Working Remotely in 2020

Planning on working from home? You’re among the emerging trend of remote workers who work from their home office.

We want to help you maximize your newfound freedom (and responsibility). These tips don’t only apply to individual contributors, but also managers and team leaders.

Working from a home office affords many benefits to increase performance, business continuity, and achieve greater work-life balance. Although working from home can be a luxury, it is now a mandatory among large companies and small businesses given the current pandemic. Working from home is great, but it can be problematic if it’s not well managed.

Let’s dig into our tips and best practices for working from home, and some of the tech that you may want to invest in to make your daily life easier.

1) Build a Permanent Work Space

The first step in your “work from home” journey is to designate an area of your home, specifically for getting work done. This could be an empty or spare bedroom that you convert to a home office. If you are pressed for space, you can set up a desk for your computer and office supplies.

Regardless of space or location, establish an area of your home where you will work, and commit to working in this space every day. Be sure your workspace is quiet so you can focus on the task at hand.

2) Invest in Quality Technology

Yes, setting up a home office or workspace may require a small investment. Much like starting a new business, you may have to purchase technology, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone system to do your job every day.

A high-performance network will save you from many technology hassles. Since working from home often requires more than chat messages, you need a network that will keep up. A router or switch from several years ago might be prone to common network issues, as well as your wifi. Check out our networking gear.

You should also seriously consider things like lighting control, lighting with color control can help with fatigue and stress. Another big help are Smart Home control, like the ability to automate and schedule simple tasks like opening and closing shades or adjusting temp. You might even fine voice control saves you time.

Do you get a lot of distacting visitors, like deliveries? Then a video surveillance or video doorbell can be well worth the cost. Being able to simply see that it a delivery man means you can keep working and not have to stop and go to the door. This is a huge time saver.

Maybe smart smart doorlocks are right for you, you can let people in with the swipe of a finger!

Depending on the nature of your work, you may also need to purchase other hardware or software. Be sure to ask your employer if they will cover costs of this tech, or keep your receipts and maybe it will qualify as a tax deduction.

3) Get Comfortable Office Furniture

You may also need to invest in office furniture if you haven’t already. Depending on the amount of space available, consider purchasing a large desk, bookshelves, and a comfortable office chair.

You don’t have to go with the top of the line desk. Ikea offers affordable desks that are relatively simple to set up in your home office. Combine it with a powerful monitor on a motion monitor mount to maximize your desk space.

Remember, the point is that you will be working in this space every day.

4) Set Real Work Hours

Now that you have your office or work area set up, it’s time to get down to business  literally. If you are going to make working from home an everyday commitment, then set specific business or work hours.

The beauty of working from home is that you can be flexible in setting your working hours. For example, if you are most productive in the morning, or if you need to get the kids to school, then you may want to set your work hours from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Use your deep focus to zoom through your tasks. Keep reading to see how to manage your time effectively.

Enforce a hard limit at the end of the day. Distance yourself from work, so you don’t work nonstop.

5) Avoid Work Creep

A career that lets you work from home can be invasive in your personal life. This is because if you are always home and near your work, then your work creeps into your home life. Yes, the risk is real, but only if you let it.

This goes back to setting work hours. By setting specific work hours and sticking to them, you will increase performance and develop a healthy work schedule.

6) Discover Your High Productivity Periods

Every individual is most productive at different times of the day. For example, some individuals are morning people, and they are most productive and focused during the morning hours. For others, their most productive time in the workday is the evenings.

7) Update Your To-Do List Every Mornings

When working from home and you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, it can be challenging to keep track of what you have to do throughout your workday. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities, tasks, and deadlines.

Start your day by reviewing priorities for the day. When you make your task list, stick to it. It’s tempting to just leap into your email, but with a little extra focus, you can move the needle while working from home.

Set goals and time limits for each task. After you complete each task, cross it off the list. This simple technique is both effective and fulfilling.

8) Use a Planner

In addition to making to-do lists, get into the habit of using a calendar or planner. For example, if you work from home some days but you are on the road others, get in the habit of using a planner to write down and keep track of deadlines, appointments, and meetings.

Many different task management tools make telecommuting a breeze. By organizing tasks into projects, you can attack them one bite at a time.

9) Stick to One Project Management App

If you aren’t a “write-it-down” to-do list or planner person, don’t worry—there are plenty of modern project management apps available that can still help you. These are great if you are WFH.

Top project management apps include:

Most of these apps offer both web-based and mobile versions so that you can use them on your phone. Some can even be integrated with other apps, such as Slack, for team collaboration. And the best part? Most of these apps offer a free version.

10) Don’t Work in Your PJs

We know — this is one reason why people love working from home. If you enjoy working in your PJs, then you are killing your productivity. “Dress for success” isn’t just a corporate catchphrase; it really matters when you work from home.

