6 Tips to Stay Productive (and Sane) While Working From Home

With the onset of COVID-19, many, if not most, businesses are transitioning to a work-from-home model. If you’ve never worked from home before, you might find yourself struggling to transition to working remotely. Or even if you have worked from home before, you might be finding it different now that your ENTIRE team or company is working from home as well. And that’s not to mention the challenges that you might be experiencing if you’re trying to work from home with a spouse (and kids) at the same time. To help you out, here are six tips to make sure you are able to keep your productivity and sanity up while working remotely.

1. Make sure you have the right tools in place

The first thing you’ll want to make sure is that you have all of the right tools in place to work from home. These include things like making sure you have a laptop or computer if needed, and that your computer has all the software and access to the networks and information you need to do your job. If your company is using collaboration software such as Slack, Trello or Microsoft Teams, make sure you have accounts and configuration set up to talk to your teammates. 

2. Give yourself an office

Another great tip for working remotely is to make sure that you have a separate space that you have designated as your office. Depending on your home situation, this may prove challenging, especially if you have multiple people trying to work from home at the same time. If that’s the case, then you may have to improvise. 

When I first started working from home, I worked at the dining room table. It worked fine until my sister came to visit over summer vacation with her kids. It was great to see their family, but after a few days with nine kids running through the house all day, I realized that something needed to change. We didn’t have a guest room or office (all full of kids), so we decided to downsize our own king bed to a queen. That let us reconfigure our master bedroom enough to put in a separate space with a desk and chair for my office. Adding in a white noise machine makes my “office” surprisingly serene.

Another idea is to find other places that you can use as “secondary” offices. Just like in a colocated work environment you don’t spend ALL your time in one spot, don’t feel like you have to spend all your time in one spot when at home. One idea could be to take your conference calls on the balcony or while walking – just something to break up the monotony.

3. Get dressed (seriously)

If you’ve done any sort of research on working from home, you’ve probably already seen this piece of advice. It’s one of the most common pieces of advice for adapting to working remotely. Many people find it difficult to be at their peak effectiveness while working in their pajamas. As with all things, experiment and find out what works best for you. If you’re able to still be super effective right after rolling out of bed, then go for it! But if you find yourself struggling, consider incorporating some of the same things (shower, exercise, get dressed) that helped you transition to work in the morning when you had to head into the office.

4. Learn how to be effective video conferencing

With little to no in-person contact while you’re working remotely, good communication is of the utmost importance. While many tasks can be handled asynchronously, you’ll spend a fair bit of time using video conferencing with your teammates. Here are a few tips to rock that video conference call:

  • Be on time – or even early! Many teams find it a great use of time to join meetings 5-10 minutes early and use that time to socialize around the virtual water cooler
  • Mute yourself when you’re not talking – that keeps background noise from disturbing other participants
  • Video on; no lurkers – When you keep your video off on a conference call, the message you’re sending your co-participants is – “I am not really paying attention on this call and it’s not really worth my time or attention”
  • Be aware of the lag – most video conferences have a lag of a few seconds between when people finish talking and when you HEAR them finish talking. You’re probably in for a good amount of talking over people – being aware of the phenomenon is one way to help minimize it and be a responsible video conferencer

5. Find your routine

We touched on this earlier in the article, but it’s important to find the routine that works best for you to keep you at your most effective. Maybe you work best in a more or less traditional 9 to 5 schedule. Or maybe you find you are most effective early in the morning or late at night when you have fewer distractions. You’ll need to experiment and find what works for you and what keeps a successful work-home balance in your life. 

6. Embrace the flexibility

Just because you’re still working the same job you were when you were at a colocated office doesn’t mean that you have to do it the exact same way. Noted software developer Linus Torvalds has said “If you spend hours in online meetings from home, instead of spending hours in meetings at the office like you used to, you’ve just taken the worst part of office life, and brought it home, and made it even worse”

One of the best parts of working remotely is flexibility. Don’t feel like you have to jam everything you did in the office into your work-at-home schedule. Instead, look for ways that you can incorporate the flexibility of being remote into your routine. That will allow you to still get your work done while helping you keep a healthy work-life balance.

I hope some of these tips can help you adapt to working remotely! Have more tips? Leave them in the comments. 

Dan Miller (11 Posts)

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.

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