Many workplaces are erring on the side of caution to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which means you might suddenly find yourself working from home for the foreseeable future. But being productive in your home environment isn’t always easy, thanks to limited space, less-than-ideal work areas and everyday household distractions.
Fortunately, with the right routine (and the right gear), you can make working from home as efficient as being in the office. Naturally, everyone has their own method, and there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for turning your house or apartment into a place of productivity. But with countless hours of experience with working remotely, the Fast Lane Digital team is providing you with our favorite tips for WFH like a pro.
From hardware recommendations to everyday advice on staying focused and avoiding burnout, here are some essential tips for getting work done from home.
1. Set up a dedicated workspace at home
Having a dedicated work area is critical — you’re very unlikely to get much done if you’re just lounging on the couch with your laptop. Pick up a cheap desk if you don’t already have one, and set up your laptop or desktop somewhere that’s ideally outside of your living room or where you do most of your relaxing. If you live with family or roommates, try to work in a room where you can be alone.
2. Give yourself time before your workday starts
Working from home doesn’t mean skipping breakfast and working in your pajamas. In fact, one of the worst things you can do is log onto work the minute you wake up. Try to keep a normal routine in the morning. Enjoy a cup of coffee, catch up on news/personal email, and then log onto work when your day begins. You want to create a healthy routine and not one that has you waking up and immediately beginning working.
3. Eat a nutritious breakfast
One of the great things about working from home is that your entire kitchen is just a few rooms away. If you don’t have to rush out the door to ensure you skip traffic, you don’t have to settle for cold cereal, microwaved oatmeal or breakfast bars. Take some time to make yourself eggs, toast, sausage — maybe even pancakes or waffles, if you have the time. (If you make these early enough for your roommate or spouse to share, you’ll be a household hero.) While you won’t want to make yourself something decadent every day, taking some time to cook, eat and relax each morning can help you get into a productive mindset.
4. Have a dedicated monitor
Barring some exceptions, it’s extremely hard to get most office work with a single screen — especially if it’s just your tiny laptop display. Aim to have at least one external monitor, so that you can easily bounce between spreadsheets, Slack chats and emails.
5. Take your work computer home
You might think that just using your personal computer is an acceptable alternative to bringing your work laptop home, but we need to talk about boundaries. Take your company issued computer home if you have one, so you can keep work tasks separate from the personal projects and entertainment on your personal laptop. If you let work and play blend too much, you’re possibly headed to burnout and sloppy work caused by being less focused.
6. Dress like you’re going to work
This tip isn’t for everyone — hey, some people love life in pajamas — but the more I’ve had to work from home, the more I’ve seen my day benefit from acting like I’m at my office space. This is one of the more personal suggestions, but when you cut out the part of your routine where you actually get dressed, it begins to blur the line between your work life and your actual life. Before you know it, you’ve got your laptop in bed, or doing work emails while you’re cooking, and your focus is completely split.
7. Invest in a good pair of headphones with a mic
Meetings are easy when everyone’s in the same room; they’re a lot more difficult when everyone has to dial into a video chat. One thing you can do to make things a little easier is get a great pair of headphones with a built-in mic. All of the best gaming headsets have mics, but even some of the best headphones for music are getting in on the act these days. When you can hear what your colleagues are saying — and they can hear you, without feedback or static — meetings can be short and sweet, and you can get right back to work. Furthermore, headphones let you listen to music or white noise without making the rest of the household share your playlist.
8. Give yourself a set time to log off
You leave work at or around the same time, right? Well, do the same with your sign-off time, because without rules in place, you might find your personal time slipping away. I’m all for working as a way to expend nervous energy, but to paraphrase The Shining, all work and no play makes self distancing even harder to endure. A routine, if applied properly, will help maximize efficiency and keep you from getting burnt out.
9. Keep healthy snacks in your kitchen
Working from home means you’re just steps away from your kitchen. To avoid gaining weight during your work from home period, it’s a good idea to stock up on healthy snacks. This is especially true if you like to snack throughout the day. So rather than stock up on coke and Doritos, you might want to trade them for slightly healthier snacks like nuts and fruit.
10. Invest in a good office chair
One of the most important purchases you can make for your home office is your office chair. Most people may be okay with a basic chair, but if you work long hours — or if you expect to work from home for more than just a few days — you should invest in an ergonomic chair or at the very least, spend more on a decent chair than you would on your coffee supply. Cheap chairs fall apart quickly and can cause discomfort after long periods. This is especially true if you’re tall or weigh more than 200 pounds/90 Kilograms.
In the few years I worked from home, I tested several chair options before settling on a comfortable, ergonomic and functional office chair. It’s been the best home office investment I’ve made hands down!
11. Don’t spend your entire day in your home office
If you live in an apartment, chances are your home office will be a corner of your living room or bedroom. As a result, you’ll want to make sure you’re not in that room all day. (The last thing you want is to associate your bedroom with your office or work). So we recommend taking a break from your apartment and going outside. If your computer is in your bedroom, have lunch in your kitchen. If you have a laptop and you’re in a lot of meetings, take your laptop to a different room when on different conference calls. The idea is to switch things up so you’re not sedentary all day.
Bonus thought: Get out of the house if you can (and support your local businesses)
You’ll have to play this one by ear as this depends on your country’s lock-down or self-isolation status, but if it’s legal and you feel comfortable getting out of the house, it’s not a bad idea to do so. Many workers, including those in retail and food services, can’t work remotely, and their livelihoods depend on a steady stream of foot traffic. If you’re feeling well, and your neighborhood seems fairly virus-free (checkout Johns Hopkins’ map), venture outside now and then for food, groceries and whatever else you may need. Remember: After the pandemic is over, you’ll still want a thriving community around you. (And really, any excuse to get outside when you work from home is a good one.)
(Bonus: Checkout The Ultimate List of Working From Home Resources from our friends at Filestage.)
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