Working from home can be a weird experience, blending together two familiar things — working and being at home — that are usually very separate. And with a wave of companies asking their employees to work remotely, more and more people are finding themselves needing to work from home.
But that transition doesn’t always come easily.
“One of the most challenging aspects of transitioning from office work to working from home is staying focused on your job,” says Anna Thurman from Real Ways to Earn Money Online. “It can actually be difficult to get work done when household responsibilities, your children, pets, and other areas of your life are staring you in the face when that’s not something you deal with in the office. You will get more done if you set ‘office hours’ and ensure your whole family is aware this is not a time to disturb you — whether in-person or through phone calls and texts.”
Reviews.com writers and editors have been working from home for years, so we asked them to share their best tips for making the WFH life easier. There are plenty of challenges that come with a WFH day (or week or year), and this list won’t cover all of them. But it should help with the transition if you’re used to office life and worried about working from home.
1. Find a dedicated workspace and optimize your internet connection
A dedicated work spot helps your brain distinguish work time from home time by associating a space with an activity. If you have a home office, that should be pretty easy. For the rest of us, finding a workspace is more of a challenge. Make sure you’re set up close to your router, or wire in directly for the most stable connection. And if you’re experiencing significant slowdowns, consider upgrading your internet plan — work activity may require more bandwidth than your normal at-home use.
You might be tempted by your couch’s cushioned comfort, but a desk or table is the more ergonomic option — putting less strain on your neck and offering a flat surface for writing notes. And if you’re working from home for more than a day, try to settle into a routine to help your brain know when it’s time to switch to work mode.
2. Find the things that keep you in the zone
Offices have their own set of distractions, but they’re different from the ones you might find at home: a fully stocked fridge, the constant sight of unfinished chores, and pets or children who don’t understand why they don’t have your full attention at all times.
Our WFH veterans suggest comfy clothes and a nice pair of headphones to help keep you focused during work time. The more comfortable you are, the fewer things you have pulling at your attention. And headphones help block out nearby ambient noise — helping you dial in on what’s in front of you.
3. Save time with quick calls
Working from home means you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk to talk to them. At some point, you’ll probably find yourself in an extended text chat struggling to communicate a simple concept. Jumping on quick audio or video call can spare you both time and frustration, allowing you to verbalize your thoughts instead of typing them all out.
Recurring meetings can also be trickier when you work from home, especially if you live with others. If you have roommates, kids, or other people at home, try to schedule meetings while they’re absent. If they’re always around, make sure you set boundaries and communicate when you can’t be interrupted — we recommend moving to a room where you can close the door to avoid having surprise guests in your meetings.
4. But still talk to people
Once people are forced to communicate remotely, there’s a tendency to stick to the essentials: “Here’s what I need, from you,” “Here’s the thing you needed from me,” or “Hey, don’t forget about that meeting tomorrow.” But that’s not how most people talk to each other in an office.
Ask people how their days are going, how their weekends went, what things they’re looking forward to, etc. These kinds of conversations happen all the time in an office, but often get left behind while working from home. If you’re managing people remotely, these kinds of conversations remind your team that you’re looking out for them and can help prevent people from feeling like they’re just wheels on a conveyor belt.
5. Make a to-do list
This is pretty useful even if you’re working in the office, but it’s even more helpful at home, where you don’t have the same visual reminders you’d have in the office. Jotting down a to-do list will help you focus at the start of the day and keep you on task as the day goes on.
It also helps to communicate what’s on that to-do list. People are more likely to ask you what you’re up to when they’re sitting next to you — proactively communicating ensures that the work you’re doing is visible, and it reduces the chances that priorities get mixed up.
6. Stay active
Working from home can mean a full day of staying indoors, which is a bit much, even for serious introverts. Before you sign on for the day, try making time for a quick workout to wake you up and increase your level of activity. Post-work exercise is another good option, helping you transition from work mode to home mode and giving you a chance to burn away any lingering work stress.
It’s also a good idea to get up and move around throughout the day. This happens pretty naturally at offices, especially if you’re the type of person who ends up in lots of meetings. But working from home makes it easy to get stuck at your desk for four hours. Do your body and mind a favor by getting up every hour or two and moving around a bit.