Beyond psychologically getting you in the right mindset for work, you’ll be ready to handle any kind of video chat or check-in with a teammate. You’ll be prepared to get work done, and you will be mentally and physically prepared for the day.

11) Don’t Work in the Living Room

This is another productivity killer. Some folks might think “working from home” is a day to binge Netflix. Wrong. It might be fine to indulge in this vice once, but it will catch up to you if you’re not careful.

It’s wise to take to heart why working at home works. It’s not just about avoiding meetings and conference calls. In fact, quite the opposite. Remote workers know the responsibility that comes with working in their quarters.

Avoid the televisions and other digital distractions so you can focus on your work and getting things done. However, if used just for background noise, it’s probably okay.

12) Develop a Morning Routine

Another enjoyable perk of working from home is not having to get up, rush out of the house, and commute to an office.

However, working from home doesn’t mean you get to skip your morning routine altogether. Since you’ll likely be cooped up indoors, take a brief walk around the block to take in the fresh air.

13) Set Multiple Alarms

Even if you don’t have to be up as early to leave for the office, you should still set an alarm to commit to wake up at the same time. This will prevent you from sleeping in too late and will keep you on a healthy sleep schedule.

Human beings are creatures of habit. We are incredibly dependent on routines, schedules, and structure. Alarms aren’t just for waking up. Consider adding an alarm for lunch and wrap-up since working from home tends to blur these lines.

14) Exercise & Stretch Regularly

Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increases happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, all of which are important for productivity.

Regularly stretching helps you maintain great posture. At a minimum, stretch  throughout the day so you don’t get sore or hinder your quality of life.

You can also leave yourself motivational sticky notes by your bed, so they are the first thing you see and read in the morning. We recommend exercising in the morning when you have fewer objections and a longer payoff throughout the day.

15) Eat Healthy Meals & Snacks

Another work from home reality is that we have full access to the kitchen. So, when it’s time for lunch or a snack break, we are immediately drawn to the usual snacks, such as chips, cookies, or leftover pizza.

When we work in an office, we are at the mercy of whatever is available in the cafeteria or whatever lunch we brought from home.

However, research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables has a direct link on overall productivity levels. You can also avoid buying unhealthy snacks altogether. With extra planning, you can purchase more nutritional snacks on Amazon rather than buying on impulse.

Reward yourself with a sweet snack on Friday after a successful and productive week.

16) Take Short Breaks

Although we have focused most of this article on how to stay productive while working from home, sometimes the opposite can happen. We think that by working from home, we will be able to get more done because there will be fewer distractions. Therefore, sometimes we end up over-committing and working too much, which also kills productivity.

Although taking breaks might seem counterproductive, research has shown that taking short breaks can actually increase productivity and creativity levels. If you don’t have a work-life balance, then you won’t last too long working at home.

17) Create a Rewards System

We mentioned using a rewards system in the point above. This is an easy way to help you get things done — even the things you have been procrastinating or putting off.

For example, take a five-minute break to go for a stroll through your neighborhood, grab a healthy snack, take your dog to the park down the street. Once you finish a necessary business call, switch over the laundry.

18) Use Time Management Apps

If you struggle with staying on task while working from home, then you may need to kick things up a notch and use a time management app.

For example, some productivity apps will track the amount of time you spend on each task and even minimize distractions. Some examples of these types of apps include the following:

Using a time tracker app will help you see your productivity levels each day and week. This will not only provide you with insight as to when you are most productive during the day, but it will also show you how much time you spend on each task.

If you take calls at home for a call center, pay attention to your metrics. Call center metrics might tell a different story if you don’t manage your time effectively.

19) Stay Off Social Media

I think we can agree that we are all guilty of this one from time to time. Social media can be a giant time-suck if you aren’t careful.

That is more time than most people spend sleeping or working! Furthermore, many mobile apps now reveal to users how much time they spend in each one. This is eye-opening, especially for casual social media users.

Get familiar with your company’s social media guidelines. They might even want you to engage in their approved channels like LinkedIn.

Minimizing mindless use of social media helps avoid distractions, so you can focus on getting more done.

20) Listen to Music

You just invested time and money in setting up a designated workspace or home office, now jazz it up with some music. You can easily add a premium music system to any space in your home, including your office, with systems like Sonos

Changing your scenery on occasion is healthy and helps you maximize personal productivity too. If your employer allows it, try working in your backyard or at a nearby coffee shop.

21) Leave the House

You just invested time and money in setting up a designated workspace or home office, and now we are telling you to leave the house? Yes and no.

Leaving the house on occasion can give you a change of scenery, which can help boost creativity and productivity. If you need a slight change of pace, try working in your backyard or at a nearby coffee shop.

22) Use Video Chat

Yes, tele-conferencing—the hallmark of remote work. Working from home can get pretty lonely, especially if you are single or live alone. Make it a point to chat with colleagues, team members, or clients each day.

