthy communications with colleagues while working remotely, here are a few things to keep in mind:
A stand-up is a daily meeting that involves the core team, highlights progress, and helps flag blockers. In the standard format of a stand-up, each team member comes prepared to answer these questions:
What did I work on yesterday?
What am I working on today?
What issues are blocking me?
The daily reinforcement of sharing individual successes and plans keeps everyone excited about the team's overall contribution to the organization.
Make online chat your “main office”
Many companies and teams use online chat to stay connected both personally and on work-related topics. You might consider creating light-hearted channels where people can share updates about non-work-related subjects, such as cooking, exercise or pets. You can also use chat regularly to communicate as frequently as possible around key goals and progress towards them.
Avoid misunderstandings and maintain a positive tone when communicating by using a phone or video. Ask questions to understand your colleague's intentions. Allow verbal and face-to-face communication to convey your messages more clearly.
Keep the team spirit
When working from home, it's important to create spaces to interact with your teammates beyond projects and status updates. Virtual team building can help replace valuable in-person forms of communication that are missing from the remote office.
Initiate conversations in online chat groups with icebreakers. Encourage your colleagues to discuss their interests and offer new information about themselves, which can help you form and maintain meaningful relationships. Consider asking icebreakers questions once a week.
Install the same platforms
Make sure everyone on your team is using the same applications to communicate. This can ensure that you can access information in one place. For example, you can designate a channel on an online chat platform for one project, so your colleagues can share updates and ask questions in a shared space.
Related: 29 Team Chat Apps for the Workplace
Offer training opportunities
Find tutorials to teach fellow members of your team how to take advantage of the features the technology has to offer. For example, you can teach your colleagues how to record voice memos to use instead of typed messages or how to send documents through platforms to distribute information more easily.
Managing a remote team
Leading remotely can present a certain set of unique challenges, especially if this is a new transition for you or your team. Planning, communication and expectation-setting can help maintain contentedness and productivity. Here are some tips for managing a remote team:
1. Communicate clear expectations
Take a moment to plan. Type up your quarterly goals and your plans for reaching them so you can start discussing them with your team. You can avoid misunderstandings when you create a document that serves as a source of truth. You might also share the document with stakeholders to streamline collaboration.
2. Schedule a meeting
Schedule a team meeting to discuss if there are any new expectations and what, if anything, has changed with working remotely. In your agenda, include:
Goal responsibilities and ownership
How often do you expect updates and in what form, such as written, video chat, recording and stand-up
Communication norms, including which technology you want to use for each type of message and the expected response time
3. Cherish your one-on-one time
A one-to-one is a time to make sure you and each member of your team are working towards the same objectives and that they're completing the right work. Regular check-ins allow for immediate and regular feedback and promote open communication. Dedicated one-on-one time with your team members becomes even more critical and important when managing a team virtually. Try allocating between 30 minutes to one hour with each of your direct reports for a one-on-one each week.
4. Create a shared agenda
Many factors dictate the best way to structure your meetings for success including the emotional needs of those you manage, your relationship and the team member's experience level. The most important element in a successful one-on-one is creating a space where people feel comfortable discussing the issues and concerns on their minds. These meetings are primarily for the employee and their participation is vital. Pre-populate a shared agenda to help you provide context before the meeting and also allows both parties to take ownership of the meeting. Establish the topics you know you need to cover.
5. Ask open-ended questions
Start your one-to-one with an open-ended question. This allows the most important topics to surface. Here are some questions you might try:
How are you feeling?
What's on your mind?
Do you feel like you have clear priorities?
Do you feel included?
What are you most excited about?
What are you most worried about?
How can I help you?
Once you've fully heard their answers, be a facilitator of solutions. Uncover what they're excited about, how you can mentor them to be successful and unblock barriers to help them do their best work.
6. Provide feedback often
If employees are more familiar with working in an office environment where they receive feedback daily, the silence in a remote position could cause confusion. Regular feedback promotes understanding.
7. Share relevant information
Keep employees informed by sharing information broadly with all team members in a timely manner. Your leadership is necessary for sharing relevant information. Take time to understand what and why you're communicating and why you're asking it from your team.
8. Select a communication channel
Choose the right medium or a combination depending on the message and its implications. Some messages may require an email followed by a team meeting. When working remotely, especially in the beginning, more communication is better than less. Sometimes, and depending on your communication style, you can replace a long email with a video.
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