It matters. You’re not just a cog in a machine. You don’t even have to talk about work, but just to connect as co-workers and people. Humanity must not be lost in working remotely.

There are many video chat applications available today, such as:

  • Skype
  • WhatsApp
  • Facetime
  • Google Hangouts

Depending on the nature of your work, you could end up spending almost all of your day on video conferences chatting with your team. We recommend working in a well-lit room; it brings out your best features.

23) Hack Your Lunch Break for Errands

If you’re working from home each day, you’ll often find that you have some additional flexibility in your time. Even then, you might feel tethered to your home.

Structuring your day is important. To run an errand, or schedule a quick doctor’s visit, try to schedule them for your lunch break just as you would if you worked in an office. The best part is, you won’t need to bother with small talk on the way out the door.

24) Avoid Family, Friends & Pets

This can be difficult, especially if you have young children at home, or have multiple pets, all of whom want your attention. If you are home all day, every day, then family and friends might interrupt you without knowing better.

It’s best to set some clear boundaries with your family while you work. It’s not being mean if it results in better performance at work.

The counterpoint to this work from home tip is you must be present for your family and friends when away from work. Show up 100% and put your business phone away outside of work hours.

25) Create a Vision Board

If you have been working fom home for several years, it might eventually become boring and uninspiring. You might struggle with enjoying your work. A vision board can help.

A vision board is just that: a board that you can use to write notes and post pictures of your dreams and aspirations. The visualization aspect of a vision board is a great and powerful mind exercise. It can help you feel the way you want to feel. Such inspiration can help you get out of a slump while working from home, paving a clear path to productivity and success.

26) Check in With Co-Workers Frequently

Take the time to meet with your team regularly. The meetings should have an agenda actively involving all members, so they contribute. Dedicate time to meet privately with each member so they can share status updates, receive coaching, and discuss developments from their personal life.

Be mindful under the context of why people work from home. Remote employees might miss some aspects of the office. Beyond handling phone calls, be sure to discuss the bigger projects they are working on.

27) Declare Your WFH Availability

For the employee who works from home, they’re aware of their availability, but colleagues might not be. Given the sea of tools to work remotely and collaborate, it can be challenging for your team to stay in touch.

Communicate dates and hours (with time zones) for your work time, what capacity you are working, and how others can get in touch. This effort avoids assumptions that you’re skipping the office or refusing contact.

If you have a business communication app use its status (Away/Available) features for real-time presence.

28) Assume Positive Intent

One limitation of working from home is that team chat messaging sometimes falls short of expressing ideas clearly. It’s easy to think a quick remark was made to be rude or even flippant.

Remind yourself not to take seemingly short or snide responses offensively. For some members of the remote workforce, they are just efficient in their replies. Consider using emoji to support your intent in your declarations with your team.

29) Connect With Your Team Offsite

For companies that are all-in on building a remote team, they will soon encounter a strong interest in meeting as a team throughout the year. One way to do this is a remote team offsite. Make it impactful and meaningful to forge and strengthen relationships.

Beyond team building, you want to be extremely intentional with the agenda to make the entire experience worthwhile. Conduct a strategic business review, SWOT analysis, and deep-dive into KPIs and metrics.

Companies should budget time and resources to welcome employees into the office at least twice a year, so they connect with the team. Go out for lunches and connect outside of the context of just work, too.

30) Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones

Even if you have a brand new laptop or a new smartphone, you will want to invest in a quality pair of headphones with a mic. Noise-canceling features can really help improve the clarity of your phone calls. With modern business VoIP service, you will appreciate the higher fidelity of your calls.

Look for headset features such as long battery life, Bluetooth compatibility, microphone, and noise canceling. These all work together to make your remote working duties a little easier.

31) Stay Vigilant Against Security Risks

Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you’re not a target for hackers. Your work machine is incredibly valuable for thieves and criminals, so take care to work securely.

  • Be aware of how your company’s network policies such as the use of Wi-Fi, personal devices, and more.
  • Employ a “trust but verify” mentality for documents sent to your inbox.
  • Use a business-grade Virtual Private Network (VPN) for encryption. Larger organizations are likely to have an approved VPN solution.
  • Know how to get IT assistance and report security threats.
  • Close your room’s door to avoid disclosing sensitive information to family members or visitors.

32) Use Professional Communication Tools

You might be using free tools to communicate with your team today. The SaaS market has capitalized on the freemium model to upgrade to paid plans. The problem with personal apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Google Hangouts — as an aggregate — is they don’t necessarily improve internal communication.

Consider upgrading to a business communication platform that brings your phone system, team chat, sales pipeline, and customer support together.

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Contact our Pros to consult with for your new home office space layout and to insure you get the right tech.

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